Middle East

Syria crisis: Aid arrives in besieged towns

A boy plays near aid convoys in a rebel-held Syrian town Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Aid convoys have reached rebel-held Muadhamiya

Convoys carrying urgently-needed aid have reached four besieged areas of Syria, the UN and aid agencies said.

Trucks reached rebel-held Muadhamiya and Madaya, near Damascus, and pro-government northern villages of Foah and Kefraya on Wednesday. Another town, Zabadani, is also due to receive aid.

Almost 500,000 people live in besieged areas in Syria, according to the UN.

The deliveries are part of an agreement that world powers hope will lead to a "cessation of hostilities" by Friday.

However, offensives by Syrian government forces and Kurdish militia fighters on rebel-held areas of the northern province of Aleppo have dimmed hopes of a truce.

Some 100 trucks left Damascus earlier on Wednesday, carrying food, non-food items, medical equipment and medicine.

They are intended to provide one month's worth of aid for more than 90,000 people, 30,000 in Muadhamiya alone, the UN said.

A spokesman for the Syrian Arab Red Crescent told the BBC many Syrians were desperate for basic supplies.

"People in Kefraya and Foah, they need diesel to switch on the water pumps - without the diesel, they cannot dig for water, they need water, drinking water," Mouhannad al Assadi told the BBC.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Barricades have been blocking the entrance to Muadhamiya, which is under government siege
Image copyright AP
Image caption Earlier on Wednesday about 100 trucks left Damascus

Two more places - Kafr Batna and Deir al-Zour - are expected to receive aid later in the week.

Humanitarian supplies reached some of the areas last month amid reports of people starving.

On Tuesday, UN special envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura said it was the "duty" of the Syrian government to allow aid to reach whoever needed it.

But a senior aide to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said Mr de Mistura should focus on peace talks rather than on aid deliveries.

"His mission now is to establish a list of terrorist groups, and a list of opposition groups who should dialogue with the Syrian government," Buthaina Shaaban told the AFP news agency.

Where the aid is going

The UN named seven areas where it would deliver aid:

  • Deir el-Zour, a city in the east under siege from so-called Islamic State
  • Foah and Kefraya, in northern Idlib province, besieged by rebels
  • Madaya, Muadhamiya, Kafr Batna and Zabadani, all in the Damascus area under siege from government forces

Syria: The story of the conflict

Medecins Sans Frontieres has said at least 25 people are now confirmed to have died when one of its hospitals in Syria was bombed on Monday - 14 more than it previously reported.

The facility was among several hospitals in schools hit in strikes on Monday, killing up to 50 people, according to the UN.

Russia, which is carrying out air strikes in support of the Syrian army, has rejected accusations it was responsible.

The nationwide "cessation of hostilities" is due to come into force on Friday.

The agreement, approved by the 17-member International Syria Support Group (ISSG), does not apply to the fight against Islamic State or al-Nusra Front, an al-Qaeda affiliate.

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Media captionRussian and the United States signed a "cessation of hostilities" agreement in Munich

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