The Syrian Government Is Using Famine As A Weapon Of War

SyriaREUTERS/Mohammed AbdullahA boy stands outside a tent where he is staying with his family in eastern Ghouta near Damascus January 6, 2014. Food and fuel supplies have gone short in eastern Ghouta which has been under siege, activists said.

The Syrian Civil War — already noted for horrors ranging from chemical weapons to the indiscriminate shelling of civilian neighborhoods — has reached a new low, NOW reports.

Taking advantage of the already horrendous humanitarian situation, the Syrian government has now turned to using famine as a weapon of war. To be precise, Syrian forces will blockade a city or neighbourhood until rebels agree to hand over their guns and submit wanted activists in exchange for food deliveries, according to NOW.

Qusai Zakarya, a former member of the rebel council from the Moadamiyah, told NOW:

“… First they asked us to raise the regime flag over the highest point in the town, which is the water tank, and to declare that they now had the town under their control. This gave Assad a media victory. Then they asked to hand over our weapons and also some of the wanted activists to face interrogations with no guarantees as to their safety. They also assigned a military commander in Moadamiyah to have the FSA working under his authority. There were a lot of civilians in the town and we couldn’t have their blood on our hands, so we agreed.”

Three days after the city surrendered, the regime brought in just enough food to keep people alive, although it was still less than a meal per person. For each successive delivery, the regime would raise its demands — eventually asking the rebels to hand over all their small arms.

Pior to the government food deliveries, civilians had resorted to eating stray animals to stay alive. Zakarya told Vice that [Syrian president Bashar Hafez al-] “Assad wants to show people that he can give them food and security, if only they surrender.”

By and large, the tactics worked. Zakarya eventually turned himself over to the Syrian security forces before fleeing to Beirut.

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.