Syria activists protest rebel siege of Aleppo districts

AFP , Wednesday 10 Jul 2013

As the fasting month Ramadan starts, government forces fail to deliver food to neighbourhoods currently under the controls of Syrian rebels

Syrian activists in Aleppo have staged protests calling for the lifting of a rebel siege of regime-held districts that has created food shortages, an NGO said on Wednesday.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the first demonstration calling for the siege to be lifted came on Tuesday, adding that a demonstrator was shot dead during the protest.

The watchdog group said it was unclear who had shot the demonstrator, but added that protesters took to the streets in the northern Syrian city again on Wednesday.

A video of Tuesday's protest posted by the Observatory on Wednesday showed a small group of youths chanting "the people want to break the siege".

Suddenly, four men in black t-shirts, including one armed with a handgun, start pushing the protesters back. The sound of gunfire can be heard, but it is unclear where the shooting comes from.

Rebel forces have imposed a siege on several regime-controlled neighbourhoods, where government forces have not been able to deliver food.

The blockade has created food shortages in their neighbourhoods and pushed up prices just as Syrian Muslims begin the fasting month of Ramadan.

Another video posted by the Observatory showed that the siege policy has a variety of opponents among the opposition.

The footage shows a woman accompanied by her child trying to cross into regime-held Ashrafiyeh with a pram full of shopping bags.

"I came to buy food. We have nothing, our children are dying of hunger. My son is sick and needs medicine and to eat," the woman pleads with a rebel fighter armed with a Kalashnikov.

Her plea sparks an exchange between two rebels, one trying to convince the other to let her pass with the food.

"What crime has this woman committed? She bought two kilos of potatoes, two kilos of tomatoes and some bread to allow her to keep her children alive," one rebel says.

The other rebel suggests consulting an opposition chief, but the proposal is rejected by the fellow fighter.

"I know what he'll say. He will repeat that this is Islam and the other side are apostates, but that's not true."

Rebel forces have sought to block the entry of medicine and food to regime-held parts of Aleppo for some time, but in recent days they have succeeded in blockading the districts completely after cutting off regime access to the area by blowing up a bridge and blocking a key road.

In Damascus, meanwhile, a senior official at Syria's foreign ministry, after meeting with UN representatives, told journalists that the government was concerned about the situation in Aleppo.

"We had an important meeting to increase our joint efforts to send urgent humanitarian aid to Aleppo province and we agreed to begin this work from tomorrow," the official said.

Rebel forces seeking the overthrow of the regime entered Aleppo, Syria's second city, a year ago, and have seized large parts of it but have not managed to capture it completely.

Short link: