Starvation fears for Aleppo as bomb kills dozens in north Syria

Hundreds of thousands face running out of food in besieged city, while Isis launches bloody attack in border town of Qamishli

An Islamic State truck bomb has killed nearly 50 people in north Syria, and aid groups have warned that hundreds of thousands of civilians face starvation in Aleppo as government forces tighten a siege on the city.

Roads into Aleppo, Syrias biggest city before the war, had already been virtually impassible since early July when troops loyal to the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, moved within firing range of the last supply corridor.

Those forces are now in full control of the road, the state Sana news agency reported, the day after texts were sent asking residents of rebel-held areas to leave and urging fighters to lay down their weapons.

Today there is no way at all to bring anything into Aleppo, Rami Abdulrahman, director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, told Reuters.

Government troops have repeatedly used sieges to help starve rebel-held cities into submission. Human rights groups fear the tactic will be deployed in Aleppo, where up to 300,000 people are living in areas under rebel control.

Food will run out within weeks, a group of 24 aid agencies working on the ground warned, and regime bombing raids have targeted several of the few remaining working hospitals in those parts of the city.

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Smoke billows from buildings during an operation by Syrian government forces to retake control of Leramun, on the north-west outskirts of Aleppo. Photograph: George Ourfalian/AFP/Getty Images

Supplies are quickly running out and women, children and men will begin to starve unless the armed parties on the ground are made to open the way for humanitarian aid, said Save the Childrens Syria director, Sonya Khush.

The parties responsible for this are in the meantime feeling bolder in committing their violations, she added, warning that bombing raids had targeted civilian infrastructure and supplies.

A food warehouse with almost 10,000 parcels was destroyed, and fuel needed to power medical facilities and water pumps was running dangerously low, the charities warned, and Unicef said medical facilities were also targeted.

Four hospitals in eastern Aleppo city … and a blood bank were reportedly hit several times on 23 and 24 July disrupting key life-saving health, the UN agency said. Health facilities in Syria are being attacked with alarming ferocity.

There were two bombing raids in under 12 hours on the only working paediatric hospital in the city. A two-day-old baby was among the casualties.

Earlier this week, the United Nations called for regular 48-hour ceasefires in the city to allow food and other assistance in, amid rising concern about the plight of civilians.

On Wednesday, the US military announced that it was launching a formal investigation into an airstrike on 19 July in which scores of people are thought to have been killed. The death toll in an attack near the besieged city of Manbij remains disputed but the UK-based monitoring group Airwars has concluded that at least 74 people died.

The UNs top Syria envoy also said this week that it hoped to restart soon intermittent peace talks aimed at ending the five-year war . They collapsed in April, partly because of intensifying violence around Aleppo.

The scale and intensity of the fighting have proved a huge challenge for aid groups, often forced to work through intermediaries in areas that are extremely dangerous to operate in even for experienced organisations

Fears of a looming humanitarian disaster in Aleppo come as the US revealed it had suspended more $200m (150m) of aid projects, providing food, shelter and medical support to Syrians, because of corruption fears.

The Isis truck bomb launched a few hundred miles east of Aleppo, in the strategic border town of Qamishli, was the bloodiest attack yet on a town that has been a frequent target for Isis militants.

Wednesdays explosion was so powerful it shattered windows and caused minor injuries inside Turkey. Video footage showed people fleeing blazing rubble before a second explosion, reportedly from a fuel tank that caught fire, sent them diving for cover.

Qamishli is under joint control of Syrian government forces and Kurdish fighters, and Isis said the truck bomb targeted Kurdish military offices. Kurdish forces are leading the ground campaign against Isis further west, currently focused on a push for the city of Manbij.

Suleiman Youssef, a writer and Qamishli resident, said that he heard the first explosion from a few miles away. He told AP the blasts levelled several buildings to the ground, and that many people were trapped under the rubble.

The predominantly Kurdish, US-backed Syria Democratic Forces has been the main force fighting Isis in northern Syria. It has captured significant territory from the extremists in the past two years.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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