Besieged Syria residents eat leaves

One Syrian security official called it the Starvation Until Submission Campaign, blocking food and medicine from entering and people from leaving besieged areas of Syria.Forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad have used partial sieges to root out rebel forces from residential areas during the civil war. But a recent tightening of blockades around areas near the capital is causing starvation and death, residents and medical staff say.

At an army checkpoint that separates government-held central Damascus from eastern suburban towns a thin, teenage boy on a bicycle last month circled a soldier and begged to be allowed to take a bag of pita bread, a staple food, into the eastern suburbs. The soldier refused but the boy kept begging for “just one loaf”.The soldier finally shouted: “I’m telling you, Palestinians lose more than most in Syrian exodus , not a single morsel is allowed in there. I don’t make the rules. There are those bigger than me and you who make the rules, and they’re watching us right now. So go back home.”The soldier, visibly upset, exhaled quietly and deeply when the boy slipped out of sight.The incident illustrates how blockades are being used as a weapon in a war that grew out of pro-democracy protests in the summer of 2011, increasing an already- grave humanitarian crisis.

Blockades are employed mostly by the government but also, on a smaller scale, by the armed opposition.Food and medicine which could be used by either of the warring parties are rarely allowed to enter besieged areas, and the movement of civilians in and out is restricted.Over one million Syrians are trapped in areas where aid deliveries have stalled, the UN says.The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said in a report last month that half of those people are in rural Damascus and around 310,000 people more trapped in Homs province in central Syria.Residents of these two towns said that last month, on the first day of the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, many were forbidden from leaving to visit family elsewhere.

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