Residents of rebel-held parts of Syria’s Aleppo expressed fears on Monday of a lengthy government siege, as food supplies dwindled after regime troops seized the only road into the city’s east.
Castello Road, the only route into the city’s east, is now mostly in Assad regime’s hands, with pro-rebel neighborhoods in eastern Aleppo completely besieged. The road has been under constant bombardment from pro-regime forces, a monitoring group told CNN.
The capture of the Castello road, which had been used by rebels as well as merchants bringing food into the city, further tightens Assad regime’s grip on opposition areas in the north.
“I don’t know what is going to happen to us,” said 38-year-old Mohammad Rukbi, an unemployed father-of-four in the Bustan Al-Qasr neighborhood.
“We have nowhere to go. All the roads are closed and we’ve been suffering for days with shortages of bread, food and basically everything,” he said.
Food and fuel shortages had already hit the east of the city, home to around 300,000 people, after government forces advanced to within firing range of the key Castello Road supply route on July 7.
But over the weekend, regime forces seized the road itself, completely severing the eastern rebel-held portion of Aleppo city from the outside world and raising fears of a potentially devastating siege.
“I’m scared of what comes next,” said Rukbi.
“Maybe the regime will not be content with besieging us and will attack the eastern neighbourhoods.”
In the opposition-controlled Al Mashhad district of the city, mechanic Mohammad Zeitun said his work had dried up because a shortage of fuel meant residents were not driving anywhere.
“The idea of the siege keeps me up at night,” the 44-year-old said.
“I don’t have supplies to last me more than a week, and if there is no food in the markets, there could be a famine,” the father-of-five said.
300.000 civilians besieged in Aleppo
The UN has warned that nearly 300,000 people rely on the Castello Road for travel, food and medicine, with local market stalls sparsely stocked.
“We are deeply worried about what will happen to civilians as the fighting closes in and intensifies, while their already minimal supplies of food, water and medicine run out,” Mr. Zeid said.
Activists and doctors have warned the situation will worsen conditions in the city that has become a key battleground between regime-controlled areas in the west and rebel-held areas in the east.
“Aleppo is under full ground siege after the regime took some points on the road,” Aleppo-based activist Bahaa al-Halaby told PA.
Dr Samer Attar, a Chicago-based orthopedic surgeon who has been working with local medics in Aleppo told NBC News the loss of the road was a “death sentence” and had already had severe impacts on supplies of food and medicine.
He said: “People are running out of fresh fruit and meat. Hospitals and their staff are exhausted.”
The entire city “is going to be bombed and starved to death … unless the international community acts,” he added.