Aid convoys were yesterday heading to the besieged Syrian town of Madaya with food which will last 40,000 people for a month.
Medicine and winter clothing is also being sent to the area as well as the Shiite villages of Foua and Kfarya in Idlib province.
One short delivery will not be the solution. What is needed is regular accessDibeh Fakhr
Madaya, which is blockaded by government troops and the Lebanese Hezbollah militant group, with activists reporting several deaths from starvation over the past weeks.
Images of starvation have been circulated across social media.
One hospital worker in Madaya was reported as saying he had seen 250 cases of starvation a day. He said five people died over the weekend, including a nine-year-old child.
The United Nations and Red Cross confirmed that the convoys were on their way, while the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the aid was expected to reach the towns later yesterday.
The lorries are said to be carrying basic food items –including rice, vegetable oil, flour, sugar and salt – as well as water, infant formula, blankets, medicines and surgical supplies.
The television channel of Hezbollah, which is fighting in Syria alongside president Bashar al-Assad’s forces, reported that 40 trucks were expected to enter the northern villages, with another 40 headed to Madaya. The UN’s World Food Programme has said it will ship one month’s worth of food for more than 40,000 people to Madaya from Damascus, and enough for 20,000 people to Foua and Kfarya from the city of Homs.
It comes amid reports that rocket fire presumably fired by rebels hit a residential neighbourhood in the northern city of Aleppo, killing three children and wounding two other people.
The state news agency said the Syrian army had begun a large offensive in the countryside to the west of the city.
And in the northern village of Kafranbel, two prominent activists were released after being detained by the extremist Nusra Front.
The two men, Raed Fares and Hadi Abdullah, were abducted by Nusra, al-Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate, in an early morning raid on Sunday that saw their opposition radio station, Radio Fresh, shut down.
The Observatory, which relies on a network of activists and other sources inside Syria, reported their release some 12 hours later. The release was also noted on the station’s social media pages.
In Damascus, Iran’s interior minister, Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli, reasserted his country’s support for Syria at a joint press conference with his Syrian counterpart, Mohammad al-Shaar.
“The Syrian government has demanded our support against terrorism and we, anyway, stood alongside Assad, who enjoys his people’s support,” he said.
“We see the conditions in Syria are moving forward in a good way.”
The United Nations said last week that it had received credible reports of people dying of starvation and that the Syrian government had agreed to allow aid convoys into Madaya, Foua and Kefraya.
But International Red Cross spokeswoman Dibeh Fakhr was reported as saying the said the aid will go only so far.
“One short delivery will not be the solution,” she said.
“What is needed is regular access.”