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      Russian air strikes in Syria 'good thing': Del Ponte

    • GENEVA (AFP) - 

      Former war crimes prosecutor Carla Del Ponte, who is currently probing rights abuses in Syria, on Monday backed Russia's air strikes on "terrorist groups" in the war-torn country.

      "Overall, I think the Russian intervention is a good thing, because finally someone is attacking these terrorist groups," Del Ponte told Swiss public broadcaster RTS, listing the Islamic State group and Al-Nusra among the groups targeted.

      But Del Ponte, a member of the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria, quickly added that the Russians apparently "are not distinguishing enough between the terrorists and others, and that is not as good."

      Her comments came amid international bickering over the Russian air strikes and what role they played in undermining last week's peace talks to end the country's five-year war.

    • Moscow launched a bombing campaign in Syria last year at the request of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, saying it was targeting the Islamic State group and other jihadist organisations.

      The West has accused Russia of targeting more moderate factions that oppose Assad's regime, and Syrian activists say the strikes have killed civilians, allegations Moscow dismisses as "absurd".

      UN envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura last week suspended attempts to begin a dialogue between al-Assad's regime and the opposition, as Russia pressed on with its bombing campaign on the ground.

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    • After   Entering Aleppo With Russia's Help, The Syrian Army   May Set Its Sights On Raqqa
    • By Robert Fisk

        February 08,   2016 "Information   Clearing House"   -   "The   Independent" -   After   losing up to 60,000 soldiers in five years of   fighting, the Syrian army has suddenly scored its   greatest victory of the war – smashing its way   through Jabhat al-Nusra and the other rebel forces   around Aleppo and effectively sealing its fate as   Russia provided air strike operations outside the   city.

       

      The rebel   supply lines from Turkey to Aleppo have been cut,   but this does not mean the end of the story. For   many months, the regime’s own military authorities –   along with tens of thousands of civilians, including   many Christians – were trapped inside Aleppo and at   the mercy of shelling and mortar fire by the Nusra   fighters, who surrounded them until the army opened   the main highway south.

    •  During   this period, the only way to Aleppo was by plane   because the army held a tiny peninsula of   territory going to the airport – I flew out one   night on a military aircraft crowded with   wounded Syrian troops.
       
        But the   tables have turned. It is the rebels themselves   who are now surrounded, along with the tens of   thousands of civilians in their sector of the   city – but they have no airport to sustain them.   On the basis of so many other battles in this   appalling war, there is unlikely to be any   offensive for the centre of this greatest of   Syrian cities; rather it will be a slow and   grinding siege to force the insurgents to   surrender.

        In an   ironic twisting of recent history, the two Shia   villages of Nubl and Zahra – whose people had   been surrounded by rebels and starved for three   years, fed only by Syrian military airdrops –   have now been retaken by the Syrian military.

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    • Gulf countries played a role in the Syrian uprising’ India's former ambassador to Syria on how the country has changed since 2009
    • BY ALIA ALLANA

       

      V. P. Haran served as India’s Ambassador to Syria from 2009 until 2012. He speaks to Fountain Ink on how sections of the media exaggerated the uprising as well as signs that al-Qaeda was a game player since the early days of the conflict.

    • What was Syria like when you arrived in January 2009?

       

      Syria was a peaceful country and there was no undercurrent of tension. The Syrian economy was doing well, there was over five per cent growth rate on average. Unemployment was at about eight per cent but Syrians who were unemployed could find work in the Gulf. There was, however, a high percentage of educated unemployed. Syria also had a comfortable foreign debt position at 12.5 per cent of the GDP. Much of the debt owed was to Russia which wrote off much of the debt. The real problem was the drought in the north-east that had led to massive relocation to the south and south–west.

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    • Macmillan backed Syria assassination plot 

       
       
       
       
       
       
       
        Documents show White House and No 10 conspired over oil-fuelled invasion plan 
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    • Nearly 50 years before the war in Iraq, Britain and America sought a secretive "regime change" in another Arab country they accused of spreading terror and threatening the west's oil supplies, by planning the invasion of Syria and the assassination of leading figures. 

