Middle East

UN: Syrians trapped in besieged areas face horrific threat

FILE - This undated file image posted on a militant website on Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014, which has been verified and is consistent with other AP reporting, shows fighters from the al-Qaida linked Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), now called the Islamic State group, marching in Raqqa, Syria. As U.S.-backed forces bear down on the city, the militants have been preparing defenses of their de facto capital. Tarps have been put under streets to hide movements underneath, and sandbags and earthen beams have gone up. Iraqi and Syrian fighters _ including some who withdrew from Iraq’s Mosul _ are leading the defense while most European jihads have been sent elsewhere, perhaps for use later in attacks in their homelands. (militant photo via AP, File)

FILE - This undated file image posted on a militant website on Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014, which has been verified and is consistent with other AP reporting, shows fighters from the al-Qaida linked Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), now called the Islamic State group, marching in Raqqa, Syria. As U.S.-backed forces bear down on the city, the militants have been preparing defenses of their de facto capital. Tarps have been put under streets to hide movements underneath, and sandbags and earthen beams have gone up. Iraqi and Syrian fighters _ including some who withdrew from Iraq’s Mosul _ are leading the defense while most European jihads have been sent elsewhere, perhaps for use later in attacks in their homelands. (militant photo via AP, File)  (The Associated Press)

The U.N. humanitarian chief says hundreds of thousands of Syrians trapped in besieged areas are facing "severe and horrific threats" and the last months have been some of the worst for civilians.

Stephen O'Brien told the Security Council Thursday: "For Syria, that is saying something."

Despite his hope that 2017 would see "a step change" in the delivery of aid, O'Brien said access is no better than it was at this time last year.

While the pace has picked up with several aid convoys getting through over the past week, he lamented that for every convoy that reaches its destination several others were unable to deploy because of delays caused by the Syrian government.

O'Brien said some opposition groups also "continue to threaten or refuse to cooperate with humanitarian workers."