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In Syria, 15 Die Of Hunger-Related Illnesses

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This citizen journalist image shows Syrians walking past destroyed vehicles after fighting between rebels and Syrian troops in the Yarmouk camp for Palestinian refugees in south Damascus, Syria, Saturday, July 21, 2012. This week, fierce fighting between troops and rebels reached the Syrian capital, the central bastion of Bashar Assad's rule, shattering parts of the city and sending thousands of people fleeing to neighboring Lebanon and Iraq. Activists and residents reported a tense calm in Dama | ASSOCIATED PRESS

BEIRUT (AP) — A U.N. official in Syria says 15 people have died of hunger-related illnesses in a besieged area of Damascus that is home to Palestinian refugees.

Chris Gunness of the U.N.'s Relief Works Agency said Monday that at least five people died over the weekend in Yarmouk. He says 10 had died earlier in the rebel-held area, which is surrounded by Syrian President Bashar Assad's forces.

Clashes in the Palestinian-populated Yarmouk, which has mostly been under rebel control since last year, had broken out last week.

Gunness says malnutrition was first reported among Yarmouk's estimated 2,000 civilians, after the U.N. was unable to deliver food there since September.

Assad's forces have surrounded rebel-held areas across Syria, denying civilians food and fuel to pressure them to evict the fighters among them.

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