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US, UN Concerned About Besieged Syrians

FILE - Syrian refugees wait to be approved to get into Jordan, in the Hadalat reception area, near the northeastern Jordanian border with Syria, and Iraq, near the town of Ruwaished, Jan. 14, 2016.

The United States expressed deep concern Monday about the humanitarian situation in Syria where the U.N. says 13.5 million people are in need of aid nationwide.

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power called particular attention to 15 areas under siege, saying the Syrian government is responsible for 12 of the blockades and that at least 35 people have died there since the beginning of December.

She called on all parties in Syria to allow unhindered access to humanitarian groups.

'Need signs of hope'

"More than ever, the Syrian people need signs of hope that they are not destined to live in conflict indefinitely," Power said.

U.N. aid agencies warned Monday that 200,000 people in the besieged eastern city of Deir el-Zour face "sharply deteriorating conditions" and are in urgent need of food and medical supplies.

U.N. deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said the world body has approval to airlift aid to the area, but that heavy fighting has prevented the operation from taking place.

The U.N., Syrian Arab Red Crescent and the International Red Cross have been partnering on aid deliveries to two besieged towns near the Libyan border and two others farther north near the Turkish border.

Aid postponed

They said in a joint statement that aid to Foua and Kafraya in the north had to be postponed after rebels told them they needed more time to finalize security arrangements. The agencies pledged to continue working to reach people in those towns and see what help they need.

U.N. humanitarian chief Stephen O'Brien said in a letter Sunday that he is "angry and frustrated" about the situation in the besieged areas and noted that he and others have repeatedly called for sieges to no longer be used as a weapon against civilians.

"But let me be clear, only a political solution for peace and the respect for international humanitarian law by all parties will make the biggest difference for Syrians seeking assistance and for humanitarian organizations the ability to provide it," he said.