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U.N.: 300,000 civilians at risk in Damascus battle

U.N.: 300,000 civilians at risk in Damascus battleUN humanitarian advisor on Syria Jan Egeland urged for the pause in the conflict to let aid convoys in as fighting around Syria's capital Damascus has cut 300,000 people off from humanitarian aid, Reuters reported on Thursday.

"They are totally dependent on our supplies. Starvation will be just around the corner unless we get there in the coming weeks," Egeland told Reuters in an interview after chairing the weekly Syria humanitarian taskforce meeting in Geneva.

The besieged Douma and Kafr Batna areas of rural Damascus contain 161,000 and 142,000 civilians respectively. Their food stocks have dwindled and informal supply routes have been cut.

"The increase in the fighting has disastrous effects on the civilian population," Egeland said.

"They haven’t had any supplies by the UN since October in Douma, and in the Kafr Batna area not since June of last year," he added.

The Syrian government is not giving the green light for convoys and armed groups are not guaranteeing the security of aid convoys, meaning that no aid can go in, Egeland said.

Rebels clashed with Syria's army on the edge of the city center in the Jobar district for a fifth day on Thursday and made advances against the Syrian army north of the town of Hama.

The UN is hoping to send an aid convoy on Friday to Wadi Barada, a valley outside Damascus where fighting raged at the start of this year. But in other areas apparent humanitarian progress has been stalled or reversed.

Food reached the besieged town of Madaya last week, but sniping by militias surrounding the town means it cannot be distributed, Egeland said.

In al-Waer, a besieged suburb of the city of Homs, a deal to evacuate fighters and their families has stopped, leaving the UN unable to support the 50,000 trapped civilians.
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