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Starvation looms for besieged Syrian town

Friday, January 08, 2016 - 01:01

Amateur videos, the content of which Reuters cannot independently confirm, appear to show emaciated children in the Syrian town of Madaya, currently under siege by Syrian government forces. Rough Cut - Subtitled (no reporter narration).

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WARNING - EDIT CONTAINS GRAPHIC IMAGES ROUGH CUT - SUBTITLED (NO REPORTER NARRATION) Warnings of widespread starvation are growing as pro-government forces besiege an opposition-held town in Syria and winter bites, darkening the already bleak outlook for peace talks the United Nations hopes to convene this month. The blockade of Madaya, near the border with Lebanon, has become a focal issue for Syrian opposition leaders who told a U.N. envoy this week they will not take part in talks with the government until it and other sieges are lifted. At least 10 people have died of starvation in Madaya in the past six weeks, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says. Opposition activists say the number of dead is in the dozens although Reuters could not independently confirm the reports. A video posted on the Internet purported to show an emaciated young boy from the town of Madaya. In the video, the boy said he had not eaten in seven days and was hungry. A second video uploaded to the Internet and said to be filmed in the northern town of Saraqeb, showed a large crowd of residents gathered in support of those in Madaya. "I am standing here to oppose the truce that took place in Kefraya and al-Foua, and against the siege in Madaya, against the truce that led to the starvation in Madaya. The hunger of our people in Madaya was caused by the truce. The truce made them hungry," said one resident. Blockades have been a common feature of the nearly five-year-old war that has killed an estimated 250,000 people. Government forces have besieged rebel-held areas near Damascus for several years and more recently rebel groups have blockaded loyalist areas including two villages in Idlib province. The fate of Madaya, where the World Food Programme (WFP) says the lives of 40,000 people are at risk, may be linked to those villages. The areas were all part of a local ceasefire agreement agreed in September but implementation has been halting. On Thursday (January 7), the United Nations said the Syrian government has allowed access to Madaya. The UN said in a statement it was preparing to deliver humanitarian assistance in the coming days. The last aid delivery to Madaya was in October. Reuters cannot verify the authenticity of these videos which were posted on social media websites on Wednesday and Thursday.

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Starvation looms for besieged Syrian town

Friday, January 08, 2016 - 01:01