Aleppo: Humanitarian tragedy unfolds as 200 thousand people risk starvation

Food, bread and other basic necessities lacking for days. United Nations denounces block in aid distribution. The government's siege of the eastern part of the city could be a turning point in the Syrian conflict. In the northeast of the country a Syrian Orthodox Church on fire; behind the raid (maybe) Islamic State militiamen.

Aleppo (AsiaNews / Agencies) – The humanitarian tragedy unfolding in Aleppo has reached a critical stage especially in the rebel-held eastern districts where over 200 thousand civilians are caught under siege by the Syrian Army. Local sources report that the people have been without food and basic necessities for days. Last weekend, government troops seized the Castle road, isolating neighborhoods east of the second largest city in Syria.

Experts say the advance of the Damascus army in Aleppo, backed by Russian air raids, has laid a serious blow to the ambitions of the rebels and it could be a turning point in a conflict that has so far caused 280 thousand deaths.

The United Nations is concerned about the situation. The siege prevents freedom of movement and blocks the distribution of aid, making it impossible for humanitarian agencies to respond to the needs for medicine, food, water and fuel.

Much of Aleppo, once Syria’s economic and commercial hub, has been divided in two since 2012 - government and rebel – and has been brought to its knees by months of intense fighting. Clashes have intensified with the failure of the indirect UN peace negotiations and the non-application of the partial truce promoted by the US and Russia earlier this year.

According to the United Nations more than 600 thousand people in Syria live in areas under siege, mostly surrounded by government army units. In these malnutrition is widespread. According to the UN Office for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), in Aleppo there is food to feed only 145 thousand people for a month, then the all supplies will be exhausted.

The eastern part of the metropolis has been without any form of aid since July 7.

Meanwhile, a group of armed men yesterday evening attacked a Syrian Orthodox church in Qamishli, a city in the northeast of the country. Local witnesses report that the assailants hit the St. Charnel church in Watwatiyah district, "around midnight, destroying much of the building". The militiamen detonated grenades inside the church, causing serious damage to the structure that has been "completely destroyed." The perpetrators have yet to be identified, although activists and local faithful point the finger at militants of the Islamic State (IS), as the most likely the authors of the attack.