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Syria withholds aid to 900,000 people, risks new siege in Aleppo – UN

Syria withholds aid to 900,000 people

Syria’s government is refusing UN demands to deliver aid to 905,000 people including in Aleppo, the city at the centre of an eruption of fighting in the past two weeks, UN humanitarian adviser Jan Egeland said on Wednesday.

“We seem to be having new possible besieged areas on our watch, we are having hundreds of relief workers unable to move in Aleppo,” he told reporters after chairing a weekly meeting of nations supporting the Syria peace process.

“It is a disgrace to see that while the population of Aleppo is bleeding, their options to flee have never been more difficult than now.”

The first major ceasefire in Syria’s five-year civil war, sponsored by the United States and Russia, was struck in February but has virtually collapsed in recent weeks, with Aleppo bearing the brunt of the renewed bloodshed.

The humanitarian task force chaired by Egeland enjoyed some success in opening up access for aid in April, ensuring it reached 40 per cent of people in besieged areas in Syria, compared to 5 per cent in the whole of 2015.

It has also overseen 22 airdrops of aid into the eastern city of Deir al-Zor, where 110,000 people are besieged by Islamic State insurgents, Egeland said, about half the previous estimate of 200,000 people trapped there.

But progress has stalled and requests to the Syrian government to greenlight aid convoys to six remaining besieged areas in May have largely fallen on deaf ears.

“We got an answer back that is not good news,” Egeland said. “Half of the places in the May plan were not accepted, including east Aleppo.” That part of the city is under rebel control.

President Bashar al-Assad’s government put major conditions on aid to another 25 per cent of the people the United Nations had hoped to help, Egeland said.

Among those getting a partial approval was the town of Daraya, where 4,000 people including 500 children are on “the brink of starvation”. The government said baby milk and school supplies could go in, Egeland said.

“But to some extent it’s an improvement – the government earlier said there were only terrorists in Daraya and they are now admitting there are children there.”

The United Nations has appealed to Assad’s government to change its mind and allow aid without conditions to all places that were refused or got only a partial green light, he said.

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