Death Toll in Syria Storm Hits 11

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A boy warms himself by a fire at a makeshift outdoor mechanic center on January 9, 2015 at a camp housing Syrian refugees in the eastern Lebanese town of Ersal. AFP/Maya Hautefeuille

Published Monday, January 12, 2015

Five more people have died of freezing temperatures in Syria, bringing the country's death toll to 11 in a week-long storm battering the region, a monitoring group claimed Monday.

Seven children, including twin baby girls, were among the dead, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

"The snowstorm that hit large swathes of Syria on Sunday caused the death of seven people," the Britain-based Observatory said, updating an earlier toll.

Among the latest deaths was a two-day-old girl in the Firdous district of the northern city of Aleppo whose twin sister was reported dead on Sunday.

"Both twins have now died because of the cold," Observatory Director Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP.

The other new deaths included three boys in Beit Sahem, south of Damascus, in the eastern town of Albu Kamal, controlled by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) jihadist group, and in southern Syria's Daraa province.

The fifth additional death was in the Deir Ezzor province, which neighbors Iraq, where a man died because of a lack of heating, the group said.

All the victims lived in rebel-held areas, where shortages of food, heating and medical equipment are especially severe.

In neighboring Lebanon, at least three Syrian refugees died last Wednesday due to plunging temperatures.

Early on Wednesday, 5-year-old Majd Kheir al-Badawi, 33-year-old Ammar Ahmed Kammal, and Mohammed Ibrahim Abou Daher, were found stuck in the snow and frozen in Ain al-Joz in the mountains by Shebaa.

A Lebanese security source said the victims were crossing the mountainous border between Syria and Lebanon in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

Shebaa, resting on the border between Syria and Lebanon has some 7,000 refugees, many of whom are said to be leaving the area due to the cold.

Sources also told Al-Akhbar that a one-week-old was found dead in a Ersal refugee camp. The report has yet to be confirmed by officials.

The UN's refugee agency UNHCR distributed cash and fuel coupons to more than 80,000 refugee families ahead of the storm, which forced the closure of all Lebanese ports and briefly shut Beirut's international airport.

Meanwhile, two Palestinian babies died due to cold weather in the Gaza Strip, an official said on Saturday.

A two-month-old girl from the southern Gaza town of Khan Yunis died on Friday of "a pulmonary obstruction caused by the cold," health ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra said. A one-month-old boy, also from Khan Yunis, died on Saturday.

Gaza's civil defense service said that dozens of homes in the coastal territory, already ravaged by the Israeli summer assault on the Palestinian enclave, were flooded in the brutal storms that brought freezing rain and gale-force winds.

Gazans are now living by candlelight and wood fire because of electricity shortages, and rely on sandbags to stop their ruined homes from flooding. Some Gazans have sought shelter in the Sheikh Shaaban cemetery outside Gaza City, living in makeshift hut and tents.

More than 96,000 Gaza homes were destroyed or damaged during last year's 51-day conflict and UN welfare officials say that 17,000 displaced people are still living in schools.

The majority of Gaza’s 110,000 homeless people are children.

(AFP, Al-Akhbar)

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