Malnutrition kills 8 in Syrian prison: NGO

Another four people died elsewhere in Syria due to food shortages

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Eight people held by the Syrian government in Aleppo's central prison have died over the past two days from malnutrition, a monitoring group said Thursday.

Another four people died elsewhere in Syria due to food shortages and a lack of medical supplies, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Control of Aleppo, once Syria's commercial capital, has been contested by loyalists and rebels for nearly 18 months. The prison, which houses more than 3,000 detainees, has been under rebel siege since April.

The Britain-based Observatory also called on humanitarian groups to negotiate entry into the prison to deliver food and medical supplies.

The Red Crescent did manage to do so last month.

On Dec.14, it evacuated 15 detainees, which the authorities had decided to free for humanitarian reasons.

The government had said earlier it would release 360 prisoners, but there has been no confirmation that any more than the 15 have been let go.

Elsewhere, three people died from malnutrition in Yarmouk in southern Damascus, among them a pregnant woman, and a fourth died in the central city of Homs, the Observatory said.

Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp, now a war zone mostly under opposition control, and rebel areas of Homs have been under a suffocating army siege preventing the entry of food and medical supplies for many months.

The U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees said earlier this week that at least 15 people have died of hunger in Yarmouk since September.

UNRWA has also called on the warring parties to allow humanitarian supplies in, warning of a deteriorating situation in the camp.

Near Damascus, several opposition neighborhoods have been under a tight army siege for a year, causing widespread shortages and malnutrition.

Activists say the army is besieging residents of opposition neighborhoods to push the rebels into surrendering.

Human rights organizations have warned that it is children aged under the age of two who face the gravest dangers as a result of the shortages.