News / Middle East

    Assad, Hezbollah Supporters Mock Starving Besieged

    Syrians wait for the arrival of an aid convoy on Jan. 11, 2016 in the besieged town of Madaya as part of a landmark six-month deal reached in September for an end to hostilities in those areas in exchange for humanitarian assistance.
    Syrians wait for the arrival of an aid convoy on Jan. 11, 2016 in the besieged town of Madaya as part of a landmark six-month deal reached in September for an end to hostilities in those areas in exchange for humanitarian assistance.

    The nearly five-year-long Syrian war has been one of the most violent conflicts of modern times with indiscriminate bombing of civilians, systematic rape, sectarian massacres, beheadings and enslavement. Each day brings a new story, the latest being with supporters of President Bashar al-Assad and Hezbollah, the radical Lebanese Shi'ite militia backing the Syrian regime, openly taunting on social media those starving in the besieged town of Madaya west of the capital, Damascus.

    Online social media campaign

    The level of sectarian and group hatred involving the various opposing sides in the conflict threatens United Nations-backed peace negotiations that Western diplomats hope will start this month. The online social media campaign ridiculing the starving adds to a sense of foreboding about the talks, which privately U.S. officials say they see as a long shot.

    A convoy consisting of Red Cross, Red Crescent and United Nation (UN) gather before heading towards to Madaya from Damascus, and to al Foua and Kefraya in Idlib province, Syria, Jan. 11, 2016.
    A convoy consisting of Red Cross, Red Crescent and United Nation (UN) gather before heading towards to Madaya from Damascus, and to al Foua and Kefraya in Idlib province, Syria, Jan. 11, 2016.

    Online supporters of the Assad regime and Hezbollah launched a social media campaign during the past few days to mock starving civilians in Madaya, which has been under siege by the Syrian army and Lebanese Shi'ite fighters since July. They posted photos of spreads of food and skeletons on Twitter (with the hashtag, which means solidarity with the siege of Madaya).

    The online campaign started hours after Hezbollah accused anti-Assad militants of precipitating the crisis in Madaya, a mountain village with a pre-war population of 40,000 that has been swollen by refugees from nearby villages, by withholding food from the locals and claiming there are no real victims of hunger in the town.

    Madaya under siege

    Hezbollah’s Al Manar TV in neighboring Lebanon broadcast a report saying the pictures of the starving in Madaya posted by anti-Assad activists on networking sites are fabrications. Thousands of Hezbollah supporters took to Twitter to deride the claims of starvation in Madaya in response to another hashtag [Madaya starved to death] started by anti-Assad activists.

    Fuaa, Kafraya, and Madaya, Syria
    Fuaa, Kafraya, and Madaya, Syria

    Some of the tweets even took issue with the claim that Madaya is under siege, saying the photographs of the starving are forgeries. Others, however, appeared to be gloating at the suffering of the locals, prompting the outrage of anti-Assad groups that say it represents a new low in the war.

    Five residents died from starvation-related illnesses recently in Madaya as the town waited for promised U.N. aid. One of the dead was a 9-year-old boy, according to Dr. Ammar Ghanem, a Syrian-born doctor living in the United States who is in daily contact with family members in Madaya.

    Humanitarian aid

    Aid eventually arrived in Madaya Monday - the first delivery of food by U.N. agencies to the town since October.  Residents, though, fear future aid may get blocked and the delivery has not stopped international outrage over the ridiculing of the starving in the town.

    People shout slogans during a protest after Friday prayers, calling for the lifting of the siege off Madaya, in the rebel-controlled area of Maaret al-Numan town in Idlib province, Syria, Jan. 8, 2016.
    People shout slogans during a protest after Friday prayers, calling for the lifting of the siege off Madaya, in the rebel-controlled area of Maaret al-Numan town in Idlib province, Syria, Jan. 8, 2016.

    Melissa Fleming, UNHCR’s spokeswoman, said the aid delivery was planned to unfold in three stages over several days with food parcels delivered first, followed by flour, medicine and blankets.

    Ghanem, however, said people in Madaya worry U.N. aid won’t be enough and will just be a one-time delivery.

    “That is what happened in October; food was delivered but it wasn’t enough to go around and then the world forgot about the town,” he told VOA.

    On the pro-Assad taunting of the dying, he said, “This is the 21st century and we have means of communication. We can see the pictures of emaciated children; we can talk to people there. I don’t see how they can deny what is happening in Madaya and I really don’t understand the strategy of denial.”

