Plans to air drop supplies to besieged towns in Syria inched ahead on Thursday amid concern from Russia and others about the safety of aid workers and uncertainty whether Damascus will approve, a U.N. official said.
The five-year Syrian crisis, which Assad regime is the root cause of it, resulted in killing more than 400.000 Syrians and displacing more than 7 millions out of their homes, either remained inside Syria of fled the war. Other tens of thousands found themselves besieged in their own towns and cities, with no access to the basic needs, Darayya is one of them.
A proposed United Nations food convoy into the besieged rebel-held town of Darayya, the first to that suburb of the Syrian capital since 2012, has also been delayed, and will now not happen on Friday as previously planned.
The preparations were discussed at a humanitarian taskforce meeting of countries in the International Syria Support Group (ISSG) after a June 1 deadline passed for Syria’s government to allow aid access or see air drops imposed from outside.
“Air drops remain an option if land deliveries do not go through,” Ramzy E. Ramzy, U.N. Deputy Special Envoy for Syria, said after the meeting. “They are an option in the table and will be activated if … the members of ISSG are not satisfied.”
The United States and Britain have urged the U.N. to press ahead with air drops because Assad regime has not sufficiently opened up access to aid. Syrian opposition has warned that the government may open the door just enough to defuse the international pressure before restricting access again.
No food is allowed
A two-day ceasefire has been agreed in the Syrian town of Darayya near, Damascus, starting from Wednesday to allow the delivery of humanitarian aid to the residents.
Assad regime let only two convoys of aid into Darayya and Mouadamiya, another rebel-held suburb of Damascus, on Wednesday. But there was no food for the malnourished citizens of Darayya.
“In Darayya, we reckon there will be around 4,000 people only left at the moment but that is women, children, people in great need. The reason we were not able to go by land access is lack of government approval.”
Jan Egeland, chairman of the U.N. humanitarian task force, said there were “clear indications” that a food convoy would go to Darayya within days, although not on Friday as planned.
“The Russians in the task force themselves today said that it is the food component that the people are waiting most for in Darayya and that remains to be delivered,” he said.
Darayya has been under a crippling siege since four years, not allowing civilians to flee or humanitarian aids to enter. The town was targeted daily with airstrikes and explosive barrels.
Nobody is starving in Darayya
Bouthaina Shaaban, a top adviser to Assad, said that “nobody is starving in Darayya”.
“I can tell you that Darayya is producing peas and beans and food and wildberries that is enough for the entire Syria. It is a very fertile land and nobody is starving in Darayya. What we were trying to take into Darayya is school curricula, children vaccinations and whatever the few citizens in Darayya are asking for,” Shaaban told reporters in Washington via Skype.
“Darayya is the food basket of Damascus … We all take our food from Darayya,” said Shaaban who was addressing a conference on fighting al Qaeda and Islamic State militants at the National Press Club.
She earlier said that Syria was working with the U.N. representative to find ways to deliver food and medical aid to Syrians.