February 6, 2016 / 6:37 PM / 4 years ago

Syrian government steps up siege of rebel-held Damascus suburbs: state media, rebels

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Syrian government forces have tightened a three-year siege on two rebel-held suburbs southwest of Damascus by capturing land between the two and choking off their supply route, state media, a monitoring group and a rebel spokesman said on Saturday.

The suburbs of Daraya and Mouadamiya were linked by a strip of land that served as a supply route. Syrian and allied forces took control of this strip on Friday, having fought for it since December, the sources said.

Daraya borders a military airport used by Russian planes - which have been conducting air strikes for President Bashar al-Assad since September - and the Syrian government is keen to wrest back control of the area.

“The Islamist groups which control Daraya have been launching rockets into the military airport zone,” said Rami Abdulrahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Abu Ghiath al-Shami, spokesman for rebel group Alwiyat Seif al-Sham, part of a rebel group alliance called the Southern Front, said he expected the government would try to attack each area separately now they were completely besieged.

“The attempts (to storm Mouadamiya and Daraya) are continuous, they don’t stop. It is a guerrilla war in Mouadamiya and Daraya,” Shami said. “The regime advances by one or two points, we attack it in other places.”

The Red Cross said on Thursday it had delivered food for more than 12,000 people to besieged Mouadamiya, enough for only three weeks and that regular access was needed.

Shami said there were around 6,000 people living in Daraya, and 45,000 in Mouadamiya, and he said the government was now trying to starve the population out.

“They are under siege with no food, no water, no electricity, no medicine,” he said.

Reporting by Lisa Barrington and Tom Perry; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky

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