Thursday 8 December 2016

Last food rations are handed out in besieged Aleppo

Karla De Wintours in Beirut

Published 11/11/2016 | 02:30

A Syrian pro-government fighter looks on from his sniper nest in a building in Aleppo's western Minyan district. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
A Syrian pro-government fighter looks on from his sniper nest in a building in Aleppo's western Minyan district. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Syrian pro-government forces walk around in Aleppo's western Minyan district. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Syrian pro-government forces walk around in Aleppo's western Minyan district. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Syrian pro-government forces are seen parked outside a building in Aleppo's western Minyan district. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
A general view shows a pro-government tank parked on a mainroad in Aleppo's western Minyan district. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
A general view shows a tank belonging to pro-government forces parked next to a destroyed tank on a mainroad in Aleppo's western Minyan district. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Syrian pro-government forces are seen parked outside a building in Aleppo's western Minyan district. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Smoke billows after rockets fired by rebels exploded in an area near Aleppo's western Minyan district. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
A general view shows the destruction and damage in Aleppo's western Minyan district. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
A Syrian pro-government fighter looks on from his sniper nest in a building in Aleppo's western Minyan district. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

The last remaining food rations are being distributed in besieged rebel-held eastern districts of the Syrian city of Aleppo, the UN has said.

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Humanitarian adviser Jan Egeland warned that without a resupply, there would be no food left to hand out next week to the 275,000 people living there.

Mr Egeland ruled out airdrops of food, explaining that they were not possible in densely populated urban areas. Government forces launched a major assault on eastern Aleppo in September.

Since then, troops have pushed into several outlying areas with the help of Iranian-backed Shia militias and Russian air strikes.

Rebels launched a counter-attack in an attempt to break the siege in late October. But their progress slowed after early gains.

The UN said weeks of air strikes and shelling have killed more than 700 civilians in the east, while rocket fire has left scores dead in the government-controlled west.

Humanitarian agencies have been unable to get into rebel-held Aleppo since the government siege resumed in September, and the last time significant aid supplies were delivered was in July.

Yesterday, Mr Egeland told journalists in Geneva that the UN's humanitarian taskforce had received a report that the last remaining food rations were being handed out.

"[Food] prices are now sky-rocketing on the market. We have reports of desperation for families and within communities," he said.

He warned that the "terrible" situation in eastern Aleppo might be about to get "much, much worse", with Russia saying it would soon resume air strikes after a three-week pause intended to allow civilians and rebels to be evacuated - an offer very few people took up.

Mr Egeland revealed that the UN had presented all the warring parties and their backers last week with a four-point initiative for getting aid to eastern Aleppo.

The plan would involve medical evacuations for about 300 patients in urgent need, delivery of food and medical supplies, and permission for medical personnel to enter the city.

Mr Egeland said he was confident that access would be granted because "the consequences of no help and no supplies will be so catastrophic I cannot even see that scenario".

Irish Independent

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