Food rations distributed to besieged Damascus areas

Syria's Red Crescent on Monday said it has distributed 6,650 food rations in three areas of Damascus where rebels and the army reached a truce, but which are still under partial blockade.

The distributions have taken place over the past four days in Beit Sahem, Babbila and Yalda, three rebel bastions where the two sides reached a ceasefire after more than a year and a half of fighting and daily shelling.

The Red Crescent said it also provided medical treatment to 460 residents during the operation, while another 1,700 sick people were able to leave.

The Red Crescent posted photographs on its Facebook page showing scores of men and women gathering at a table, waiting to sign up for the distributions with humanitarian volunteers.

The photographs also show elderly men, teenagers and children looking happy as they carry away boxes marked with the Red Crescent's logo.

The aid mission was carried out with the help of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the World Food Programme (WFP).

Some 5,450 families benefited from the distribution, out of a total 12,000 families that have signed up for assistance.

Truces reached in recent weeks for several rebel-held areas around Damascus -- where people were reportedly dying from shortages -- have allowed the entry of food, sources on both sides have said.

But according to activists and human rights organisations, the siege on the rebel-held areas has not ended.

"They are like open-air prisons," said Rami Abdel Rahman, director of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which relies on a network of activists and other witnesses inside the country.

"Lifting a siege would imply freedom of movement, which is not the case," he told AFP.

In Moadamiyet al-Sham, southwest of Damascus, activists have denounced restrictions imposed by the army ever since a truce was agreed in late December.

"We receive some 1,000 packets of bread a day. But we are unable to bring in flour, or to open bakeries," said Abu Malek, an activist in the town reached via the Internet.

The UN Security Council on Saturday adopted a resolution calling for humanitarian aid convoys to be allowed access throughout the war-torn country, but without a threat of sanctions should the parties fail to comply.

Damascus said Sunday it is ready to cooperate with the resolution, so long as it respects "state sovereignty."