As part of an ongoing siege against the rebel-held town of Moadhamiya, Syrian regime forces are reportedly cutting off access to food for the 12,000 people living there. The town, known for its olive orchards, is running low on supplies as Syria heads closer to winter. According to the U.N. report on the August 21 chemical attacks, Moadhamiya was also one of several towns targeted in the gas strikes.
The Wall Street Journal spoke to a fighter loyal to the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who said the following about the town, which is populated mostly by civilians: "We won't allow them to be nourished in order to kill us...Let them starve for a bit, surrender and then be put on trial." According to the unnamed fighter, the country's army has told his team to make sure no one enters or leaves the town. That's accomplished, in part, by shooting any fighting-age men he sees approaching the exit to the city.
Here's what's going on inside:
An opposition activist inside the rebel-held side of town who was reached by Skype said the situation is so dire now in the rebel-controlled area that people are subsisting on whatever they can forage locally, including olives, grapevine leaves, fresh mint and figs. The activist, who is also in his 20s and spoke on condition of anonymity, said residents finished all grains and provisions that people traditionally store in their homes in Syria for winter.
The U.N. estimates that about 500,000 people are trapped in towns by government blockades across Syria.
Meanwhile, The Washington Post reports that the CIA is expanding its program to train rebel fighters in the country. But even the acceleration won't really compete with the agency's competitors in the region:
The agency has trained fewer than 1,000 rebel fighters this year, current and former U.S. officials said. By contrast, U.S. intelligence analysts estimate that more than 20,000 have been trained to fight for government-backed militias by Assad’s ally Iran and the Hezbollah militant network it sponsors.
As the Post notes, the care with which the CIA selects "moderate" rebel groups to work with has also, in part, lost ground against another trainer on the rebel side: radical Islamist groups, that obviously have a lot more experience fighting as an insurgency.