U.N. urges Syria to ensure truce for Ghouta aid convoy on Thursday

U.N. urges Syria to ensure truce for Ghouta aid convoy on Thursday
# 08 March 2018 00:03 (UTC +04:00)

The U.N. humanitarian coordinator in Syria appealed to the government on Thursday to commit to a ceasefire in eastern Ghouta to let in an aid convoy containing emergency medical supplies that were stripped from a delivery on Monday, APA reports quoting Reuters.

A convoy reached the besieged, rebel-held enclave of some 400,000 people near Damascus on Monday for the first time since the start in February of a massive government bombing campaign and assault to recapture it.

It was only the second convoy so far in 2018 to access the area, where the United Nations says residents were already running out of food and medicine even before the bombing campaign began.

U.N. humanitarian coordinator Ali al-Za’tari appealed for access to eastern Ghouta in a letter to Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad dated on Tuesday, according to a copy seen by Reuters.

A World Health Organization official said some trauma treatment kits and surgical supplies that had been approved for passage by Syrian authorities were instead removed by security forces from Monday’s convoy while it was still being loaded.

Syrian authorities have often removed such medical materials from convoys out of concern they could be used to treat wounded rebels, U.N. aid workers say.

Za’atari said that once the convoy reached Ghouta, the trucks were unable to fully unload because military operations in the area had not stopped.

A Western diplomat in Geneva said of the convoy’s hasty withdrawal: “It was a close call. There were 83 aid workers on board.” The United Nations was seeking security guarantees to return, he added.

Syrian government forces bombarded eastern Ghouta anew on Wednesday in an effort to slice the enclave in two as they intensified a campaign to deal the opposition its biggest blow since 2016.

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