Residents of the Syrian city Deir al-Zour survived a three-year siege by the Islamic State

TWELVE-YEAR-OLD MUSTAFA GRINNED as he bit into an apple, munching away excitedly. Only a month ago, he sunk his teeth into a piece of fresh fruit for the first time in three years. Mustafa, along with his family, survived a siege.

Mustafa’s mother, Sara, her face gaunt like that of her teenage daughter, described how they made it. “We would have to buy tomato paste by the gram,” said Sara, whose family name The Intercept is withholding for security reasons. “Our daily food consisted of rice or lentils. Get meat, fruit, or vegetables out of your head, they didn’t exist. Forget the fridge, there was never any power to keep it running. Forget everything.” Pointing to Mustafa, she asked, “Look at him. Does he look like a normal 12-year-old? Look at the girls. Do they look healthy?”