Aid agencies have received permission from the Syrian government to deliver relief supplies to three besieged towns whose residents are reportedly starving, the Red Cross said on Friday. "Yesterday we got permission to enter Madaya, Foua and Kefraya," Pawel Krzysiek, a spokesman of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), told dpa. Krzysiek said that aid delivery to the three towns would start Sunday, at the earliest. "The assistance convoy is huge. We have to prepare the logistical part of it," he said. "It will be a joint operation with U.N. agencies and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent."
The U.N. said the Syrian regime gave permission Thursday for aid deliveries. "The UN welcomes today's approval from the government of Syria to access Madaya, Fuaa and Kafraya and is preparing to deliver humanitarian assistance in the coming days," a U.N. statement said. It said there were "credible reports of people dying from starvation" in Madaya, including a 53-year-old man who reportedly died on Tuesday.
The Independent on Monday reported that 40,000 civilians are starving in the town after several graphic images of malnourished civilians were released on social media. Activists said the civilians had started eating weeds, insects and even cats. "Encircled by land mines and forces from the Lebanese militia Hezbollah, hundreds are suffering from malnutrition. With severe shortages of basic foodstuffs, many have resorted to eating wild plants, insects and even cats," the Independent said. An activist told the daily that the "Lebanese [Shiite] militia, which has been fighting on the side of [Syrian President] Bashar Assad in the Syrian conflict, was effectively holding civilians hostage in order to gain leverage over two embattled [Shiite] towns in Syria's northern Idlib province. The towns Kafrayya and Fua are besieged by members of the Islamist umbrella group Jaish al-Fatah." "One of its members, Ahrar al-Sham, was among the groups that had been battling pro-government forces in the strategic town of Zabadani, which lies close to Madaya," the report said. "The price of food has spiraled uncontrollably, with a 1 kilogram bag of rice costing as much as $100. One photograph showed a car for sale in exchange for 10 kilograms of rice or 5 kilograms of baby formula. The vehicle was incorrectly attributed to Mr. Alloush, according to Mr. Ibrahim. 'I wish Mr. Jamil had a car,' the activist said. 'He could sell it rather than dying like that. The poor man used to have a bike and nothing more.' He added: 'All those who have cars, they are offering them for sale.' The activists said that they had tried and failed to raise the plight of the entrapped inhabitants of Madaya. They have become convinced that no one cares," the daily wrote.
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.