Syrian children play as they sit on the tip of an abandoned missile at the Ash'ari camp for the displaced in the rebel-held eastern Ghouta area outside the capital Damascus on October 25, 2017.
The United Nations condemned Friday the "deliberate starvation of civilians" as a war tactic following the release of "shocking" images showing severely malnourished children in an area near Damascus besieged by Syria's military.
A deal reached between rebel backer Turkey and regime allies Russian Federation and Iran earlier this year has created so-called "de-escalation zones" in several parts of the country, including Eastern Ghouta, bringing a measure of calm.
AFP on October 21 published a picture of an infant suffering from severe malnutrition at a clinic in the rebel-controlled town of Hamouria, in Eastern Ghouta.
"The parties to the conflict must allow the free, regular and unimpeded passage of food and other humanitarian relief and not take actions that would deprive civilians of their rights to food and health", the High Commissioner said. Between January and September, the Government only accepted 26% of requests to deliver assistance to besieged and hard-to-reach areas.
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He added: "I remind all parties that the deliberate starvation of civilians as a method of warfare constitutes a clear violation of worldwide humanitarian law, and may amount to a crime against humanity and/or a war crime".
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein said in a statement: "I also call on all those with involvement or influence in the conflict to facilitate the access of humanitarian workers so they can deliver the aid that the people of Eastern Ghouta so desperately need".
Asked if the rights chief was accusing President Bashar al-Assad's regime of deliberately starving non-combatants, Zeid's spokesman Rupert Colville said: "He is raising the possibility that that is what's happening". The following day several hundred people allegedly looted a second warehouse in the town in a possible sign of growing desperation.
"If parties to a conflict can not meet the needs of the population under their control, they must allow and facilitate efforts by impartial humanitarian agencies to provide aid, including by granting them the right of free passage", he stressed.
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