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The New Arab

Hizballah selling salt for $100 per kilo in Syria

Pro-regime forces stand at the entrance to Madaya in January 2016 [AFP]

Date of publication: 28 September, 2016

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Pro-regime Hizballah militants are selling salt to residents of a besieged Damascus suburb at extortionate prices, leaving Syrians with little choice but to pay their jailers for the essential commodity.
Hizballah militants around the besieged Damascus suburb of Madaya are selling salt to trapped Syrian residents for $100 a kilo.

Traders in Madaya have been forced to pass on the price to customers, with trapped residents having to pay $110 for the essential commodity, Egyptian news website Araby 24 has claimed.

It has left residents forced to pay the very people keeping them jailed in the opposition-held district, with the Lebanese militants making handsome rewards from their intervention in Syria's war on behalf of the regime.

Residents of the neighbourhood have been besieged since June 2015.

Madaya witnessed horrifying scenes of starvation in December and January, after a regime siege left children dying of hunger-related diseases and malnutrition.

A temporary truce governing the rebel-controlled towns of Madaya and Zabadani in the suburbs of Damascus - and the regime-held towns of Fua and Kefraya surrounded by opposition territory - came into place earlier this month. 

Pro-regime media have falsely claimed that the aid heading to Madaya was a "gift" from the regime, when in fact it was delivered and donated by international relief groups.

On 25 September, Syrian state media said that 52 aid trucks had arrived in Madaya and Zabadani with simultaneous aid deliveries - under the supervision of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent - to Kefraya and Fua, which has been under siege by rebels in Idlib.

What was missing from these supplies to Madaya was salt, essential for water retention, muscle contraction, and containing vital nutrients for the body.

This enabled the Lebanese Hizballah fighters - who play a key role in the regime's armed forces - to step in to and sell the important commodity at "exorbitant" prices, a member of the local council said.

Rebel forces, the source claimed, were attempting to ensure the delivery of salt to Madaya as part of negotiations with the Syrian regime.

In July, the New York-based humanitarian organisation Physicians for Human Rights reported that despite aid convoys reaching civilians in Madaya many were still dying from malnutrition, starvation and other preventable diseases in the area, which is home to an estimated 40,000 people.

"Last year, unspeakable images of Madaya's suffering emerged in the media, and we hoped that would trigger action to finally bring lifesaving aid into the town," said PHR's Elise Baker at the time.

Baker noted that UN convoys that had reached Madaya had did not have enough food, medicine, and medical equipment to sustain the population.

"[The result] was that dozens of Madaya's residents died because of these failures. And each day under siege brings the rest of Madaya’s population one day closer to death."

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