In Besieged Syrian Town, Peace Talks Seen As Pointless

UN vehicles carrying aid to Madaya

UN vehicles carrying aid to Madaya seen on Jan. 11 in Damascus, Syria. – Reuters

DESPITE the international outcry over widespread starvation in Syria, the United Nations has not been able to mediate an end to the seige tactics there, darkening the already bleak outlook for peace talks the UN hopes to convene this month.

At least 23 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 the reports could not be independently confirmed. “We were living on tree leaves, on plants, but now we are struggling in a snow storm and there are no more plants or leaves,” said Majed Ali, 28, an opposition activist who spoke to Reuters by phone from Madaya.

Maday residents make do with water flavoured, where available, with spices, lemon, salt and vinegar, said Abu Hassan Mousa, the head of an opposition council in Madaya.

Where rice or powdered milk are available, the prices can reach some $300 a kilo, residents said. With half a metre of snowfall this week, furniture, doors and wooden fixtures and fittings are being burnt to heat homes, said Ali, the opposition activist. “Negotiations have no meaning all the time we are besieged, all the time we are hoping for a cup of milk for a child. What are we going to negotiate over? Our dead?” he said.

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. – Reuters


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