Ever since the emergence of the Islamic State in 2014, world powers, including the United States, have shifted their focus from the Syrian civil war to fighting terrorism in Iraq and Syria.
Meanwhile, taking advantage of the distraction, Syrian President Bashar al Assad has continued committing gross human rights abuses against civilians. The worse case in point is the town of Madaya, where up to 40,000 civilians are slowly starving to death under a punishing siege.
People are trapped inside the small mountainous town, located about 40 km northwest of Damascus, which is encircled by the Lebanese militia Hezbollah and landmines reportedly laid down by Syrian government forces.
Consequently, there is a severe shortage of basic supplies such as fuel, electricity, medicine and food. In fact, according to several news sources, people in Madaya have resorted to eating wild plants, insects and even their pets.
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(Warning: Graphic Images)
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported at least 23 people, including children, had died in rebel-held Madaya in nearly 174 days during the siege, adding at least 300 children are suffering from malnutrition.
“People are dying in slow motion,” Louay, a social worker from the town told the Guardian in a phone interview. “We had some flowers growing in pots at home. Yesterday, we picked the petals and ate them, but they were bitter, awful.”
As if all of this isn’t dire enough, winter is exacerbating the situation.
"People at least used to pick grass and herbs and eat or boil them but when the snow fell they could no longer even do this," Raed Bourhan, a fixer for The Times of London, informed Middle East Eye.
A Facebook page entitled Madaya has also posted a plea, calling on human rights organization to protest against Assad’s atrocities:
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Madaya is a tragic example of how world powers, including the U.S. and Russia, have failed to protect innocent civilians while fighting their proxy war in Syria.
More than 260,000 people have died in the Middle Eastern country in less than five years, of whom an estimated 76,000 were non-combatants. Although ISIS, rebel groups, Russia and the U.S.-led international coalition are all responsible for the staggering death toll, most of the civilian casualties are caused by attacks carried out by the Syrian Arab Republic Government and pro-SARG forces, according to USAID.
Yet, Assad has been unstoppable.