While the situation of 42,000 people threatened with death by starvation in Madaya is alarming, it is just the tip of the iceberg. Siege Watch, an initiative of The Syria Institute and PAX, estimates that over a million people live under siege in Syria.
These sieges primarily take place in the greater Damascus area, and in the vast majority of cases the Syrian army and its allies, in support of the Syrian regime, are responsible. The deliberate starvation of civilians is a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention and therefore war crimes, and violate United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Resolutions 2139 (2014), 2165 (2014), 2191 (2014), 2254 (2015), and 2258 (2015).
This week PAX published its latest Syria Alert to call for attention and action for more than a million Syrians living under siege. Together with Syrian civil society activists and representatives of the civilian population living in besieged areas, PAX calls for:
- Recognition of the full extent of the problem of besieged areas with a political effort to enforce international law and break the sieges.
- Using the political momentum of the upcoming negotiations in Geneva to demand that immediate lifting of all sieges by all parties to the conflict is included as one of the main confidence-building measures for a peace and transition process.
- Diplomatic efforts with Russia and Iran, the main allies of the Syrian regime, to convince them to use their leverage on the regime to lift all sieges and allow movement of people and goods
- Investigating how airdrops of food and medicine in besieged areas could lead to at least temporary relief for the starving civilian population.