Russia airdrops relief aid to besieged Syrian city, activists say

A Russian plane dropped humanitarian supplies in a Syrian city besieged by the Islamic State extremist militia, a monitoring group reported Friday.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the aircraft, accompanied by warplanes, dropped the supplies for residents in beleaguered districts in the city of Deir al-Zour in eastern Syria.

The government-controlled areas have been under Islamic state siege for more than a year.

Local activists said the plane had dropped 22 tons of supplies in the area. They did not say when the operation was exactly carried out.

On Wednesday, the Observatory reported that Islamic State militants had denied the city’s 250,000 population access to food and medical supplies.

Prices of food items have rocketed in the three government-held districts in Deir al-Zour since the jihadists sealed off the areas in early 2015, the Britain-based watchdog said.

On Thursday, the second convoys of relief supplies in a week entered three other besieged towns in Syria, including Madaya near the capital Damascus.

Reports of starvation in Madaya, a rebel-held mountain town near the Lebanese border, had caused a global outcry.

The medical aid group Doctors Without Borders says almost 30 people have died there for lack of food since early December.

The United Nations says nearly 400,000 of the 4.5 million people living in what it terms "hard-to-reach" areas of Syria are living under siege.

The UN Security Council is due to hold an emergency meeting later Friday to discuss humanitarian access in Syria.

Russia began in September an air campaign against Islamic State and other insurgents in Syria to support President Bashar al-Assad, a longtime Russian ally.

A Russian official said Friday that Islamic State had lost control of 217 settlements since Moscow started military intervention in Syria

"More than 1,000 square kilometres of territory" have been regained from the Islamic State in the past 100 days, Russian General Sergei Rudskoi told journalists, according to state news agency TASS.

"The populace is returning to Syrian towns, and peaceful life is being restored."

Russian warplanes have performed more than 5,600 combat flights in Syria, and Russia is providing humanitarian aid to civilians there, he said.

On Thursday, the Russian Defence Ministry said that Russian and Syrian forces had flown their first joint combat mission against Islamic State.

Syrian-flown MiG-29 fighter jets provided cover for Russian Su-25 assault aircraft that bombed infrastructure facilities used by the terrorist group in Syria, the Defence Ministry said on its Facebook page.

A group of Syrian pilots recently visited Russia's principal airbase in Syria - Humaymim, near the border with Turkey - to drill interaction procedures and radio communication rules, the ministry said.

Last update: Fri, 15/01/2016 - 15:31

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