UN aid reaches Syrian city of Rastan for first time since July

The food and other assistance will help 107,500 Syrians living in Rastan and nearby villages in the Homs region of western Syria.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

People fill drinking water into gallon jugs, in the opposition-held besieged area of Aleppo, Syria November 19, 2016.

Updated Nov 23, 2016

A UN aid convoy carrying food, water and other basic supplies was able to reach an opposition-held Syrian city of Rastan for the first time in weeks, the UN spokesman said on Tuesday.

The food and other assistance will help 107,500 Syrians living in Rastan and nearby villages in the Homs region of western Syria, which has not received any aid since July.

Nearly six million Syrians live in hard-to-reach areas including one million people in besieged areas, according to the United Nations.

The deliveries, which require complex negotiations to ensure the security of the aid workers, were announced a day after UN aid chief Stephen O'Brien told the UN Security Council that the humanitarian crisis was worsening in Syria.

O'Brien said there had been no cross-line deliveries in the month of November despite a series of UN resolutions calling for unimpeded access for humanitarian aid.

Three aid convoys recently sent to hard-to-reach areas were turned back at checkpoints manned by Syrian regime forces, he said.

A fourth aid delivery planned for rural Homs earlier this week was aborted due to delays and shelling in the opposition-held area.

Citizens flee in Aleppo

In opposition-held Aleppo, civilians were forced to flee as the Syrian regime pressed an assault on Tuesday to recapture the entire city.

The regime pounded east Aleppo with air strikes and barrel bombs as ground troops advanced in the key eastern district of Masaken Hanano, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

A week into the latest round of fighting for the city, the Syrian regime controls around a third of the district, the Observatory said.

The area has been shelled heavily during the war, and many residents had already fled, but the latest fighting prompted even the last holdouts to leave.

Milad Shahabi, a member of the local council, said that residents were fleeing to southern parts of the opposition-controlled east.

Masaken Hanano was the first Aleppo district to fall to rebels in 2012, and it is strategically vital.

Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman said that if regime forces manage to take the district they will be able to "cut off the northern parts of rebel-held Aleppo from the rest of the opposition-held districts".

At least 340 civilians, including several children, have been killed in the city's east since the latest assault began on November 15.

Source: 
TRTWorld and agencies