Breadlines and fuel shortages as winter grips Aleppo

Sat Dec 22, 2012 10:47am EST
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By Yara Bayoumy

ALEPPO, Syria (Reuters) - In Syria's once-affluent merchant city of Aleppo, a 60-year-old man wrapped in several layers of clothes queues alongside his shivering grandchildren for bread - a daily and often fruitless ritual that consumes most of his day.

Shielding himself from the rain in Bustan al-Qasr, a rebel-held district in the south-west of Syria's biggest city, Alaa el-Din Hout says shortages of food and fuel are driving his family and many other residents to desperation.

"We're starving. I can bear it but what about my children? I stand from 3 in the afternoon until 11 at night and you can't always get bread," said Hout, wearing a winter hat and scarf to keep out the winter cold.

"We're reduced to either begging or stealing."

Five months after rebels brought their fight against President Bashar al-Assad into the heart of Aleppo, the eastern and southern swathes of the city are a mishmash of deserted districts and no-man's land.

Rebel fighters have hunkered down in warehouses to halt offensives by Assad's forces in the civil war. The few lucky bakeries in Aleppo that have supplies often have hundreds standing in line, hoping for a few loaves.

Abu Abdo, Hout's son-in-law, has three children, the youngest a 2-month-old baby shivering underneath wraps of blankets. "This is the hardest period I've ever gone through. There's no work, no industry, no electricity, no diesel. How will people live?" said the former stonemason.

"The people have a right to demand their freedom, that's the least of the demands - I am for the downfall of the regime."   Continued...

Syrian refugee children gather around a fire to get warm, at Bib Salam refugee camp in Syria near the Turkish border December 22, 2012. International envoy Lakhdar Brahimi will visit Syria in the next few days and is expected to meet President Bashar al-Assad, government officials and some opposition factions, a source in the Arab League said. REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah