BEIRUT - Hezbollah and Syrian army troops have reportedly killed civilians attempting to flee a Sunni-populated town near the Lebanese border that has been besieged by pro-regime forces since the summer.
“Three civilians, including a pregnant woman and her daughter, were martyred and four other female citizens were injured when regime forces and Lebanon’s Hezbollah opened fire on them in the outskirts of Madaya,” the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported Monday morning.
The monitoring NGO said that a total of five people have died in Madaya the past 24 hours.
“This brought the number of martyrs [killed] in the town since it was surrounded by regime forces and Lebanon’s Hezbollah to at least 23 as a result of IED explosions, sniper fire or poor health [coupled with] lacking sustenance and necessary medical treatment,” the SOHR added.
Madaya was first surrounded by regime troops and Hezbollah fighters in July 2015 as part of a bid to put pressure on rebel fighters holed up in nearby Zabadani.
Although a truce agreement for Zabadani was worked out between rebels and regime forces in late September that reportedly includes provisions for Madaya, the town has continued to suffer from a severe lack of supplies as it remains besieged.
The ceasefire calls for the evacuation of Zabadani and Madaya in return for the evacuation of a Shiite-populated enclave in the Idlib Province, however the deal has been hit by obstacles, with reports indicating Hezbollah and the regime seek to keep Madaya encircled until the towns of Fuaa and Kefraya in Idlib are evacuated or secured.
As weather conditions worsen, Madaya residents as well as Syrian opposition activists have sought to publicize the abject humanitarian situation in the town, where residents have been starving.
Pictures have circulated on social media showing the emaciated bodies of young children and other residents of Madaya, which reportedly ran out of food in the late fall.
British daily The Independent on January 1 published a lengthy report on the town, citing a humanitarian activist as saying “many have died starving and many more will follow them if no immediate aid is allowed in.”
NOW's English news desk editor Albin Szakola (@AlbinSzakola) wrote this report. Ullin Hope translated the Arabic-language source material.