      Newly discovered documents show how in 1957 Harold Macmillan and President Dwight Eisenhower approved a CIA-MI6 plan to stage fake border incidents as an excuse for an invasion by Syria's pro-western neighbours, and then to "eliminate" the most influential triumvirate in Damascus.

       

      The plans, frighteningly frank in their discussion, were discovered in the private papers of Duncan Sandys, Mr Macmillan's defence secretary, by Matthew Jones, a reader in international history at Royal Holloway, University of London.

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    • As Syria Rebels Face Rout, Allies Saudi, Turkey May Send Troops: Experts
    • ated: February 06, 2016 15:42 IST
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      As Syria Rebels Face Rout, Allies Saudi, Turkey May Send Troops: Experts

      Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called the claims 'laughable'.

      Riyadh:  With rebel forces facing the prospect of a crushing defeat by Syria's Russian-backed regime, their allies Saudi Arabia and Turkey may send in limited numbers of ground troops, analysts say.

       Riyadh on Thursday left open the possibility of deploying soldiers, saying it would "contribute positively" if the US-led coalition against the ISIS terror group in Syria decides on ground action.

       The fate of Saudi-backed Syrian armed opposition groups fighting to topple President Bashar al-Assad is also a major concern for the kingdom.

      "I think Saudi Arabia is desperate to do something in Syria," said Andreas Krieg, of the Department of Defence Studies at King's College London.

       Krieg said the "moderate" opposition is in danger of being routed if Aleppo falls to the regime, whose forces have closed in on Syria's second city, backed by intense Russian air strikes.

       "This is a problem for Saudi and Qatar as they have massively invested into Syria via the moderate opposition as their surrogate on the ground," said Krieg, who also serves as a consultant to the Qatari armed forces.

       Russia, which along with Saudi Arabia's regional rival Iran is a major ally of Assad, meanwhile has accused Turkey of "preparations for an armed invasion" of Syria.

       Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called the claims "laughable".

       But Krieg said Erdogan's policy in Syria has achieved nothing so far.

      Peace Efforts Stalled

       "Turkey and Saudi need to turn this war around. So any Saudi engagement would be in cooperation with Doha and Ankara," he added.

       Aleppo province is among the main strongholds of Syria's armed opposition, which is facing possibly its worst moment since the beginning of the nearly five-year war, at a time when peace efforts have stalled.

       The Saudi-backed opposition umbrella group, the High Negotiations Committee, says it will not return to peace talks which recently collapsed in Geneva unless its humanitarian demands are met.

       "The Saudis believe that the chance of a peaceful solution for the Syrian crisis is very limited," said Mustafa Alani, of the independent Gulf Research Centre.

       "They don't see that there is a real pressure on the regime to give major concessions... They think eventually it will have to end in the battlefield," Alani said.

       "Turkey is enthusiastic about this option (of sending ground troops) since the Russians started their air operation and tried to push Turkey outside the equation," he added.

       Alani said the Saudis are serious about committing troops "as part of a coalition, especially if the Turkish forces are going to be involved".

       But he and other analysts said Saudi involvement would be limited, given its leadership of a separate Arab coalition fighting in Yemen for almost a year and guarding the kingdom's southern border from attacks by Iran-backed Yemeni rebels.

      Saudi Special Forces

       "They are overstretched. But in principle I think they will not hesitate to send a certain number of their fighters to fight in Syria," Alani said, adding that this would probably include Saudi special forces.

       Turkey and Saudi already belong to a US-led coalition which officially has 65 members. It has been bombing ISIS targets in Syria and Iraq, as well as training local forces to fight the extremists.

       Krieg said that with Saudi and other Gulf kingdoms "bogged down" in Yemen, he could only foresee a possible expansion of "train and equip" missions involving Gulf special forces to help rebels in Syria.

       "Saudi and Qatar have already networks on the ground," he said, viewing Doha as a link between Riyadh and Ankara as relations improve.

       On Friday, US Central Command spokesman Pat Ryder welcomed Saudi Arabia's willingness to send soldiers against ISIS.

