The Assad regime has partially approved a United Nations aid plan for Syria but refused to deliver urgently needed aids to the rebel-held part of Aleppo, diplomats and a U.N. official said on Thursday.
Assad regime, backed by Russia, said on September 22 it was starting a new wide offensive to recapture the rebel-held parts of Aleppo after a week-long ceasefire was declared officially over on 19 September.
Assad regime has given a green light for UN convoys to deliver aid to 25 of 29 besieged and hard-to-reach areas across Syria, diplomats said.
But, crucially, not to the eastern districts of Aleppo that are controlled by rebels.
There are about 275,000 people trapped by the siege of eastern Aleppo, where civilians are suffering through daily bombing, including by bunker-buster and incendiary weapons, and through starvation, as limited supplies run out and aid convoys are blocked from the city.
Ramzy Ezzeldin Ramzy, deputy U.N. Special Envoy for Syria, confirmed receipt of the approvals after a weekly meeting of the humanitarian task force, composed of major and regional powers. He gave no details.
“Of course, the approval of the plan is not sufficient, you know there are other steps that need to be taken so that deliveries can be made,” Ramzy told reporters. “And we call upon all parties to help in ensuring that these steps are taken as soon as possible so the U.N. will be able to deliver on its October plan as soon as possible.”
The U.N. has tried for weeks to evacuate the wounded and chronically sick from eastern Aleppo, but a ceasefire is required to do so, Ramzy said.
“Capacity to treat emergency cases is minimal, and that is why we are working on a plan for medical evacuations,” he said. “I think more than 200 are in a critical situation but I also heard the figure of 400 children that need to be evacuated.”
Ramzy’s boss, U.N. Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura, will join foreign ministers – including U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russia’s Sergei Lavrov – meeting to discuss Syria in Lausanne on Saturday, Ramzy said.
He declined to give details on what their focus would be.
The U.N. envoy for Syria, Staffan De Mistura, said Aleppo would be totally destroyed by December. The UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, called it “worse than a slaughterhouse”.
The Assad regime forces, backed by Russian air power, Iranian ground forces and Shi’ite militia fighters from Iran, Iraq, and Lebanon, has been tightening its grip on rebel-held districts of Aleppo this year, and this summer achieved a long-held goal of fully encircling the area.
Recovering full control of the rebels’ last significant urban area would be the most important victory of the war so far for Assad, strengthening his control over Syria’s most populous and strategically important regions.