State Department hits back at claims that sanctions are blocking Syria earthquake aid

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The State Department on Tuesday hit back at what it said were inaccurate press reports about US sanctions impeding the delivery of humanitarian aid to Syrians impacted by the devastating earthquake over the weekend.

Assad regime officials and their allies, including Iran-backed Hezbollah supporters, have been claiming that American sanctions are preventing badly needed aid from getting to areas that were destroyed.

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Assad and Hezbollah supporters took to Twitter and used hashtags, blaming US sanctions and a so-called siege on Syria.

“Any US or international sanctions include humanitarian, medical, food, and other aid exemptions. US President Joe Biden was clear when he said the US was prepared to provide any and all types of aid to the people of Syria, and the US is not preventing any countries from doing so,” a State Department official said in Arabic.

“The United States stands by the Syrian people,” the official said in a video posted to Twitter.

On Monday, Biden issued a statement saying he was “deeply saddened by the loss of life and devastation caused by the earthquake in Turkey and Syria.” He said that he had ordered all needed assistance to be delivered.

It is worth noting that the earthquake destroyed large swathes of territory in northeastern Syria, which is not under the Syrian government’s control. However, a small part of the government-held territory in Aleppo was hit hard.

While the majority of Syria is under the control of the government in Damascus, most of the north is controlled by different — and sometimes conflicting — groups. The northwest is divided between land de facto controlled by Turkey and by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, a insurgent group with ties to al-Qaeda. Syria’s northeast is mostly held by US-backed Kurdish-led groups.

International search teams may be reluctant to enter earthquake-affected areas controlled by HTS, which is designated as a terrorist organization by the US

Syrian Civil Defense members, also known as the White Helmets, have been at the forefront of rescue efforts in the aftermath of the earthquake killing at least 7,000 people in Syria and Turkey.

But Turkey, Russia and Syria’s refusal to open cross-border points for international aid has also badly impaired efforts to get food, medicine and other staples to those in need.

The UN had previously said more than 4 million people in northwest Syria needed aid. About half can receive this support every month.

Read more: Syria earthquake: Video shows man rescued after spending 24 hours under rubble

With AP

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