Aid convoys reach besieged Syrian towns

Aid trucks start entering besieged areas as the UN urges warring parties to use aid delivery as a “first step” to truce.

Humanitarian aid has started reaching besieged areas of Syria after trucks filled with supplies left Damascus, as the United Nations has urged warring parties to use aid delivery as a “first step” to a ceasefire. 

The UN spokesman says Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon wants a cessation of hostilities in Syria as soon as possible, and the sending of aid convoys is “an incredibly important first step”. 

Aid trucks started entering three more besieged Syrian areas on Wednesday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights told Reuters, as part of U.N.-backed deal to deliver humanitarian assistance to five besieged areas.

At least 100 trucks rolled out of the capital on Wednesday afternoon in the latest delivery of supplies to trapped residents, said Al Jazeera’s Zeina Khodr, reporting from Gaziantep, near Turkey’s border with Syria.

“Undoubtedly this is progress for the thousands trapped in these besieged areas,” Khodr said.

About 35 vehicles later arrived at the entrance to Moadimayet al-Sham, a rebel-held town near Damascus encircled by President Bashar al-Assad’s forces, an AFP journalist at the scene said.

Another 18 trucks departed for al-Foua and Kafraya, two towns in northwestern Idlib province besieged by rebels, the Red Crescent said.

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About 50 more were to travel to Madaya and Zabadani, two other regime-besieged towns near Damascus.

The Syrian government approved access to seven besieged areas, the UN said after crisis talks in Damascus on Tuesday, a week before a planned resumption of peace talks between Syria’s warring parties.

Supplies included wheat and high-energy foods. A medical team would enter Kafraya and al-Foua, the spokesman said.

The Syrian Red Crescent was co-ordinating with the UN on the aid deliveries.

The UN has demanded unhindered access to all besieged areas of the country, where it says hundreds of thousands of people are trapped by fighting and deliberate blockades by Syria’s various warring sides.

Movement on the humanitarian side of the conflict came as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed that Turkey would not allow the creation of a Kurdish stronghold in northern Syria. 

Speaking on Wednesday, Erdogan said there was no question of Turkish forces stopping their bombardment of Syrian Kurdish fighters.

“We will not allow a new Qandil on our southern border” with Syria, Erdogan said in a televised speech in Ankara, referring to the mountain in northern Iraq which for years has been a stronghold of the  Kurdistan Workers Party  armed group. 

READ MORE: Syria’s Kurds ‘won’t retreat’ despite Turkish shelling

Alluding to calls to stop shelling Kurdish positions, Erdogan said after Turkey hit their positions for four days in a row: “Forgive me, but there is no question of us doing such a thing.”

The rapid advance of US-backed Kurdish fighters in northern Syria, taking advantage of Russian air strikes to seize territory near the Turkish border, has infuriated Ankara and threatened to drive a wedge between NATO allies.


Washington has long seen the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party and its YPG military wing as its best chance in the battle against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in Syria – to the chagrin of fellow NATO member Turkey, which sees the group as “terrorists” and fears it will stir up greater unrest among its own Kurdish minority.

The fighting in Syria started as an unarmed uprising against President Assad in March 2011, but has since expanded into a full-on conflict that has killed more than 260,000 people, according to UN estimates.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies