Some “non-lethal” U.S. aid such as food and medicine is still getting through to areas controlled by Syrian rebels despite the recent closing of an important border crossing in the North of the country, the State Department said on Monday.
Turkey shut the border crossing near the Syrian border town of Azaz last month after al-Qaeda-linked fighters took control of the town, booting out rival rebel groups.
The crossing had been a lifeline for rebel-held northern areas, allowing refugees out and supplies in, including supplies like medicine and food from the United States for the Western-backed Free Syrian Army.
“Despite the dynamic situation at the Turkish-Syrian border, it is important to note that various types of U.S. assistance are still getting into Syria with the assistance of moderate opposition members and trusted activists,” a State Department official said in email to Reuters.
“To ensure the safety of our partners risking their lives daily to facilitate the delivery of our non-lethal assistance, we cannot go into additional details,” the official said, asking not to be named.
U.S. Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford promised an increase in U.S. aid to the Syrian opposition during a meeting over the weekend in Istanbul with Free Syrian Army commander General Salim Idriss, a statement from the FSA’s Supreme Military Council said.
But the State Department official said Monday that while Ford had referred to an increase in U.S. non-lethal aid, this increase would be part of the $250 million commitment that the United States already announced earlier this year.
Some $167 million of this amount has either been distributed or is “in train,” providing non-lethal assistance to the rebels as well as training and equipment for civil society groups and support for public security, the State Department official said.
The non-lethal assistance has included hundreds of thousands of food rations and over three tons of medical supplies, a State Department statement said last month.
A Syrian rebel spokesman said last month that the United States also had begun distributing some lethal aid to the Western-backed rebels. U.S. officials have declined to discuss this aid publicly but it is thought to include small arms and ammunition.
Rebel divisions have hurt their fight against President Bashar al-Assad’s better equipped and organized forces in the 2-1/2-year-old conflict.
Just over a month ago, the Assad government faced the possibility of military action by the United States, but the threat was averted by a deal to eliminate the country’s chemical weapons. An international mission has begun its work overseeing the stockpile’s elimination.
Amid rare unity, U.N. Security Council mulls action on Syria aidAfter adopting a hard-fought, Russian-backed resolution to rid Syria of chemical weapons, the U.N. Security Council is now turning its attention to ... Analysis
U.S. faces tough challenges to deliver aid in SyriaAs the Syrian crisis rages and debate heats up over Syria’s chemical weapons, U.S. officials are fighting a quieter battle: The delivery of ... Middle East
Iran and U.N. discuss getting more aid to SyriaThe U.N. humanitarian chief met with officials with Iran’s government, calling Sunday on the unwavering backer of Syria’s government to ... World News
U.S., Russia see Syria arms deal aiding peace talksRussia and the United States agreed on Friday to push again for an international conference aimed at ending Syria’s civil war as talks on ... Home Page
Syria, aided by Iran, could strike back at U.S. in cyberspaceIf the United States attacks Syria, it will be the first time it strikes a country that is capable of waging retaliatory cyberspace attacks on ... Analysis