Syria regime raids stall food aid distribution

2016-06-10 22:21
A  truck of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent carrying food and other supplies, enters the besieged town of the rebel-held suburb of Daraya, southwest of Damascus. (Local Council of Daraya City via AP)

A truck of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent carrying food and other supplies, enters the besieged town of the rebel-held suburb of Daraya, southwest of Damascus. (Local Council of Daraya City via AP)

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Beirut - Syria's regime bombarded a rebel-held town outside the capital on Friday, a resident and a monitor said, preventing besieged residents from receiving food aid after its first such delivery in years.

A convoy of food aid - approved by Damascus - late on Thursday reached the town of Daraya for the first time since the regime laid siege to the town in 2012.

"There has been intense random barrel bombing of the town since 09:00 local time (06:00 GMT)," a member of the local council told AFP, referring to the crude unguided explosive devices usually dropped by regime helicopters.

"Aid received by the council has not been distributed yet because of the intensity of the raids," Shadi Matar said, adding that the raids were ongoing.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said regime helicopters had dropped at least 20 barrel bombs.

"Heavy barrel bombing on many areas of Daraya from the morning has stalled food aid distribution," Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman said.

Lorries entered Daraya on Thursday with "food aid, including dry goods and flour, non-food aid as well as medical aid", said Tamam Mehrez, operations director of the Syrian Red Crescent.

A World Food Programme worker said that the convoy carried 480 food rations for around 2 400 people for a month.

The WFP delivered "enough wheat flour in bags to feed the entire population of 4 000 people" for the same period, the agency said in a statement on Friday.

"Food boxes included rice, lentils, sugar and oil," it said.

The Observatory and local council estimate that 8 000 people live in Daraya, one of the first towns in Syria to erupt in anti-government demonstrations in 2012 and one of the first to come under regime siege the same year.

But the United Nations speaks of 4 000 besieged residents, angering inhabitants who say the food delivered is not nearly enough.

"We don't understand the UN figure," Matar said.

"The town's aid bureau might have to re-divide the food to make sure everybody gets some."

A previous UN aid convoy reached Daraya on June 1, but contained no food.

The town is just a 15-minute drive from central Damascus and is even closer to the regime's Mazzeh air base, which hosts the feared air force intelligence services and their notorious prison.

The UN says a total of 592 000 people live under siege in Syria - most surrounded by government forces - and another four million in hard-to-reach areas.

Jens Laerke, a spokesperson for the UN's humanitarian office (OCHA), said on Friday the agency was still waiting for permission from Damascus to deliver aid to two besieged areas.

The government has so far withheld written approval for Al-Waer in Homs province and Zabadani in rural Damascus, the UN said.

More than 280 000 people have been killed and millions displaced in Syria's five-year war.

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