       The United States has been calling on coalition members to do more.

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    • Syrian Forces Press Aleppo, Sending Thousands Fleeing

       
           
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      • Mr. Assad’s forces also broke the insurgents’ siege of two towns near Aleppo, Nubol and Zahra, which had survived on government airdrops of food. People there were celebrating on Friday and thanking the troops in videos posted on social media.
      • The Dirty War on Syria

         
         
          
        Global Research, November 27, 2015
      • The following text is the introductory chapter of  Professor Tim Anderson’s forthcoming book entitled The Dirty War on Syria
      • Although every war makes ample use of lies and deception, the dirty war on Syria has relied on a level of mass disinformation not seen in living memory. The British-Australian journalist Philip Knightley pointed out that war propaganda typically involves ‘a depressingly predictable pattern’ of demonising the enemy leader, then demonising the enemy people through atrocity stories, real or imagined (Knightley 2001). Accordingly, a mild-mannered eye doctor called Bashar al Assad became the new evil in the world and, according to consistent western media reports, the Syrian Army did nothing but kill civilians for more than four years. To this day, many imagine the Syrian conflict is a ‘civil war’, a ‘popular revolt’ or some sort of internal sectarian conflict. These myths are, in many respects, a substantial achievement for the big powers which have driven a series of ‘regime change’ operations in the Middle East region, all on false pretexts, over the past 15 years.

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      • Suppose a respectable opinion poll found that Bashar al-Assad has more support than the Western-backed opposition. Would that not be major news?
      • December 11, 2015

         

        By Stephen Gowans

      • In the view of Syrians, the country’s president, Bashar al Assad, and his ally, Iran, have more support than do the forces arrayed against him, according to a public opinion poll taken last summer by a research firm that is working with the US and British governments. [1]

         

        The poll’s findings challenge the idea that Assad has lost legitimacy and that the opposition has broad support.

         

        The survey, conducted by ORB International, a company which specializes in public opinion research in fragile and conflict environments, [2] found that 47 percent of Syrians believe that Assad has a positive influence in Syria, compared to only 35 percent for the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and 26 percent for the Syrian Opposition Coalition.

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      • What the Syrian Constitution says about Assad and the Rebels
      • By Stephen Gowans

         

        The idea that the uprising against the Syrian government is inspired by a grassroots movement thirsting for a pluralist, democratic state is a fiction. The opposition’s chief elements are Islamists who seek to establish a Sunni-dominated Islamic state in place of a Syrian government they revile for being secular and dominated by Alawi “heretics.” “Al Qaeda-linked groups…dominate rebel ranks,” notes The Wall Street Journal. [1] “There is frustration with the West’s inability to help nurture a secular military or political opposition to replace Mr. Assad,” echoes The New York Times. [2] “Islamic forces seem to be ascendant within the opposition,” observes Gerald F. Seib. [3]

         

        Indeed, almost from the opening moments of the latest outbreak of Islamic unrest in Syria, the government has said that while some protesters have legitimate grievances, the uprising is driven by militant Islamists with foreign backing.” [4] It’s no secret that Saudi Arabia and Qatar- monarchies which abominate democracy—are furnishing Islamist militants with arms, while Turkey, Jordan, Israel, France, Britain and the United States are also lending support.

      • Syria’s post-colonial history is punctuated by Islamist uprisings. The Muslim Brotherhood organized riots against the government in 1964, 1965, 1967 and 1969. It called for a Jihad against then president Hafiz al-Assad, the current president’s father, denigrating him as “the enemy of Allah.” By 1977, the Mujahedeen were engaged in a guerrilla struggle against the Syrian army and its Soviet advisers, culminating in the 1982 occupation of the city of Hama. The Syrian army quelled the occupation, killing 20,000 to 30,000. Islamists have since remained a perennial source of instability in Syria and the government has been on continual guard against “a resurgence of Sunni Islamic fundamentalists.” [5] The resurgence, touched off by uprisings in surrounding countries, prompted Glen E. Robinson to write in Current History that the rebellion was a continuation of “Syria’s Long Civil War.” [6]

         

        But the Western media, echoing former colonialist powers and high officials in Washington, would call it something different: a popular, grassroots uprising against a brutal dictator. Today, however, the flood of YouTube videos by Islamic terrorists, chronicling their killings of POWs, eviscerations of captured soldiers, and barbecuing of heads, has spoiled the narrative. It’s no longer possible to angelize the Syrian rebellion as a popular insurrection against dictatorship. Now even the Wall Street Journal and New York Times share Assad’s view.

