Syria: Nearly 600,000 living under siege

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Stephen O’Brien (on screen). UN Photo/Loey Felipe

Nearly 600,000 Syrians are living in besieged areas, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator told the Security Council on Friday.

Stephen O'Brien said the numbers are "shocking," particularly in light of a cessation of hostilities that has been in place for several months.

The UN humanitarian chief spoke via video conference from Geneva.

Dianne Penn reports.

Mr O'Brien told Council members that he has run out of words to explain how the conflict has devastated Syria and its people.

He said innocent civilians are being subjected to even greater levels of suffering and misery.

The continued use of siege and starvation as a weapon of war is "reprehensible," he stated.

He estimated that 592,700 people are currently living in besieged areas.

"This includes 452,700 people besieged by the Government of Syria in various locations in Rural Damascus as well as in the Al Wa'er area of Homs city, an area I visited myself just a few months ago, but  has been closed off since March. Elsewhere, 110,000 people are besieged by ISIL in Deir ez-Zor city; 20,000 people by non-State armed groups and the Nusrah Front in Foah and Kefraya in Idlib; and 10,000 besieged by the Government of Syria and non-State armed groups in Yarmouk, Damascus. These figures are shocking as they underscore the sharply deteriorating situation for civilians even while the cessation of hostilities is in place.  "

Mr O'Brien said the UN and its partners continue to reach people in the war-torn nation, despite the challenging environment.

But he added that "deliberate interference and restrictions," particularly by the Syrian Government, continue to hamper aid delivery.

Dianne Penn, United Nations.

Duration: 1’30″

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