At least 120,000 people are starving in the Syrian city of Deir al-Zor, a senior Church leader has warned, as ISIS continues to lay siege on the town.
Armed groups including ISIS, the Syrian Armed Forces and the Free Syrian Army have clashed in Deir al-Zor, in eastern Syria, since the beginning of the civil war in 2011. Islamic State is now in control of the majority of the province, but some areas of the city remain government-held.
Archbishop Jaques Behnan Hindo of Hassaké-Nisibis in Syria said that ISIS could be considering the city as its new stronghold, fearful that Raqqa could fall. For over a year now, "jihadists have intensified the siege by not bringing food", he told Fides news agency.
"The few products that are still found – tomatoes, canned sardines, some tea – are sold on the black market with prices more than tenfold," he added.
The Archbishop also said that before war broke out there were around 1,000 Christians living in Deir al-Zor. Now there is just one left.
Earlier this month, ISIS militants killed 300 civilians in the city, in a massacre that was condemned as "horrific" by the Syrian government.
The majority of the victims were elderly people, women and children. Some reports suggested that a number of those killed were beheaded.
The UN released a report this month warning of severe food shortages and sharply deteriorating conditions in Deir al-Zor. Between 15 to 20 people – including four children – died of starvation in the Syrian city last year, according to unconfirmed reports, and residents only have a water supply for three hours each week.
An estimated 70 per cent of those under seige are women and children, the report added. Many of them are living in temporary shelters after being displaced from their homes.