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38-truck aid convoy enters two militant-held Syria towns

29 June 2016 18:38

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Dozens of trucks carrying humanitarian aid have entered two militant-held towns in Syria as part of a UN-sponsored deal to facilitate the delivery of desperately-needed food and medicine to the trapped areas.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said in a statement on Wednesday that the 38-truck convoy carried relief aid for some 20,000 people living in the towns of Zamalka and Arbin, located near the capital, Damascus.

The ICRC said the aid included food parcels, wheat flour and medicine.

The UN’s top humanitarian coordinator in Syria, Yaacoub El Hillo, said the delivery to Zamalka and Arbin would last about a month.

“It will mean that since the beginning of this year the UN, the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Syrian Red Crescent have been able to reach all the besieged areas of Syria,” the UN coordinator said.

In early June, Staffan de Mistura, the UN special envoy for Syria, said the Syrian government has given approval for humanitarian convoys to reach all the besieged areas in the country by the end of the month.

“We were informed by our team in Damascus that basically there has been permission, an approval… by the government of Syria for all 19 besieged areas,” the UN official told reporters in Geneva on June 9.

The delivery is part of a UN-backed deal sealed earlier between the Damascus government and the militants. The Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) is cooperating with the United Nations on the aid deliveries.

Damascus has pledged full cooperation with the UN and the Red Cross to deliver humanitarian aid to all civilians “without any discrimination,” including those in hard-to-reach areas.

The Syrian government has voiced concern that militants in the troubled areas could withhold food from the needy citizens.

UN figures show that more than one million besieged Syrians are in need of help.


Men carry aid parcels provided by the UN World Food Program (WFP) and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent in Houla, on the northern outskirts of Homs in central Syria, May 25, 2016. (AFP)

 

The UN no longer keeps track of the casualty count due to the inaccessibility of many areas in Syria and the complications of going through the statistics put forward by the Syrian government and other sources.

De Mistura, however, estimates that over 400,000 people have been killed in the conflict that has gripped Syria since March 2011.

According to a February report by the Syrian Center for Policy Research, the conflict has claimed the lives of over 470,000 people in total.

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