Syrian towns under siege by regime, rebels and jihadists

Syrian men sit next to a damaged building in the town of Daraya, southwest of Damascus, on May 23, 2016 (AFP Photo/Fadi Dirani) (AFP/File)

Beirut (AFP) - Around 20 towns in Syria are currently besieged, mainly by the forces of President Bashar al-Assad's regime but also by rebels and jihadists.

Assad is accused of resorting to sieges to force rebels to lay down their arms in Syria's brutal five-year conflict.

An international humanitarian taskforce for the war-ravaged country agreed Thursday to add rebel-held Al-Waer, near the central city of Homs, to its list of besieged areas.

The addition raised the number of besieged areas to 19, with a total population of 592,700, most of them penned in by regime forces.

- Under siege by the regime -

The regime has mainly besieged towns around the capital Damascus:

- DARAYA: One of the first towns in Syria to erupt in demonstrations against the government in 2011, Daraya also became one of the first to be placed under a strict regime siege in late 2012.

An estimated 8,000 people still live in the rebel-held town, which lies just a 15-minutes drive southwest of Damascus and is even closer to the regime's prized Mazzeh air base, which hosts the feared air force intelligence services and their notorious prison.

A humanitarian aid convoy on Wednesday entered Daraya, the Red Cross said, in the first such delivery since the siege began. But the opposition said only medical supplies were in the delivery and not food.

- MADAYA: more than 40,000 people have been under siege in Madaya for months and the town became infamous in late 2015 after 46 people starved there.

- MOADAMIYEH AL-SHAM: A rebel town southwest of Damascus, Moadamiyeh was listed as a town under siege by the UN in January, after the regime imposed new restrictions which led to new food shortages. On Wednesday, an aid convoy entered the town for the first time since March.

Other rebel-controlled towns are also surrounded in Damascus province, such as Zabadani, along with Douma, Harasta and Zamalka in the region of Eastern Ghouta.

Rastan, one of the last rebel strongholds in Homs, is also under a devastating regime siege.

- Towns surrounded by rebels -

- FOUA and KAFRAYA: The two Shiite pro-regime towns in northwestern Idlib province are under siege by Islamist rebels.

The rebels are seeking to link the fate of the two towns to those of Zabadani and Madaya, demanding that aid destined for loyalist villages should also go to these two rebel-held towns.

In April, 250 inhabitants of Madaya and Zabadani reached Idlib province, held by rebels. At the same time, some 250 inhabitants of Foua and Kafraya were transferred to Damascus and the province of Latakia, a regime stronghold on the coast. The evacuations went side by side with a delivery of humanitarian aid to these towns.

In early February, government forces, backed by Russian air power, managed to break through the siege imposed for the past three years by Islamist rebels on the Shiite towns of Nubol and Zahraa in the northern province of Aleppo.

- Under siege by the IS -

- DEIR EZZOR: The jihadist Islamic State group has since January 2015 besieged the eastern city of Deir Ezzor where more than 200,000 people live.

The IS controls more than 60 percent of the city, the capital of the province of the same name, most of which is in its hands.

Since early April, the World Food Programme has been carrying out food drops over the city.

The government has also managed to deliver aid to besieged towns that it controls by air drops. Rebels do not have access to aircraft.