Food aid enters Syria’s besieged Daraya

The aid from the Red Cresent to the starving town marks the first delivery there since 2012

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A food aid convoy on Thursday entered the Syrian town of Daraya, the first delivery since the start of the siege there by the Damascus regime in 2012, a Red Crescent official told AFP.

“Nine lorries are currently being unloaded in Daraya. They are carrying food aid, including dry goods and flour, non-food aid as well as medical aid,” said Tamam Mehrez, operations director of the Syrian Red Crescent.

The aid delivered would be sufficient for one month, Mehrez added, without specifying how many people would benefit.

Earlier Thursday, the UN said Syria had given approval for humanitarian convoys to reach all of the country’s 19 besieged areas, including Daraya, by the end of the month.

The UN envoy to the war-racked country, Staffan de Mistura, however, told reporters in Geneva that Syria had given such approvals in the past before ultimately blocking convoys from distributing life-saving supplies.

He made the comments after the weekly meeting of the Syria humanitarian taskforce, co-chaired by the United States and Russia, which has for months been trying to boost aid supplies to millions of Syrians in need.

That taskforce has faced pressure, including from France and Britain, to start air-dropping aid into besieged areas, with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s military continuing to block road convoys.

De Mistura said the pressure placed on Damascus by the prospect of air drops had led to the road convoy approvals and voiced hope that a surge of aid deliveries in the coming weeks would make dangerous and costly air drops unnecessary.

The last round of UN-brokered Syria talks ended in April without a breakthrough and with the government and opposition still deadlocked on the crucial question of Assad’s fate.

Meanwhile, the UN said that it was still awaiting approval from Syria's government to reach two other besieged areas, correcting information provided by Mistura.

“The UN is able to deliver to 17 out of 19 besieged areas,” said Jens Laerke, a spokesman for the UN's humanitarian office (OCHA).

Syria's government has so far withheld written approval for Al Wa’er in Homs and Zabadani in rural Damascus, the UN said.