Food aid enters Syria's besieged Daraya for first time since 2012

The first food aid convoy since a siege by government forces began in 2012 has entered the rebel-held Damascus suburb of Daraya, officials said Friday, but airstrikes on the area quickly resumed, hampering distribution.

Also late Friday, a convoy of 39 aid trucks entered the area of Douma in the eastern Ghota region, at the outskirts of Damascus, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The convoy, which included food and medical aid, entered under the supervision of the Syrian Red Crescent.

"This is the first time Douma received aid since 2013," the head of the Observatory Rami Abdel Rahman said.

The watchdog said earlier nine trucks entered Daraya overnight, but the area was hit by a series of fresh airstrikes in the morning.

"Daraya was hit by 12 barrel bombs from regime strikes a few hours after the aid was delivered," said Abdel Rahman, referring to highly inaccurate and destructive makeshift bombs used by the government.

Activists in the area said the airstrikes meant the food had to be stored, and not dispersed, because of security concerns and chaos caused by the attacks.

The Syrian Red Crescent said that, in cooperation with the UN, it had delivered "a convoy loaded with medical and food items and flour."

The UN's World Food Programme confirmed that enough rations were delivered "to feed 2,400 people for one month - and enough wheat flour in bags to feed the entire population of 4,000 people for a month."

On June 1, a humanitarian aid convoy was allowed into Daraya, after significant delays, but activists in the area said it only contained medical supplies and school kits. The UN said milk products for infants was also delivered.

In the far north-east of Syria, the government-held area of Deir al-Zour, which is under siege from Islamic State forces, received a series of airdrops containing food for the 100,000 people trapped.

The food aid was allowed in just hours after UN Syria envoy, Staffan de Mistura, announced that the Syrian government had agreed to allow aid convoys into several besieged areas.

According to the UN, an estimated 492,000 people live in 19 areas under forms of siege: 16 of those areas are held by rebels, while three are controlled by the government.

Last month the main international power brokers demanded more access for humanitarian goods in Syria, saying they would push for airlifts into besieged area if there was no progress on aid shipments on the ground.

However, progress on the airlifts has been slow, leaving many people without aid. The UN prefers land convoys as they are easier and more cost effective.

Meanwhile, US-backed Syrian forces have totally surrounded Minbij, a key city in the last Islamic State-controlled pocket along the Turkish border, Abdel Rahman said.

The Democratic Forces of Syria (DSF), a group dominated by the Kurds but containing large Arab contingents, is now set to start a major offensive to enter the city which has almost 2,000 Islamic State fighters inside it, according to activists.

The DSF was founded on the basis of the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) but also includes Arab and Turkmen groups. It launched the Minbij offensive last week.

Turkey, which is wary of the Kurdish forces, has given hesitant backing to the operation against Islamic State but insists the YPG cannot remain in the area once the extremist group is ousted.

Last update: Fri, 10/06/2016 - 23:20

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