Despite increased international diplomacy, no sieges in Syria have been lifted over the past three months. More than a million people remain under siege, with another 1.4 million at risk of coming under siege. These are some of the findings of the second quarterly Siege Watch Report by Dutch peace organisation PAX and the Washington, DC-based think tank The Syria Institute.
“It is clear that convoy counting is not the answer to Syria’s sieges,” says The Syria Institute Executive Director Valerie Szybala. “The UN and the International Syria Support Group (ISSG) must not make the mistake of conflating increased aid delivery approvals with a solution to the problem. The focus must remain on lifting the sieges and ensuring the unrestricted movement of civilians.”
Siege Watch figures indicate that 1,015,275 Syrians live in besieged communities. The UN counts a dramatically lower number of people under siege, although they have raised the number slightly, to 592,000, since Siege Watch finished its latest update. “Only when the full scope of the problem is recognised by the international community will the necessary response be undertaken to provide relief to long-besieged Syrians,” explains Marjolein Wijninckx, Syria programme manager at PAX.
In addition to areas identified in the February 2016 Siege Watch Quarterly report, East Aleppo was added to the “Watchlist” of areas that are under direct threat of becoming fully besieged. The opposition-controlled eastern part of Aleppo is only accessible by one road which is under frequent attack. A number of other areas have also been added to the “Watchlist”.
The recent delivery of aid to Darayya is a positive development, but it is still far too little. Another area that has seen significant improvement in the humanitarian situation is Deir ez-Zor, in the east of the country. That community has received regular air drops since April. The ISSG deadline of 1 June for getting access to the besieged areas with the most urgent need has come and gone. Air drops remain an option, but only as a last resort.
“After years of unfulfilled promises, distrust and disillusionment continue to rise amongst Syrians. If the ISSG does not meet its commitment to reach those besieged areas, the international community will lose its credibility for good,” warns Wijninckx.
Read the full report: Siege Watch – Second Quarterly Report on Besieged Areas in Syria