Twelve trucks of humanitarian supplies, the second in a week, entered three besieged Syrian towns Thursday, a member of a relief committee in one of the areas told dpa.

"Six of the 44 trucks which are carrying mainly winter clothes," entered the rebel-held town of Madaya near the capital Damascus, Mazen Burhan told dpa by Skype.

Burhan stressed that the people of Madaya are waiting "anxiously" for the rest of the trucks to enter as they are carrying flour.

"People are standing in the streets waiting more than anything for the flour supply to make bread," Burhan said.

At the same time, six trucks out of 17 entered the government-controlled towns of Foua and Kefraya in north-western Syria, a UN source said.

Earlier Pawl Krzysiek,a spokesman for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), told dpa that the aid would be delivered simultaneously to the three towns in a joint operation conducted by the UN agencies, the ICRC and the Syrian Red Crescent.

A nutritionist is accompanying the Madaya-bound convoy in order to assess the situation inside the town, which has been under siege by Syrian government forces and fighters from the allied Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah.

On Monday, Madaya, which has a population of around 40,000, received its first relief supplies since October.

Reports of starvation in Madaya, a mountain town near the Lebanese border, had triggered a global outcry.

The medical aid group Doctors Without Borders (MSF) says almost 30 people have died in Madaya due to a shortage of food since early December.

The pro-regime Shiite villages of Foua and Kefraya have been besieged by hardline Islamist rebels since April.

The ICRC says some 20,000 people are thought to live there.

The aid deliveries were arranged under a UN-sponsored deal between government and rebel forces.

The United Nations said nearly 400,000 of the 4.5 million people living in what it terms "hard-to-reach" areas in Syria are living under siege. 

The intentional starvation of the Syrian people in besieged areas constitutes a war crime, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said Thursday in New York.

"The use of starvation as a weapon of war is a war crime," Ban said.

"All sides – including the Syrian government which has the primary responsibility to protect Syrians - are committing this and other atrocious acts prohibited under international humanitarian law."

Ban called on all international actors to press warring parties in the country to allow unimpeded humanitarian access.

France and Britain called for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council for Friday to discuss humanitarian access in Syria.

Meanwhile, US Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, have agreed to meet on January 20 in Zurich for talks to focus on the conflict Syria, among other topics, the Russian Foreign Ministry and US State Department said Thursday.

Latest news

Syrian opposition rules out future role for President al-Assad

The Syrian opposition said Friday it would not accept any role for President Bashar al-Assad in the future of the war-torn country, reacting to a recent US shift saying that removing al-Assad is no longer a priority for Washington.

Russian Army integrates breakaway forces of Georgian province

Parts of the small fighting forces of the Georgian breakaway province of South Ossetia have been placed under Russian military control, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Friday.

Czech Republic's Pilsner Urquell beer is now Japanese

Japanese brewing company Asahi completed its takeover of the Czech brewery Pilsner Urquell on Friday, Asahi said in a statement.

Judge approves 25-million-dollar settlement of Trump University case

A US district judge on Friday approved a 25-million-dollar settlement of lawsuits and state fraud allegations against Trump University, the US president's now-defunct business venture.

Former Thai premier Thaksin to junta on reconciliation: 'Cut me out'

Former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra on Friday announced that he is not interested in the junta-led reconciliation process, three days after the junta handed him a half-a-billion-dollar tax bill for his past business deal.

Dalic: We welcome possible deal between Agrokor and banks

The government welcomes the possibility of an agreement being concluded between the Agrokor food company and creditor banks, and the bill on vitally important companies is not a fallback plan but the result of the government's care for the overall economic and financial stability of Croatia, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy Martina Dalic told a press conference in Zagreb on Friday.

Croatia, China sign action plan for cooperation in agriculture

The Croatian and Chinese ministries of agriculture on Friday signed an action plan for cooperation in the field of agriculture for the period 2017-2018, the Croatian ministry said in a statement.

ZSE indices up, Agrokor shares in focus of investor interest

The Zagreb Stock Exchange (ZSE) indices on Friday rose by more than 1.8%, with stocks of the Agrokor food and retail concern being in the focus of investor interest again.

Berlin police defend handling of Berlin market attacker

Berlin police defended themselves on Friday against accusations that they stopped surveillance on Berlin Christmas market attacker despite knowing in June 2016 he was dangerous.

Croatia, creditors tailor emergency measures to save tottering giant

Croatia's tottering retail and food giant Agrokor reached an agreement with its creditors, putting its debts standby and allowing it to continue working during emergency restructuring, the Croatian branch of Austria's Erste Bank said Friday.

Agrokor's creditors say standstill agreement to go into force today

A standstill agreement regarding the Agrokor concern's existing financial obligations to banks will take effect on Friday, additional capital will be injected into the concern in the coming days and the concern will be actively restructured, which includes a change of its management, it was said on Friday after a meeting between Agrokor's suppliers and creditor banks.

Palestinians, UN slam Israel's new settlement plan

Palestinians, Israeli activists and the UN lambasted the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday, a day after it gave the go-ahead for the first new West Bank settlement in a quarter of a century.

South Sudan rebels release three abducted foreign oil workers

South Sudanese rebels have released three foreign engineers they abducted in early March in the oil-rich Upper Nile region, Foreign Affairs Ministry official Mawein Makol Arik said on Friday.

Turkish opposition: Imprisoned party chief has gone on hunger strike

The head of Turkey's pro-Kurdish opposition party has launched a hunger strike from prison.

European leagues threaten Champions League schedule clashes

The European Professional Football Leagues (EPFL) on Friday threatened schedule clashes on Champions League matchdays in an ongoing dispute with the governing body UEFA.

Danish court revokes citizenship of IS volunteer

A Danish appellate court on Friday stripped a man of his Danish citizenship for volunteering to fight for the extremist Islamic State in Syria.

Banks and Agrokor agree on key elements of standstill agreement

Member banks of the coordinating committee of financial creditors and representatives of the Agrokor food company have in principle agreed on key elements of a standstill agreement, which is expected to be signed later today, announcing changes in the company's management team, Erste Bank said in a statement on Friday afternoon.

Syrian man on trial in Sweden; mosque attack labelled terrorism

A Syrian man went on trial Friday in the southern Swedish city of Malmo, charged with terrorism and arson after an attack last year on a building used as an assembly hall by Shiite Muslims.