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      • Syrian deal thwarted by Obama’s call for Assad to resign

         

        Analysis: Crisis might have been resolved in 2011 if US president had not intervened

         
          
         
         
      • The Syrian crisis might have been resolved in 2011 if US president Barack Obama had not declared on August 18th that year that his Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad had to “step aside”.

           

        This view is supported by former US defence secretary Chuck Hagel who said earlier this month: “We have allowed ourselves to get caught and paralysed on our Syrian policy by the statement that ‘Assad must go’.”

           

        It appears Obama intended to continue with a policy of removing Assad, initiated by the George W Bush administration.

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      • Are U.S. Special Forces Facing a Syrian 'Black Hawk Down'?
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        As part of an expanding campaign in the region, American special operations forces have taken the Rmeilan air base in Syria. The base is located in the northeastern part of Syria near the Turkish and Iraqi borders—which is an area dominated by the Kurds.

         

        According to the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR)—which is affiliated with the opposition—the U.S. advisors arrived at the Rmelian base several weeks ago. The base’s infrastructure is being expanded so that it can support U.S. military operations in the area. U.S. helicopters are already using the base according to the SOHR. The group expects that fixed-wing aircraft will soon operate from the runways, which are currently being expanded.

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        U.S. Central Command spokesman U.S. Army Col. Steve Warren would not comment on the matter. “That operation is ongoing. But because of the special nature of these forces, it's very important that we not discuss specifically where they're located,” Warren told reporters Wednesday, according to Military Times.

         

        The United States is likely to use the base for bringing in supplies and weapons for the various opposition groups that are fighting ISIS and the Assad regime. The base could also be used to base strike aircraft—which would increase sortie generation rates. The base might additionally serve as a staging ground for special operations forces—a likely scenario in the short term.

         

        Given that the Pentagon is not commenting on what forces are operating in the area, it’s difficult to say with certainty what kinds of troops are deployed on the ground. What is known, however, is that the U.S. military deployed about fifty special operations troops to Syria in December. Those troops have been in contact with opposition forces and have been coordinating with U.S. air power.

      • The U.S. forces currently operating at Rmelian might include U.S. Air Force Special Tactics Squadron operators, such as combat controllers, pararescue jumpers and special operations weathermen. Those units specialize in scouting out and preparing austere airfields behind enemy lines and calling in air strikes. Special tactics squadron airmen—particularly combat controllers—are often embedded with U.S. Army Special Forces and U.S. Navy SEAL units. Indeed, the shadowy 24th Special Tactics Squadron is assigned to the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC)—which includes the Delta Force, Intelligence Support Activity and the Naval Special Warfare Development Group, also known as SEAL Team Six.

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      • ‘No free riders’: Pentagon slams inactivity of ‘so called’ coalition in fight against ISIS     

      • Washington has accused Turkey and other US-led coalition members of not doing enough to fight Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said there should be “no free riders” in their attempts to destroy the jihadist militant group.
      • Carter mentioned in an interview with CNBC at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, that “We can do a lot ourselves … [but] we are looking for other people to play their part,” as cited by AFP.

        The Pentagon is growing increasingly agitated at the failure of the 65-member coalition to make serious inroads against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL). Carter even went as far as referring to the alliance as a “so called” coalition, due to the fact that some Sunni-Arab nations were not pulling their weight.

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      • US Role as State Sponsor of Terrorism Implied in US Congressional Research Service Report on Syria Conflict

           
         

        January 10, 2016

      • By Stephen Gowans
      • The implication of a report written for the US Congress is that the United States is a state sponsor of terrorism in Syria. At the same time, the report challenges widely held beliefs about the conflict, including the idea that the opposition has grass-roots support and that the conflict is a sectarian war between Syrian president Bashar al-Assad’s Alawite sect and the majority Sunnis.

