Red Cross delivers aid to militant-held Eastern Ghouta

  • Red Cross delivers aid to militant-held Eastern Ghouta

Red Cross delivers aid to militant-held Eastern Ghouta

The global aid convoy has come back from Damascus' suburb of Eastern Ghouta to the Al-Wafideen checkpoint, Maj Gen Vladimir Zolotukhin, a spokesman for the Russian center for reconciliation of warring sides in Syria, told reporters on Friday.

On Monday, 46 trucks entered the area in the first aid provision since the new offensive against the enclave began on February 18 - but they had to cut their deliveries short and leave due to heavy bombardment.

"Shelling in proximity of Douma, east Ghouta today, is putting the UN/ICRC/SARC convoy at risk, despite assurances of safety from parties including the Russian Federation", the UN humanitarian coordinator in Syria, Ali al-Zaatari, said in a statement.

But soon after the convoy of 13 trucks carrying food parcels crossed into eastern Ghouta, the Observatory and a witness in Douma said air strikes had resumed.

"Friday's delivery is the third attempt this week to get humanitarian aid to civilians trapped by the fighting in the region on the edge of the Syrian capital, Damascus, " the BBC noted.

In less than two weeks, the Syrian army has retaken almost all the farmland in Eastern Ghouta, under cover of near-ceaseless shelling and air strikes, leaving only handful towns - about half the enclave - still under rebel control.

Speaking in an interview with The Associated Press from Oslo on Thursday, Egeland says there are intensive diplomatic efforts for a humanitarian pause that would lead to the evacuation of 1,000 priority cases for medical treatment.

Rami Abdurrahman, who heads the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said Douma was shelled before the convoy went in.

Bilal Abu Salah, a resident of Douma, said shortages were causing great hardship.

In a letter last month to U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres, the three main rebel factions in eastern Ghouta said they were committed to making al-Qaida-linked fighters and their families leave within 15 days.

The Army of Islam said that the detainees from the al-Qaida-linked Levant Liberation Committee have asked to be sent to the rebel-held province of Idlib in Syria's northwest.

Damascus and Moscow accuse the insurgents of shooting at civilians to prevent them fleeing the fighting into government areas.

Turkey's foreign minister says his government hopes that a cross-border military offensive in a Syrian Kurdish-held enclave will end before May.

Continuing fighting forced the postponement on Thursday of a United Nations inter-agency relief convoy to Douma, a neighborhood in Syrias war-ravaged Eastern Ghouta, a UN spokesman reported.

ICRC said it delivered along with the United Nations and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent 2,400 food parcels that can sustain 12,000 people for one month, as well as 3,248 wheat flour bags. On Friday, the World Health Organization verified 67 attacks on health facilities in the first two months of 2018.

Pro-government forces, led by the Syrian Army's fourth armored division and Republican Guard, are advancing towards the area after successfully repelling a militant counter-attack, and subsequently seizing nearby farms.