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Syrians trapped in suburb plead for food

Assad’s troops blocking supplies

BEIRUT — Residents of a besieged rebel-held suburb of Damascus issued an urgent plea on Monday for the international community to save them from starvation and constant bombardment after efforts to evacuate civilians from the area collapsed this week.

The situation in Moadamiyeh has been deteriorating for months as troops loyal to President Bashar Assad have blocked food and supplies, say activists.

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Aid agencies say Syrians across the country face difficulties getting food, but hunger in the rebel-held suburbs of Damascus, largely surrounded by government territory, is acute.

The United States and Russia have been trying to convene an international conference to negotiate a political solution to the war. The United Nations chief has set mid-November as a target date for the proposed gathering.

Assad said Monday that it’s not clear who would represent the opposition or what credibility they would have. Syria’s fractured opposition has yet to decide whether to attend the proposed Geneva conference.

In an open letter, Moadamiyeh residents pleaded for help.

‘‘Save us from death. Save us from the hell of Assad’s killing machine,’’ the letter said.

The Syrian National Coalition, the umbrella group for the opposition, called for a humanitarian corridor to allow food into the area. On Saturday, the United Nation’s humanitarian chief, Valerie Amos, called for an ‘‘immediate pause’’ in clashes to allow civilians to leave.

Activists say that for months, Syrian troops have not allowed food or medical supplies into the area. It is not certain how many civilians remain; activists estimate 12,000.

Activists from the Moadamiyeh Media Center reported that two women and four children died of starvation in September.

The Syrian Red Cross and Red Crescent helped evacuate 3,000 civilians this month during a rare cease-fire coordinated by a controversial pro-government Catholic nun, Mother Agnes Mariam al-Salib, said two activists. Efforts to evacuate more civilians this week failed after clashes forced hundreds of women and children who had gathered at a checkpoint to scatter.

Syria’s conflict, which began with largely peaceful protests in 2011, escalated into a civil war that has now claimed the lives of more than 100,000.

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