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UN aid convoys enter Syria's rebel-held Eastern Ghouta
From:Xinhua  |  2018-03-05 20:24

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DAMASCUS, March 5 (Xinhua) -- As many as 46 truckloads of relief aid entered the rebel-held Douma district in the Eastern Ghouta countryside east of the Syrian capital Damascus on Monday.

It was the first aid shipment to reach that hotspot area since the UN Security Council adopted a resolution to achieve a 30-day-long humanitarian ceasefire in Syria on Feb. 24.

It's also the first shipment to enter that area since a Russian-backed humanitarian pause went into force seven days ago.

The truckloads of aid presented by the UN, the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) entered the Douma district through a humanitarian corridor in the Wafidin area northeast of Damascus.

The long-awaited shipment entered a day after the UN announced it was sending the shipment to help meet some of the needs of the civilians in that rebel-held area.

During the process, Ali al-Zatari, the UN resident and humanitarian coordinator in Syria, said he was spearheading the convoy into Douma to supervise the delivery process.

"The humanitarian convoy constitutes of medial and food items presented by the UN and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent as well as the International Committee of the Red Cross. It constitutes of 46 truckloads of aid that will be distributed in Douma district," he said.

The UN official, however, said that the authorities in Syria have demanded to decrease this shipment, which was supposed to meet the demands of 70,000 people.

"This convoy is not enough as the parcels have been decreased from meeting the demands of 70,000 people to 27,500 people this is why we hope to bring in aid convoys again on Thursday to support the needs of civilians in Douma and other areas in Eastern Ghouta," he said.

Earlier in the day, the Russian Reconciliation Center in Syria said the rebels in Eastern Ghouta pledged to allow civilians to leave that area in exchange for the entry of aid, but no civilians have left yet, particularly that the Russian-backed partial daily humanitarian pause entered its second week with only two children and a Pakistani couple leaving Eastern Ghouta.

The Syrian government and its Russian allies blamed the rebels of hindering the efforts to allow civilians out or let in humanitarian aid.

Eastern Ghouta has grabbed international attention recently since the military showdown has started to gain momentum on Feb. 18 between the rebels and the Syrian government forces, which showed determination to dislodge the rebels from that sprawling area east of Damascus.

The UN Security Council adopted Resolution 2401 on Feb. 24, which requires all parties in Syria to immediately cease clashes and provides a sustained humanitarian break for at least 30 days across Syria.

Two days later, the Russians demanded a daily humanitarian pause for five hours in Eastern Ghouta specifically.

But those initiatives have slightly reduced the number of rebels' mortar shells on the capital and the Syrian airstrikes and bombardment of Eastern Ghouta.

The area has been the major threat to Damascus since the rebels took hold in that area in 2012, with armed militants launching attacks on the capital with mortar shells and in some instance through implementing incursion attempts.

Four major rebel groups are currently positioned inside Eastern Ghouta, namely the Islam Army, Failaq al-Rahman, Ahrar al-Sham and the Levant Liberation Committee, or the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said on Sunday that the military offensive in Eastern Ghouta will continue in tandem with allowing humanitarian aid to enter the area and offer the civilians a chance to leave toward government areas in Damascus.

The War Media, the media wing of the Syrian army, said on Sunday that the Syrian forces have captured nearly 40 percent of Eastern Ghouta over the past few days after battles with the al-Qaida-linked groups, which are excluded from any pacification.

The UN humanitarian agencies have sounded the alarm about the worsening humanitarian situation in that region, where activists said over 600 people have been killed since late last month by the heavy bombardment on their areas.