BEIRUT — Syrian rebels fired into the air to disperse a protest by civilians in a rebel-held district of Aleppo against a blockade preventing food and medicine reaching government-held areas of the northern city of Aleppo, residents said on Wednesday.
Rebel fighters have stopped supplies entering western Aleppo for weeks. The tactic is aimed at weakening the supply routes of President Bashar al-Assad's forces but thousands of civilians are now left hungry, residents say.
Video footage posted on the Internet on Tuesday showed dozens of civilians in the rebel-held neighborhood of Bustan al-Qasr protesting at a rebel checkpoint which prevents supplies from entering the western part of the city, home to 2 million people and held by the army.
Although insurgents and the army control different parts of the country, civilians are normally allowed to cross freely to shop or meet family members and friends.
The footage, posted by the opposition Bustan al-Qasr Information Office, showed men at the protest chanting, “the people want an end to the blockade.” A rebel fighter brandishes a pistol and then a gunshot is heard as the video ends.
An opposition activist group called the Aleppo Martyrs said rebels fired at the protesters, killing one person and wounding several others. But a resident at the protest said the man was killed prior to the protest by army sniper fire as he tried the cross between rebel and government-held territory.
Reuters was not able to confirm the report due to media and security restrictions in Syria.
More than 100,000 people have died in Syria's two-year conflict. It started because Assad's force fired live ammunition against pro-democracy protests, leading to an armed revolt.
Rebels who now control many parts of the country are blamed for similar abuses by rights groups, including torture and harsh punishments imposed by religious courts.
A sign displayed by rebels at the Bustan al-Qasr checkpoint reads: “Food, medicine, oil, babies' products, milk, vegetables, meat, bread: completely forbidden [from crossing].”
Residents in western Aleppo say food prices have jumped to more than ten times their original level and basics such as bread and flour have become harder to find.
Civilians say they are stockpiling food, such as bulgur wheat and rice, which are still regularly available. They say some perishable vegetables are still being sold in markets.