Almost 13,000 British citizens have signed a petition – launched Friday, urging their government to start air dropping food supplies to starving Syrians living in besieged areas.
“People are starving to death in Douma, Idlib, Madaya and many other places. Let us be the ones to feed them,” the campaigners said on their petition page after shocking pictures and videos of malnourished, emaciated Syrians especially children surfaced on social media.
The British government will have to respond to the petition as it gathered more than 10,000 signatures. If 100,000 sign the petition, it will also be considered for debate in Parliament.
In northwestern Syria, the villages of Foua and Kefraya, in the Idlib governorate, are home to some 20,000 residents who are also under siege by armed opposition groups.
And in the small mountainous town of Madaya – located 40 km northwest of Damascus – the lives of around 40,000 residents are threatened after a six-month long blockade imposed by the Syrian army and its Lebanese ally, Hezbollah.
Half of the 40,000 are estimated to be “children in need of urgent lifesaving assistance,” Juliette Touma, spokesperson for the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), told Al Arabiya News. “We are currently working with relevant partners to deliver the much needed aid to children in Madaya as soon as access is secured,” she added.
While the Syrian government on Thursday gave permission to the United Nations to deliver humanitarian aid to three besieged towns including Madaya, U.N. agencies and other humanitarian groups said they could begin delivering the much-needed aid as early as Sunday.
So far, there are no reports of food being delivered, except for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and U.N. World Food Programme (WFP) currently preparing convoys packed with food and medical supplies for suffering populations in the towns of Madaya, al-Foua and Kefraya.
Why drop only arms?
The London-based Syrian analyst, Ghassan Ibrahim, was one of the early campaigners for the petition.
Ibrahim sparked discussion when he questioned why members of the U.S.-led coalition forces, which include the UK, drop arms to Kurdish fighters but fall short of “dropping food, milk to the children who live in besieged areas such as Madaya?” on his Facebook page followed by 35,529 people.
Like other anti-Syrian government activists, Ibrahim accused regime of President Bashar al-Assad of committing “sectarian cleansing” against the Sunni population in the warn-torn country especially in the mainly-Sunni Madaya where “civilians and local armed opposition, and not ISIS and extremists” live and operate.
In 2011, Syrians were estimated to be roughly 23 million with Sunnis making around 75 percent of the population.
Ibrahim, who is also the Editor in Chief of Global Arab Network, said there is an “agreement between Iranian militia and Hezbollah that all residents of these [neighboring to Lebanon] areas should leave for Hezbollah to be in control of it,” he said.“These militias have done some sectarian cleansing in south of Damascus and in city of Homs.”
Lina Khatib, a senior research associate with the Arab Reform Initiative, wrote a column for British daily The Guardian on Friday saying that the “media interest in ISIS has overshadowed the humanitarian catastrophe occurring at the hands of pro-Assad forces,” describing the Syrian conflict as “more complex than good v evil.”
Khatib also used the term “sectarian cleansing” when she said “the regime’s plan is to empty Zabadani and Madaya from Sunni residents and populate them with Shia who would be brought in from Foua and Kefraya.”
Zabadani is another city bordering Lebanon.
Twenty three people have died of starvation in Madaya since Dec. 1 at health centers supported by Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), the global medical aid group said.
Given the dire humanitarian situation in Syria, Ibrahim said there is a plan to campaign for another petition in the United States. If the international community continues to be ineffective, “then the only solution is airdrops by the American, British, Air forces,” he added.SHOW MORE