Aid convoy is refused entry to Daraya, a besieged town
Orient Net - Agencies 2016-05-13 04:37:00
An aid convoy was refused entry to Syria’s Daraya Thursday, the Red Cross said, dashing hopes for the first such delivery since regime forces began a siege of the rebel-held town in 2012, Arab News reported.
The residents of Daraya, besieged and bombarded by regime forces for more than three years, learned Thursday morning that an international aid delivery was headed their way, for the first time ever. So they began to gather, as close as they could get to an Assad checkpoint that seals them off from the outside world.
But they got nothing. Instead, at day’s end, regime officials turned away the convoy, revoking permission negotiated in advance. And moments later, two civilians, a father and son, were dead, hit by a shelling attack on the area where they had been waiting.
“The U.N. and International Committee of the Red Cross (I.C.R.C.) aborted the mission to Daraya because the convoy was refused entry, due to the medical and nutritional supplies on board,” the United Nations spokesman, Stéphane Dujarric, said in a written statement, referring to the town, The New York Times reported.
Residents of the town blamed regime forces for the attack.
The air forces of at least 12 countries are flying missions over Syria, and the global powers are pushing for peace talks between the regime and the opposition and calling for delivery of aid. Yet the regime still blocked access to more than half of the 905,000 people who were supposed to receive United Nations aid this month. To Syrian activists, that failure makes the global powers appear incompetent and possibly complicit in their suffering.
The first shock for Daraya came when residents learned that there was no food in the convoy, other than baby formula, even though some people in the town face impending starvation.
Next, the convoy was stopped at the last regime checkpoint, where it stood all day as the aid agencies — the United Nations, the Syrian Arab Red Crescent and the International Committee of the Red Cross — tangled with officials over access.
At one point, according to residents and activists, the aid workers were told that they would have to remove medical supplies from the convoy, a demand often made by pro-regime forces.
Finally, word came that the convoy would not be allowed to enter Daraya at all. It was refused entry “at the last regime checkpoint despite having obtained prior clearance by all parties that it could proceed,” the Red Cross and the United Nations said in a joint statement. The vehicles headed back to Damascus. That was when the shelling started.
Jan Egeland, a former United Nations emergency relief chief and now an adviser to the United Nations mediator, Staffan de Mistura, said in a Twitter post that the convoy had been blocked by the Fourth Division, an elite unit of the Syrian Army, “because it carried baby milk!” and asked how low “can men with arms sink?”
Daraya has been surrounded since November 2012, with no regular access to food and medicine. It is frequently hit by Assad airstrikes, barrel bombs dropped by helicopters and artillery shells.
A recent United Nations assessment found that nearly all Daraya’s buildings had been damaged, and since the closing of a smuggling route several months ago, some of the town’s most vulnerable residents have begun to show signs of malnutrition and starvation.