Storm delays Iraq-Syria aid airlift for second day

Activists report nine Syrian children killed because of the cold weather

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Severe weather has delayed the start of the first United Nations airlift of aid items from Iraq to Syria for a second day after activists report that nine Syrian children were killed because of the cold climate.

“Qamishli airport remains closed, but apparently weather conditions are improving,” Agence France-Presse quoted U.N. refugee agency (UNHCR) regional spokesman Peter Kessler, as saying.

Kessler was referring to the city in northeast Syria to which aid supplies are to be flown.

“We hope to have word from the authorities there, hopefully later today or tomorrow," which "would then would give us an idea when the airlift might start,” Kessler said.

The airlift, which has been given the go-ahead by both the Syrian and Iraqi governments, was initially expected to begin on Thursday.

The Syrian Network for Human Rights said it has documented the death of nine Syrian children including new born infants because of the severe cold weather, Al Arabiya News reported Friday.

UNHCR plans to fly some 40 metric tons of aid into the area, which has become increasingly dangerous to reach, providing “core relief items for 10,000 families, or about 50-60,000 people,” Kessler said this week.

The United Nations’ World Food Program and children’s agency UNICEF were also to send aid into Syria via air.

UNHCR said it plans to spend $195 million to help “winterize” Syria and the surrounding countries.

As part of the program, the agency has already begun distributing things like isolation tents, plastic sheeting, warm clothing, especially for children and other vulnerable people, and cash for fuel.

The civil war between forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and rebels seeking his overthrow has raged for 33 months and killed an estimated 126,000 people.

Kurdish-majority areas of the country’s northeast were relatively quiet until clashes broke out this year between Kurds and jihadist rebels, pushing tens of thousands of Syrian Kurds across the border into Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan region.

(With AFP)

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