UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has warned that deliberate starvation of citizens is a war crime, as the second convoy of aid arrived in the famine-hit Syrian town of Madaya.
Ban said on Thursday (14 January) that residents in the rebel-held town, which has been under siege by government troops for several months, were in desperate need of humanitarian assistance.
"The town has been the victim of deliberate starvation. The use of food as a weapon of war is a war crime. All sides, including the Syrian government, which has the primary responsibility to protect Syrians, are committing atrocious acts prohibited under international humanitarian law," he said in a speech before the UN General Assembly.
"Combatants have showed complete and utter disregard for Madaya's people," the UN chief added.
The faction supporting Syrian President Bashar Assad seized Madaya months earlier and had blocked previous humanitarian efforts to get aid to the people. A UN official earlier pointed out that 400 people in Madaya were in need of immediate medical evacuation, but Ban raised questions over what would happen to those who would be left behind, Reuters reported.
"They can eat today but they fear another stretch of months in destitution if the combatants renew the siege," he warned.
The second delivery of aid reaching Madaya and two other villages included wheat, flour, cleaning materials and some medical supplies. Based on a UN-supported agreement, six trucks entered the town while three trucks entered Foua and Kfarya. The Madaya convoy also included a nutritionist and health teams.
Dominik Stillhart, International Committee of the Red Cross director of operations said: "According to the ICRC team that entered Madaya, the people were very happy, even crying when they realized that wheat flour is on the way."
He said that they hoped to bring in more supplies and fuel deliveries by Sunday, 17 January.
"We think there is a window of opportunity to make a significant step forward to lift all the sieges," he added.