UN to request Syrian government's approval for aid airdrops

The United Nations will ask the Syrian government on Sunday for approval to carry out airdrops of aid to besieged areas with no or partial humanitarian access, members of the UN Security Council said Friday.

The decision was made during a closed-door meeting where UN officials told the Security Council that the Syrian government had not fulfilled the demand for full and unhindered humanitarian access to all besieged areas.

Francois Delattre, French ambassador to the UN and current president of the Security Council, said after the meeting that "many members of the council" were in favour of starting preparations for humanitarian airdrops, which are seen as a last resort for delivering aid.

"For the month of June, Syrian authorities did not accept all the access requests made by the UN, so on Sunday, the UN ... will ask Damascus to authorize humanitarian airdrops to reach localities for which land access was denied by the Syrian regime," Delattre said.

The Syrian government has approved full aid access to 12 besieged cities and partial access to three locations under siege, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said, noting that access had been denied to two besieged towns, al-Waer and Zabadani.

Matthew Rycroft, British ambassador to the UN, said humanitarian access in Syria was "not an opening bid in a negotiation" but a moral, political and legal requirement.

He said the Syrian government's decision to approve aid to certain areas was "too little, too late."

Rycroft added that if the Syrian government denies both land and air access, Britain and other members of the International Syria Support Group will consider "further action" to deliver aid, however, he did not elaborate on the details.

Vitaly Churkin, Russian ambassador to the UN, said the discussion over the airdrops was an attempt by certain council members to divert attention but noted that Russia, which had previously conducted airdrops to the Islamic State-controlled Deir ez-Zor, was open to the idea of carrying out similar operations.

"As a matter of practicality, why not explore the possibility of airdrops?" Churkin said.

At least 28 civilians were killed on Friday in airstrikes targeting rebel-held areas in Syria's northern city of Aleppo, a monitoring group reported.

Late Friday rebels retaliated by shelling regime held areas in Aleppo city killing ten people, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The dead included eight people killed when a bus travelling on the opposition-controlled Castello road in Aleppo was hit, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The road is strategically important because it is the only access point to rebel-held areas in Aleppo.

The bombardment was believed to have been carried out by warplanes belonging to the Syrian regime or its ally, Russia, added the Britain-based watchdog, which relies on a network of activists inside Syria.

The Castello road is now "effectively cut" due to the repeated airstrikes, said Rami Abdel-Rahman, head of the Observatory.

Aleppo’s opposition-held areas have been the target of at least 18 airstrikes since early Friday, according to the Observatory.

In recent months, government forces and rebels have intensified retaliatory attacks in Aleppo, where at least 436 civilians have been since April 22, the Observatory said.

Meanwhile, at least 15 people were killed when regime planes raided the area of Bouleil in the countryside of Deir ez-Zor in eastern Syria, the observtory said.

Last update: Sat, 04/06/2016 - 01:38

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