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      • Western Journalist: Visa Denied
      •      
           
         
         

        Item number five on UN Envoy Kofi Annan’s 6-point plan for Syria is the following:

         

        “(5) Ensure freedom of movement throughout the country for journalists and a non-discriminatory visa policy for them.”

         

        At a delicate moment in the hard-fought Syrian conflict that could potentially destabilize the entire Middle East, the United Nations believes getting more journalists into Syria is one of the six most urgent actions to consider?

         

        Why? Are foreign reporters trained in special “observer” skills – with unique truth-detecting abilities bubble-wrapped in bullet and mortar-proof goop? And what will they see that Syrians – who know Syria best – cannot observe for themselves?

      • What the UN is really demanding – let’s be honest here – is for the Syrian government to open up the country to “Western” journalists. Yet, in all the conflicts covered in recent years, I cannot recall one that has been more badly covered by the mainstream western media than this Syrian crisis.

         

        Almost to a person, western journalists are blaming their substandard coverage on the fact that they have been denied entry into Syria. And also – to a person – they seem to think that the world needs them there to understand what is going on inside the country.

         

        Paul Conroy, the Sunday Times freelance cameraman who was injured by an explosive in Homs in February, tells the BBC’s Hard Talk that Syrians need their events verified by people like himself and his now-deceased colleague, war correspondent Marie Colvin, in order to be believed:

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      • And while Russian, Syrian, Hezbollah, Iranian, and Iraqi forces stand on the front line of the true free world, for the rest of us, we need to understand that full-spectrum domination pursued by the West requires full-spectrum resistance from the rest of humanity. The corporations underwriting Brookings’ abhorrent work enjoy impunity, immense wealth, and nearly unlimited influence and power solely because each and every person on Earth takes their paycheck every month, and renders it to them, at the shopping mall, at the new car lot, in Starbucks, at McDonald’s, or at the pump.

         

        A multipolar world not only means a distribution of global power, but also a distribution of global responsibility and wealth. And this extends not only to nations, but also states and provinces, as well as communities and even individuals. However insignificant individual efforts may seem to decentralize power and wealth away from existing monopolies, they are no less insignificant than the efforts of individual soldiers fighting and winning in Syria. Indeed their individual contributions alone are meaningless – but collectively they lead to victory.

         
         
         

        Solving Syria truly, means solving the problem presented to us by the prevailing unipolar order itself. It is not a battle simply for Syria and its allies to fight within the borders of Syria, but a battle for all who oppose unipolar global hegemony to fight. Maybe not with bullets, bombs, and missiles, but a fight nonetheless.

         
         
         

        Tony Cartalucci, Bangkok-based geopolitical researcher and writer, especially for the online magazineNew Eastern Outlook”.
        First appeared: http://journal-neo.org/2015/10/16/multipolarism-solves-syria-at-the-source/

      • Medios árabes realizan campaña de desinformación sobre Madaya
      • Publicado 14 enero 2016
      • Medios sirios presumen que dicha campaña, subordinada a los grupos terroristas, tienen un fin único que es el de destruir el país. 
            
                         

        Madaya continúa generando noticias. Nuevos datos han aparecido sobre la campaña de desinformación puesta en marcha por algunos medios, tras la llegada de más de  40 camiones con ayuda humanitaria en la localidad .                  

        La verdad sobre la foto de la pequeña niña de ojos azules, acompañada de otra fotografía de una persona envejecida por la delgadez, igualmente de ojos azules, y de las que se pretendía decir que eran la misma persona, ha comenzado a salir a la luz.                  

        La niña, identificada como Miriana Mazeh, es libanesa, originaria del Sur del Líbano y residente en una localidad llamada Rafal Sai.                  

        El corresponsal del sitio electrónico Al Ahed News informó que la foto que apareció en la cadena de televisión Al Jazeera fue tomada hace varios años, y no en Madaya, sino cerca de su casa en el Líbano, cuando compraba un chicle.                  

