Food aid convoy arrives in Syrian town of Daraya

June 9, 2016  

A food aid convoy entered the Syrian town of Daraya on Thursday, the first delivery since the start of a siege there by the Damascus regime in 2012, a Red Crescent official told AFP.

“Nine lorries are currently being unloaded in Daraya. They are carrying food aid, including dry goods and flour, non-food aid as well as medical aid,” said Tamam Mehrez, operations director of the Syrian Red Crescent.

The aid delivered would be sufficient for one month, Mehrez added, without specifying how many people would benefit.

Earlier Thursday, the UN said Syria had given approval for humanitarian convoys to reach all of the country’s 19 besieged areas, including rebel-held Daraya, by the end of the month.

Daraya’s local council posted a video online showing what it described as UN vehicles entering the town at nightfall.

An estimated 8,000 people live in Daraya, one of the first towns in Syria to erupt in anti-government demonstrations in 2012 and one of the first under a strict regime siege the same year.

A UN aid convoy reached the town of Daraya on June 1 but it delivered only medical supplies and no food.

One rebel, Shadi Matar, confirmed that the first food convoy had arrived late Thursday.

“There aren’t many residents waiting for the convoy because they don’t believe in promises anymore,” he wrote in a message to AFP.

“And because of the bombings on the town, people are afraid to go out and gather in groups,” he said.

He added that the food delivered so far would be “insufficient for all the residents under siege” but that he had been told more was on its way.

The delivery came several hours after the UN envoy to Syria, Staffan de Mistura, told reporters in Geneva that the regime had given the green light for the humanitarian convoys.

However, he warned that Syria had given such approvals in the past before ultimately blocking convoys from distributing life-saving supplies.

He made the comments after the weekly meeting of the Syria humanitarian taskforce, co-chaired by the United States and Russia, which has for months been trying to boost aid supplies to millions of Syrians in need.

That taskforce has faced pressure, including from France and Britain, to start air-dropping aid into besieged areas, with Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad’s military continuing to block road convoys.

De Mistura said the pressure placed on Damascus by the prospect of air drops had led to the road convoy approvals and voiced hope that a surge of aid deliveries in the coming weeks would make dangerous and costly air drops unnecessary.

The last round of UN-brokered Syria talks ended in April without a breakthrough and with the government and opposition still deadlocked on the crucial question of Assad’s fate.

The five-year war has killed more than 280,000 people.

AFP contributed to this report.

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