100 killed in fresh Syria attacks; 650,000 now living in besieged areas

More than 100 people were killed in Syria in 24 hours of violence after Islamic State fighters attacked regime troops and a suicide bomber caused carnage at Kurdish new year celebrations, a monitor said Friday. More than 70 members of government forces were killed when IS attacked checkpoints and other positions in the central Homs and Hama provinces, the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP “most of the dead, around 50, fell in the Hama countryside.” Several jihadists were also killed when clashes broke out, he added without giving a toll. The regime controls most of Homs and Hama.

IS has faced setbacks recently in the provinces of Aleppo and Raqa and in Hasakeh in confrontations with Kurds on the one hand and regime forces on the other, and are now trying to score military points, even limited ones, to offset their losses.

Abdel Rahman

Meanwhile, nearly 650,000 Syrians are living in besieged communities in the country’s civil war, more than three times the UN estimate, according to a new report that offers a graphic account of hundreds of deaths in areas the world has struggled for years to reach. The “Slow Death” report, obtained in advance by The Associated Press, is by the Syrian American Medical Society. It says Syria’s government is responsible for the overwhelming amount of siege tactics that have led to deaths by starvation, dehydration and the lack of medical care. The document does not look at what it calls the short-term siege tactics used by the Islamic State group, which has beheaded and massacred its opponents in the vast area straddling the Syria-Iraq border currently under its control. The UN estimates that 212,000 Syrians live in besieged areas beyond the reach of humanitarian aid.