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Half a Million Children Are Trapped in Syria, United Nations Says

With violence escalating in Aleppo and elsewhere across war-ravaged Syria, the United Nations said Saturday that the number of children trapped in besieged areas had doubled in less than a year to half a million.

A report by Unicef, the United Nations Children’s Fund, said the children were among hundreds of thousands of civilians in 16 areas under siege across the country who had been “almost completely cut off from sustained humanitarian aid and basic services.”

The report said some of these areas had received little or no aid in nearly two years, despite repeated efforts by international relief agencies to provide food and medicine. “This is no way to live,” Unicef’s executive director, Anthony Lake, said in the report.

The report estimated that 100,000 of the trapped children were among the civilians pinned down in eastern Aleppo, the insurgent-held portion of what had been prewar Syria’s commercial epicenter.

Eastern Aleppo is now a focal point of the war, pitting an array of insurgents and militant jihadists against the forces of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria and their Russian allies.

The top United Nations diplomat seeking a negotiated end to the Syrian conflict, Staffan de Mistura, has repeatedly pleaded for a humanitarian halt to the fighting in Aleppo and has even offered to escort the militants out of the city.

But Mr. Assad and his subordinates have said they intend to retake all of Aleppo, apparently regardless of the cost in lives and destruction, as he feels increasingly emboldened that the nearly six-year war is moving in his favor.

The Russian forces who have been assisting Mr. Assad for more than a year have been escalating their bombings against insurgent targets in northern Syria since mid-November.

Syrian state news media reported Saturday that government troops had captured the Hanano district of eastern Aleppo, which was among the first to fall to insurgent control when fighting broke out in the city in 2012.

In another indication of the deprivations confronting residents of eastern Aleppo, the Middle East coordinator of the World Food Program, the United Nations anti-hunger agency, said people had been scrounging through garbage for food scraps since the last rations, delivered in July, were distributed a few weeks ago.

The coordinator, Muhannad Hadi, said in an interview with The Canadian Press that “people are looking through garbage to find something to eat — that’s if they find garbage in Aleppo.”

Mr. Hadi made the remarks during a visit to Ottawa to brief Canadian officials on the Syria crisis.

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