Syrian govt holds up aid delivery

  • 13/05/2016
Yacoub El Hillo, UN humanitarian coordinator in Syria (Getty)
Yacoub El Hillo, UN humanitarian coordinator in Syria (Getty)

An aid convoy has been refused entry to a besieged Syrian town, blocking what would have been the first supplies to its residents for more than three years.

The Red Cross and United Nations said their joint delivery on Thursday was stopped at the last government checkpoint on the way into Daraya, on the outskirts of Damascus.

The town is held by rebels and besieged by government forces.

The United Nations said this month that Syria's government was refusing demands to deliver aid to hundreds of thousands of people.

"Despite having obtained prior clearance by all parties that it could proceed," the convoy was not allowed through, a statement from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and UN said.

"Daraya has been the site of relentless fighting... and we know the situation there is desperate," said Yacoub El Hillo, UN humanitarian coordinator in Syria.

"Civilians trapped here are in need of humanitarian aid. We were hoping that today's delivery of life-saving assistance would have been a first step and lead to more aid being allowed in."

The ICRC's Syria head, Marianne Gasser, said it was "tragic that even the basics we were bringing today are being delayed".

The supplies included medical aid, nutrition items for children and hygiene kits.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British-based monitoring group, said government forces shelled parts of Daraya on Thursday.

The town borders a military airport used by Russian planes, which have been conducting air strikes since September to support President Bashar al-Assad in the five-year-old civil war.

UN experts estimate around 4000 civilians are trapped there, senior UN official Jan Egeland told reporters in Geneva on Thursday, before news emerged of the blocked convoy.