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Syria: Number of besieged Syrians larger than UN estimates

10th Feb 2016
Syria: Number of besieged Syrians larger than UN estimates

WASHINGTON (AA) — More than 1 million Syrians live in besieged areas, much more than previous UN estimates, a new report revealed Tuesday.

The Siege Watch report, released jointly by the Netherlands-based nonprofit PAX and the Washington-based Syria Institute, has been actively monitoring developments in Syria since late 2015, according to the organization’s website.

The findings are based on information provided by local contacts within those communities, whose names are not revealed due to security concerns.

According to the report, 1.09 million residents live in 46 besieged communities.

The UN had listed 487,000 in 18 towns. Most areas besieged by the Syrian government are in the suburbs of the capital of Damascus and in Homs, the report said. About 200,000 residents are besieged by Daesh and government forces in the eastern city of Deir el-Zour.

The report also lists Nabul and Zahra, two towns near Aleppo, as being besieged by “various armed opposition groups”.

“Electricity and water supplies to the besieged areas are often cut off, and they are further subjected to violent attacks including airstrikes, barrel bombs, chemical attacks, ballistic missiles, mortar and rocket fire, sniping, and ground force offensives,” according to the report.

The timing of the report that challenges UN figures is of note as it comes on the heels of paused Geneva talks that sought to find a diplomatic solution to the crisis in Syria. Concerns about who would attend the talks, coupled with preconditions by a certain opposition group, hampered efforts to get all parities to the table.

One demand was for the Syrian government to allow humanitarian aid to reach besieged areas where dozens of civilians were starving.

After pressure on Syrian President Bashar Assad by the international community, some aid convoys were allowed in to provide aid and supplies to some towns.

Despite the aid, however, residents in besieged areas continue to starve, suffering from being cut off for extended periods of time — some for months and even years.

“Ending the sieges should be a high-priority confidence building measure for the international negotiations to bring an end to the war,” said Siege Watch.

More than 250,000 people have been killed and more than 11 million displaced in Syria’s five-year civil war, according to the UN.

Author Esra Kaymak

 

 

[Photo: Syrians fleeing from Aleppo bombing at Bab al-Salam crossing opposite Turkish province of Kilis in Azaz town of Aleppo 5 February 2016. Photgrpaher: Kerem Kocalar/AA]

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