    The medical charity Doctors Without Borders said Sunday that 10 people in the town are in need of immediate hospitalization. Another 250 will likely become critically ill within a week if food doesn’t get through. It says 28 people have died due to starvation since December 1.

    Starvation, weapon of war

    International rights group Amnesty International has published accounts of people trying to survive on boiled water and leaves.

    In most wars, combatants wield aid as a weapon, circumscribing humanitarian access and impeding assistance to civilians in enemy-held territory, hoping hunger will starve resistance into submission or undermine the morale of foes.

    In no war has this been truer than in Syria, where the horror of a prolonged vicious conflict has been compounded by aid and food being held hostage to politics and combat, says Philip Luther, Middle East and North Africa director for Amnesty International. He says Madaya is “the tip of an iceberg.”

    "Syrians are suffering and dying across the country because starvation is being used as a weapon of war by both the Syrian government and armed groups.” What Madaya has endured highlights the crucial need to allow unimpeded humanitarian access to all civilians in need and lift all sieges on civilian populations across country, Luther said.

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    Comments
         
    by: Nemat
    January 18, 2016 11:51 PM
    I really doubt that so called peace talks so far the donkey potin and the donky Hezbollah war lords has made sure they stretch the talks each time with another excuse it is not their families that is bomed or starved plus their father Satan is very pleased with them.hezbolsatan and Communist party they eat from the same plate

    by: Peterpandam from: Syria
    January 12, 2016 9:43 AM
    You don't even read the article? The rebels first blocked 2 Shia villages and the government in response blocked rebel villages. Now they agreed to let the convoys with food in those villages on both sides. You gotta have the leverage, they took Shia village hostage but when Assad took their village hostage too, then they started crying in media like they are the victim, yeah right.

    by: OziGooner
    January 12, 2016 8:36 AM
    In Assad we trust...

    by: Marcus Aurelius II from: NJ USA
    January 11, 2016 11:39 PM
    This is how Moslems treat each other. How would they treat non Moslems? Just watch the news almost anywhere. Look at Germany and Sweden for the gratitude they show those who saved their lives. How would they treat Israeli Jews if they had the opportunity? Wake up America, they don't like us at all. Their idea of a world under Sharia law has nothing to do with our civilization. Those who claim to be Moslems but don't support their insistence in the literal meaning of the Quran are as likely to be tortured and killed as anyone else.

    Perhaps one criteria for Moslems entering the US should be swearing to renounce Sharia law in all forms and rejecting the notion of a Moslem caliphate. Let them swear it to Allah. How many would lie about it?

    by: Peter from: New Zealand
    January 11, 2016 8:37 PM
    "Mock" is the writers opinion therefore should not purport to be fact in the headline.

    That sets the tone for the article which one can then assume is just propaganda.

    by: Riz from: UK
    January 11, 2016 8:34 PM
    hezollah and pro assad forces are NOT muslims but pigs of the earth. Hell awaits them and their families, that is why the word hezbollah is made up of the word HELL.

    by: Tom from: Texas
    January 11, 2016 6:53 PM
    If US/NATO stop supporting the "Good" and the "Bad" terrorists and if Saudi, Turkey stops the Ugly terrorist, their life will return back to normal.

    Imperialism is only in the business of terrorism.

    by: Mark from: Virginia
    January 11, 2016 4:15 PM
    Not to detract anything from Madaya, but the siege of Leningrad lasted for 872 days, and accounted for over 1.5 million civilian deaths, mostly to starvation.
    I cannot understand how anyone with a beating heart could taunt and mock the suffering of others to such an extent as pro-Assad supporters have done. It is an affront against every decent thing known in humanity.

    by: Roland
    January 11, 2016 2:33 PM
    These petty criminals Assad and his henchmen, the Hisbollah, the Iranians and the Russians should be brought to the International Court to be charged for war crimes, mass murder, rape as a weapon of war, Crime Against Humanity! It is like these, including Putin who are the causes of the rapid rise of ISIS by providing the push factors while the rest of Sunni Muslim (the pull factors) world who rightly or wrongly out of sympathy provide logistical support to the rest of the Sunni Muslims, including the ISIS, due to the more than 300,000 Sunni civilians victims slaughtered by Assad, Hisbollah, the Iranians and the Russians!
    In Response

    by: OziGooner
    January 12, 2016 8:33 AM
    Typical Western media trying by every means to degrade the Syrian Army and their allies. If the jihadi-opposition really cared about their civilians, then why didn't they surrender as part of the amnesty that Assad offers? Funny how no-one mentions that at all...

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