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  Aid convoys to enter towns in ‘test’ for Syria truce

Aid convoys to enter towns in ‘test’ for Syria truce

AFP | RIM HADDAD
Published : Feb 18, 2016, 4:24 am IST
Updated : Feb 18, 2016, 4:24 am IST

Convoys were to deliver aid to thousands of besieged Syrians Wednesday in what the United Nations has described as a test for the country’s warring sides ahead of a hoped-for ceasefire.

Convoys were to deliver aid to thousands of besieged Syrians Wednesday in what the United Nations has described as a test for the country’s warring sides ahead of a hoped-for ceasefire.

The UN announced the planned deliveries late on Tuesday, as its envoy Staffan de Mistura held talks in Damascus aimed at restoring hope for a “cessation of hostilities” world powers want in place by Friday.

 

Prospects for the ceasefire — announced by top diplomats in Munich last week — have been fading as violence continues to shake Syria, including strikes on hospitals on Monday and repeated Turkish shelling of Kurdish militia.

The Syrian Red Crescent said about 100 trucks carrying flour, other food supplies and medicines were to leave for five besieged areas on Wednesday.

About 20 trucks had departed for Fuaa and Kafraya, two Shia towns in north-western Idlib province besieged by rebels, the Red Crescent said.

About 40 trucks were due to depart later for Moadimayet al-Sham, a rebel-held town near Damascus encircled by President Bashar al-Assad’s forces, Muhannad al-Asadi of the Red Crescent said.

 

Another 35 vehicles were to travel to Madaya and Zabadani, two other regime-besieged towns near Damascus, he said.

An AFP journalist in Damascus saw nearly 20 trucks ready to depart for Madaya and Zabadani from outside UN offices in the Syrian capital, with about two dozen Red Crescent volunteers on hand.

Almost half a million people in Syria are in areas under siege, according to the UN.

Aid workers say several dozen people have died of starvation just in Madaya, which became a symbol of the plight of besieged Syrians after shocking images of starving residents spread in January.

“It is the duty of the government of Syria to want to reach every Syrian person wherever they are and allow the UN to bring humanitarian aid,” Mr De Mistura said on Tuesday in Damascus.

 

“Tomorrow we test this,” he said.

A Syrian foreign ministry source rejected talk of a test.

“We don’t need anyone to remind us of our duties to our people,” the source told the official SANA news agency.

Diplomats have been pressing the ceasefire deal as a step forward in efforts to end the nearly five-year conflict that has left more than 260,000 dead.

Location: Syria, Damascus