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article imageQueues for food in Syria's rebel Aleppo after route cut

By Karam al-Masri (AFP)     Jul 13, 2016 in World

In a rebel-held neighbourhood in the east of Syria's second city Aleppo, more than 100 people are lined up outside a bakery, hoping to get a daily ration of bread.

For some, it may be the only food available after a government advance severed the sole remaining supply route into rebel-held districts, prompting shortages and rising prices.

"I've been standing here for about 45 minutes and there are still 40 people in front of me," said Ahmad al-Haj, in the queue of around 150 people.

At another nearby bakery, the queue is even longer, with some 200 people gathered.

"Yesterday, my family of five didn't eat any bread because the bakeries stopped working. Today, I will only get seven pieces which will barely be enough for a single meal," he said.

With their route to the outside world cut, there is no new flour coming to the city's bakeries, and fuel to light their ovens is also now hard to find.

Syrian children help to prepare bread at a bakery in Aleppo in June 2016
Syrian children help to prepare bread at a bakery in Aleppo in June 2016
Thaer Mohammed, AFP/File

The mood among those waiting is grim, with families arguing over their spot in the queue and the meagre portions available to families that sometimes include seven or eight people.

Once an economic powerhouse and a thriving tourist destination, Aleppo has been devastated by the conflict that began in March 2011.

Since mid-2012, it has been roughly divided between government control in the west and rebel control in the east, and has suffered enormous destruction in the war that has killed more than 280,000 people nationwide.

Last week, a government advance brought regime troops within firing range of the Castello Road, the only remaining supply route into the opposition-held east, effectively severing rebel neighbourhoods from the outside world.

The United Nations said on Wednesday it was "deeply alarmed" by the situation in Aleppo, warning that the east was "at risk of besiegement."

It also criticised civilian deaths in ongoing government air strikes on the east and rebel fire on the west.

- 'Everything is missing' -

With the Castello Road cut, shop shelves have been left empty and residents are struggling to find even basic goods.

Abu Mohamed was combing through a nearby half-empty vegetable market in a bid to find potatoes, which now go for five times the price they did last week -- about 500 Syrian pounds ($1) a kilo.

"I have four children and I don't know what we will eat today," he said.

A Syrian boy stands in front of an empty vegetable market in Aleppo on July 10  2016 after the regim...
A Syrian boy stands in front of an empty vegetable market in Aleppo on July 10, 2016 after the regime closed the Castello Road, severing the supply route to the rebel-held eastern half of the city
Karam Al-Masri, AFP/File

"The markets are totally empty, I couldn't find anything. Everything is missing -- eggs, yogurt, cheese, vegetables."

Abu Mohamed, a tailor, said his salary of 25,000 Syrian pounds was no longer enough to feed his family.

"The prices are so high now, so my income isn't enough for a single week."

In another neighbourhood, supermarket owner Mohammed Hijazi looked at the half-empty shelves of his store.

His remaining stock, including cleaning supplies and perfumes, is of little interest to customers who can barely afford food.

"For the past two days, my shop was full of people trying to buy canned food and dates to store them," he said.

"I had to ration what each person could buy so that as many people as possible could get what they needed. But today we've nearly run out of supplies."

Other shopkeepers closed their doors in the first days after the road was cut, and only reopened after hiking their prices.

The price of a kilo of dates has doubled to 800 Syrian pounds ($3.70), while a kilo of tomatoes has gone from 100 to 600 Syrian pounds.

Fuel is also in short supply and increasingly expensive, making life difficult for Hassan Yassin, a taxi driver.

He has stopped working during the day for fear of government air strikes and shelling, but even at night he is no longer driving passengers because the cost of fuel makes trips too expensive.

"A litre of petrol costs 1,500 Syrian pounds, so the shortest trip would cost a customer 700 Syrian pounds," he told AFP.

"I've hidden my taxi so that I don't get hit in shelling. I'll sit at home without work."

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