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UN resumes airdrops to besieged Syrian city

UN resumes airdrops to besieged Syrian city

BEIRUT — The World Food Program has resumed food airdrops to besieged Deir al-Zour in eastern Syria after the Islamic State group renewed its assault on the city two weeks ago, the agency said Tuesday.

The militants cut off the remote city from its airport in a major offensive on Jan. 15, a U.N. humanitarian adviser said at the time. The airport is Deir al-Zour's only link to the outside world.

IS also captured the U.N.'s primary drop zone, forcing the WFP to suspend relief deliveries for two weeks. The agency located a new drop zone and began delivering aid again on January 29.

The extremist group laid siege to Deir al-Zour in 2015.

The U.N.'s Jan Egeland estimated 93,000 civilians were trapped inside. Thousands of soldiers and loyal militiamen are also caught up in the siege.

The activist group Justice for Life Deir el-Zour, which maintains a network of contacts in the city, has accused the government and loyal militias of hoarding supplies as they are flown in.

Deir al-Zour natives told the AP last year they had to bribe government officials to escape via the airport. They said commanders were gouging food prices and profiting off the war economy.

In the southern Daraa province, fighting continued for the second day between the rebels and an Islamic State-affiliated group, the Khalid bin Walid Army, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group.

The Observatory said at least 20 fighters from either side have been killed.

Rebels, al-Qaida linked insurgents, IS militants, and government forces and loyal militias are all skirmishing for control of Syria's southern provinces.

Philip Issa, The Associated Press

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