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UN says thousands dying of starvation in Syria

The UN Human Rights chief has said that thousands of people may have died of starvation in Syria's besieged zones. UN aid trucks have meanwhile begun delivering humanitarian assistance to affected regions.

Aid workers of the Red Crescent reported that ten trucks of aid provided by the UN had entered Maadamiyat al-Sham, southwest of Damascus. Another 41 trucks were scheduled to reach on Monday, Red Crescent official Muhannad al-Asadi told reporters. The supplies, including soap, laundry detergent and blankets, were "the first delivery since the beginning of the truce," he added.

The delivery was the third this month to the town, which is surrounded by Syrian President Bashar al Assad's forces.

Earlier, Zaid Ra'ad al Hussein, the UN Human Rights Council's head, told the media that 480,000 people were currently trapped in Syria's besieged towns.

"Thousands of people may have starved to death," al Hussein said, adding that prior to Saturday's truce, human rights had been "violated shockingly" in the country for the last five years. Earlier this year, aid workers reported dozens of people dying of hunger in Syria's Madaya, but the number could be much higher.

Government forces, backed by Russia, broke through rebel strongholds in Aleppo earlier this month, cutting off supply lines from the Turkish border and pushing tens of thousands to the brink of starvation.

"The deliberate starvation of people is unequivocally forbidden as a weapon of warfare. By extension, so are sieges, which deprive civilians of essential goods such as food," he added.

"Neighborhoods, schools and packed marketplaces have been hit by tens of thousands of air strikes, thousands of barrel bombs have been thrown out of helicopters onto streets and homes," the official said. He also accused some parties of "deliberately" targeting medical units. At least ten hospitals have been damaged in fighting since the beginning of this year.

UN to deliver more aid

Syrien Hungernde in Madaja

Pictures of this hungry child in Madaya shocked the world

Al Hussein's comments came as the UN announced it was delivering aid to 154,000 people living in besieged areas over the next five days, UN coordinator in Syria, Yacoub El Hillo, told journalists. The organization said it would help 1.7 million more people in the next months if groups involved in the conflict were ready.

The UN announced its plans as a truce brokered between Syria and western countries entered its third day. The ceasefire, which took hold on Saturday, was "by and large" peaceful, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said on Monday. He also confirmed receiving a letter from the Syrian opposition coalition, the High Negotiations Committee, which reported continuing violations by the Syrian regime and its Russian backers.

The ceasefire has been largely peaceful until now, but the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that at least seven people, including four children, were killed on Sunday after unidentified planes hit rebel areas in Aleppo. The Observatory also reported rebels shelling government forces in the northern Syrian city.

More than 270,000 people have died since the war began in Syria in 2011. Around 4.7 million people have fled the country to neighboring areas.

mg/kms (AFP, dpa)

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