BEIRUT (AP) -- Humanitarian relief convoys have departed to deliver aid to three besieged Syrian towns for the second time this week, Syria's state news agency, SANA, said on Thursday.
A convoy of 44 trucks from the U.N. World Food Program, International Committee for the Red Cross and the Syrian Red Crescent has left the Syrian capital, Damascus, for the rebel-held town of Madaya, a former mountain resort near the Lebanon border, which has been under siege for months by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad. The trucks carried wheat, flour, cleaning materials and some medical supplies.
A similar aid convoy of 17 trucks headed to the villages of Foua and Kfarya, in the northern province of Idlib, which have been besieged by rebels.
The Madaya convoy also included a nutritionist and health teams to assess the humanitarian situation, said Tarek Wheibi, spokesperson for the ICRC in Beirut.
Reports of starvation have drawn international attention to Madaya, where an estimated 20,000 to 40,000 people are thought to be trapped without food, electricity, and other basic supplies.
Officials who travelled to the town with the first aid convoy on Monday reported "heartbreaking" and nightmarish scenes they said were the worst they had seen in Syria.
The U.N. said Monday about 400 people required immediate medical evacuation for starvation and other conditions. As of Thursday, there were no reports of any evacuations.
About 300 civilians, mostly women and children, left Madaya on foot on Monday and were transferred to government-run temporary shelters.
A similar humanitarian crisis was reported in Foua and Kfraya. The U.N. says around 15 municipalities are under siege in Syria, in contravention of international law.
The U.N. says 4.5 million Syrians are living in besieged or hard-to-reach areas and desperately need humanitarian aid, with civilians prevented from leaving and aid workers blocked from bringing in food, medicine, fuel and other supplies.
The International Committee of the Red Cross has called on all parties to end the sieges on Madaya, Foua, and Kfarya.