Starving in the suburbs


October 2, 2013

October 2, 2013

By Abdulrahman al-Masri and Jacob Wirtschafter

AMMAN: Before the war, Moadamiyet a-Sham was a middle-class Damascus suburb best known as the ideal place to buy olives by the kilogram. Today, residents say the town is now ground zero for a deadly starvation outbreak, induced by a nine-month government siege that is slowing strangling Moadamiyet a-Sham.

“There is nothing left for basic survival; believe it or not, some people are eating grass on the ground,” said Mahmoud Abu Ali, 27-year-old resident.

Opposition activists claim that more than 700 people have died in the town since the start of the blockade.

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Despite the regime assault, FSA forces are hanging on in Moadamiyet al-Sham,which is adjacent to the key military installations around Damascus, including Mezzah Air Force Base, the Syrian Army’s 4th Division and Saraya al-Sira’ headquarters.

Moadamiyet a-Sham is one of the towns subjected to the August 21st sarin gas attack that caused more than 1,300 deaths. It is also neighbor to the largely destroyed communities of Daraya to the east and Artoz to the south, both of which sided with the rebels early on and paid a price.

The Syrian National Coalition issued a statement Tuesday characterizing the situation in Moadamiyet al-Sham as a “humanitarian disaster.”

“Corridors must be established, and international relief agencies and humanitarian organizations must be given unfettered access,” the Coalition demanded in the statement.

“The last meal I ate was just bulgur and soup,” said Adnan al-Shikh, a 31-year-old physical education instructor. “Most people here have no food supplies, except olives from our own trees. Even this, most families don’t have any more.”

The coalition also reports that water in the town is not potable, while hospitals and schools no longer function due to continued shelling.

Abu Ali said that the situation in Moadamiyet al-Sham worsened after the regime seized control of a number of FSA positions.

Eight mosques in the town have been hit, and Assad’s forces are systematically destroying buildings, starting from the edges of the town and moving towards the center, according the Coalition.

“The regime just started doing this. It blows up buildings on the Damascus- al-Qunaitira highways with explosive barrels, and one barrel could destroy a whole block made of ten buildings,” said Abu Ali.

Last week, the LCCs released gruesome video showing an emaciated infant who died of hunger. She was one of six children the opposition group claim died from starvation in the town.

“No one can go out at all: the regime doesn’t want anyone to leave and doesn’t want basic life supplies to enter,” said the 27-year-old law student, Abu Ali.

The United States delivered 22,000 metric tons of wheat by ship to the ports of Beirut and Mersin in Turkey last week as part of an ongoing effort by the World Food Program to assist Syrians. Opposition groups and activists on the ground insist the aid is systematically diverted away from rebel-held areas.

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