        Más tarde fue colocada en Facebook, poco después, fue tomada de allí por varios sitios saudíes, qataríes y de la oposición siria con el fin de llevar a cabo la campaña de desinformación, explicó.                  

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      • Food is available, resident Amjad Almaleh tells CNN, but few can afford it.

        A kilo of sugar costs about $200, he says, while a similar amount of flour or rice is $120. In another tweet, there are claims milk costs $300 per liter.

      • Madaya: Questions the Mainstream Media should have asked but didnt.
      • 12th January 2016

         
         

        The information age is actually a media age. We have war by media; censorship by media; demonology by media; retribution by media; diversion by media – a surreal assembly line of obedient clichés and false assumptions ~ John Pilger

         
         

        Madaya.  Here is my list of 36 questions that the main stream media should have asked but didnt:

        •  How many civilians are in Madaya?
        •  
        • What is the history of Madaya and the region?
        •  
        • How important is Hezbollah’s presence in the region?
        •  
        • How does this affect Israel’s agenda and links to the various terrorist factions involved?
        •  
        • Who precisely is occupying Madaya. What % are Ahrar al Sham, Al Nusra or FSA?
        •  
        • Are those gangs from Madaya originally or have they been imported into Madaya?
        •  
        • If imported into Madaya, who by and for what reason?
        •  
        • To whom are the villagers of Madaya allied?
        •  
        • If they are indeed anti Assad, why are we seeing video footage of pro Assad demonstrations and the citizens chanting “The Syrian people and the Syrian Army are one hand”?
        •  
        • If it is the SAA, Hezbollah and the Syrian Government imposing the “starvation” why then do we see video footage of civilians arguing with terrorists and saying. “we are hungry not you”?

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      • Syrian Rebels Suspected of Siphoning Humanitarian Aid in Madaya
      • Syria has denied reports that alleged the government played a role in starving the rebel-held town, accusing rebel-traders of stealing humanitarian aid instead.
            
                   

        Residents in the southwestern Syrian town of Madaya said though they had managed to escape the blockade, the rebels are still controlling most of the town’s resources and sold them food at “inflated prices,” RT reported Tuesday.            

      • The information came after aid convoys from neighboring Lebanon reached three towns where thousands have been trapped for months without food and medical supplies, as images from the town spread on social media and shocked the world.

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      • Mon Jan 11, 2016 6:48pm EST   
          Related:     World,   United Nations,   Syria   
         

        U.N. official says starvation exists in besieged Syrian towns

         
          AMMAN  |  
      • U.N. and relief agency workers saw starving people in two besieged Syrian areas where aid deliveries were made on Monday, a senior U.N. official said.

        An aid convoy entered the town of Madaya, besieged by government forces, where thousands had been trapped for months without supplies and people had been reported to have died of starvation.

        Yacoub El Hillo, the U.N. resident and humanitarian coordinator in Syria who was in Madaya overseeing the operation to distribute food to over 40,000 people, said he had also received reports, which could not be confirmed, that at least 40 people had died of starvation.

        "We have seen with our own eyes severely malnourished children. I am sure there also malnourished older people and it is true they are malnourished, and so there is starvation," he told Reuters by phone from Madaya.

        He said aid workers had also seen cases of starvation in al Foua and Kefraya.

      • They are two mostly Shi'ite villages, besieged by rebels, with about 20,000 residents. They also received deliveries from Monday's convoy. Aid delivery both to Madaya and to Foua and Kefraya in the northwestern province of Idlib, 300 km (200 miles) away, involved 65 trucks loaded with medical supplies and food.

        Another large-scale operation to deliver wheat, flour, medical supplies and non-food items to those areas will be completed on Thursday, El Hillo said.

           

        Dozens are said to have died from starvation or lack of medical care in rebel-held Madaya and activists have said some inhabitants have been reduced to eating leaves. Images said to be of emaciated residents have appeared widely on social media.

        The government of President Bashar al-Assad has denied blockading the town. It accuses insurgents of hoarding food and blames them for the plight of civilians.

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