The United Nations’ humanitarian chief said that the Assad regime continues to block aid to 21 out of 35 areas under siege across Syria. The UN had asked to send aid convoys to 35 besieged and hard-to-reach areas in Syria in May but the Assad regime only granted full access to 14 of them and partial access to another eight.
“The continued use of siege and starvation as a weapon of war is reprehensible,” UN Under Secretary General Stephen O’Brien told the UN Security Council on Friday. He demanded that the Assad regime stop interfering with the delivery of food and medicine for civilians trapped in besieged and difficult-to-reach areas in Syria.
Vice-president of the Syrian Coalition Muwaffaq Nyrabiya earlier said that the blocking of aid convoys by regime forces from entering besieged areas is a deliberate war crime.
O’Brien pointed out that “based on the latest information, we now estimate that some 592,700 people are currently living in besieged areas,” adding that most of those were surrounded by government forces.
He added that the Assad regime also continued to siphon off crucial medical supplies from aid convoys.
“The removal of life-saving medicines and medical supplies such as surgical kits, midwifery kits, and emergency kits has continued unabated, with supplies for an estimated 150,000 treatments removed from convoys since the beginning of the year,” he said.
Since February 2014, medical supplies for over 650,000 treatments have been taken from aid convoys by the Assad regime, O’Brien said.
US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power said the complaints from the Assad regime’s UN Ambassador Bashar Ja’afari about O’Brien’s statements were “ironic” given that it is “a government that pulls infant formula off of convoys, as well as anesthetics and surgical equipment.”
Regime forces in mid-May refused entry to an aid convoy headed to Daraya west of Damascus, the Red Cross said, dashing hopes for the first such delivery since regime forces began a siege of the rebel-held town in 2012.
“We urge the responsible authorities to grant us access to Daraya, so we can return with desperately-needed food & medicines,” the International Committee of the Red Cross said after the convoy was refused entry.
The UN envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura stressed the need to make progress on the ground, especially in terms of the cessation of hostilities and humanitarian access after briefing the UN Security Council on Thursday.
De Mistura said that he informed the Council about his intention to start the next round of Geneva talks as soon as possible, but certainly not within the next two or three weeks. (Source: Syrian Coalition + Agencies)