Syria’s government has agreed to allow the UN to use two more border crossings to deliver aid to opposition-held north-western areas devastated by last week’s earthquakes, the UN says.
Since the earthquakes struck neighbouring southern Turkey eight days ago, many Syrians have been angry over the lack of aid for their war-torn nation. As countries with friendly relations with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, including Russia, Iran, and the United Arab Emirates, began flying supplies to government-controlled areas of Syria, opposition-held north-western regions, where over 4.1 million people were already relying on humanitarian assistance, had not received any aid deliveries from the UN via Turkey until Thursday.
The United Nations, which blamed damage to roads leading to the Bab al-Hawa crossing, which is the only land route the UN Security Council has authorized it to use, had only been using that single crossing, but as of Monday, the UN has announced that two more border crossings will be opened to deliver aid. UN officials stated that these additional crossings will make a significant difference in the amount of aid that can be delivered to those in need.
However, the White Helmets rescue group, whose first responders are leading the rescue effort in the region, criticized the UN for waiting for President Bashar al-Assad’s permission. The group has also expressed frustration at the lack of heavy machinery and other specialist equipment requested, which was not included in the aid delivered so far.
Russia, a key ally of President Assad, and China had vetoed the use of any other crossings with Turkey since 2020, insisting that all other UN deliveries must go via Damascus and cross the front-lines, even though just ten such convoys were approved during the whole of last year. The White Helmets had requested other border crossings to deliver the necessary aid to people in need, but Russia and China have continually opposed these requests.
With these new border crossings now available for aid delivery, it is hoped that more aid will reach the north-western region of Syria and that people will receive the necessary support to rebuild their lives.
After facing criticism for waiting for President Bashar al-Assad’s permission, the United Nations (UN) has finally announced the opening of two more border crossings to deliver aid to earthquake-hit Syria. The crossings, Bab al-Salameh and al-Rai, both controlled by Turkish-backed Syrian rebels, will be open for the next three months, as announced by UN Secretary General António Guterres’ spokesman, Stéphane Dujarric. This move comes after high-level talks with President Assad in Damascus on Monday. The aid is expected to make a big difference as it will now be delivered through a single crossing instead of the earlier two. However, the White Helmets rescue group criticized the delay, stating that the regime is not a credible partner in addressing the suffering of all Syrians in a neutral and impartial manner.
Prior to this announcement, countries with friendly relations with President Assad, including Russia, Iran, and the United Arab Emirates, began flying supplies to government-controlled areas of Syria immediately after the earthquake struck southern Turkey eight days ago. But the opposition-held north-west, where over 4.1 million people were relying on humanitarian assistance to survive even before the disaster, received no aid deliveries from the UN via Turkey until Thursday. The UN blamed damage to roads leading to the Bab al-Hawa crossing, which is the only land route the UN Security Council authorized it to use.
As of Monday, 58 aid lorries had crossed into the opposition enclave, carrying food, tents, and medicines. However, the heavy machinery and other specialist equipment requested by the White Helmets were not included. These first responders are leading the rescue effort in the area and have reported 2,274 deaths and 12,400 injuries across the north-west so far. The search operation for survivors underneath the rubble of collapsed buildings in the north-west is about to come to a close, according to Abdul Rahman al-Saleh, head of the White Helmets. The satellite photographs released by Maxar on Monday showed the devastation in Jindayris, a town close to the Turkish border where more than 200 buildings have been completely destroyed.
The move to open two more border crossings is expected to make a significant difference in the delivery of aid to Syria. With more aid expected to arrive, the UN hopes to reach as many people as possible to mitigate their suffering. While the delay in seeking the government’s permission has drawn criticism, the UN’s move is a welcome step in the right direction.
Buildings destroyed in northern Jindayris, Syria
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The White Helmets have recovered at least 517 bodies in Jindayris and described the situation there as “catastrophic”.
The government has reported 1,414 deaths and 2,349 injuries across its territory.
Aleppo province was badly affected, with more than 200,000 people left homeless, according to the UN.