Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Aid convoy quits Syria enclave as regime presses onslaught

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DOUMA: An international convoy has cut short its mission to Syria’s rebel enclave of Eastern Ghouta after delivering desperately needed aid as the regime pounded the region, killing dozens as it seized more ground.
At least 68 civilians were killed Monday, a monitor said, while dozens of United Nations trucks reached the main town of Douma, the first aid convoy to arrive since a bloody Russian-backed assault began more than two weeks ago.
The government blocked medical supplies from the enclave rocked by an ongoing bombardment that has sparked outrage but little action from the West.
The 46 aid trucks arrived after fresh air strikes hit the shrinking rebel-held zone and regime troops rapidly advanced, leaving them in control of 40 percent of the region.
An AFP reporter in Douma said warplanes were flying overhead and explosions could be heard even as the aid was being unloaded.
The UN’s refugee agency UNHCR said the convoy was in the town of Douma for nearly nine hours before it cut short its mission.
“We delivered as much as we could amidst shelling,” UNHCR’s Syria representative Sajjad Malik tweeted. “Civilians are caught in a tragic situation.”
Linda Tom, spokesperson for the UN’s humanitarian coordination office OCHA in Syria, told AFP fighting and air strikes had continued during the convoy’s deployment, “including on Douma city while the convoy was offloading.”
Air strikes, and artillery and rocket fire on the last major rebel-held enclave near the capital Damascus have killed hundreds and devastated residential areas since they began on February 18.
The latest toll released by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights brings to around 760 the number of civilians killed since the assault began, including at least 170 children.
At least 19 people were killed in the town of Hammuriyeh on Monday, the Observatory said. Another 49 died elsewhere in the enclave, it added.
In the town of Kafr Batna, 15 civilians were killed and 70 wounded in strikes “believed to be Russian,” said the Britain-based monitor, which relies on a network of sources inside Syria.
Later it reported 18 people suffered breathing difficulties following a strike by a military aircraft in Hammuriyeh, without being able to specify the cause of the illnesses.
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