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Iran Press TV

First UN aid convoy reaches Syria's militant-held Ghouta

Iran Press TV

Mon Mar 5, 2018 04:34PM

The first UN aid convoy began to cross into Syria's Eastern Ghouta, carrying desperately needed items to the flashpoint enclave as government troops secured a humanitarian corridor for trapped civilians to leave the militant-held area near the capital city of Damascus.

According to the UN Office for The Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), 46 truckloads of health, food and nutrition supplies entered Eastern Ghouta and were headed for the main town of Douma on Monday.

It would take "many hours" to offload the aid in the enclave and it might be "well after nightfall" before it could leave the volatile area of 400,000 people, said Ali al-Za'tari, a senior UN official with the convoy.

He added that the international convoy's aid had been scaled back from providing food for 70,000 people to providing for 27,500. According to the UN, Damascus has agreed to let the world body bring the rest of the food for the full 70,000 in a second convoy in the course of three days.

"The convoy is not sufficient," Za'tari further noted.

Earlier in the day, the Russian military, which helps Damascus to curb the foreign-backed militancy in the Arab country, said the militants had agreed to let civilians leave Eastern Ghouta in exchange for humanitarian aid. The announcement came a day after Russia said militants had imposed a curfew during humanitarian pauses to prevent civilians from leaving the enclave.

Russia has designated four safe passage routes in Eastern Ghouta after a ceasefire was declared across Syria by the UN Security Council.

Eastern Ghouta, a besieged area on the outskirts of Damascus, has witnessed deadly violence over the past few weeks, with Takfiri terrorist outfits, one of which is made up of militants from al-Qaeda's ex-affiliate, have been launching mortar attacks on the Syrian capital in the face of an imminent humiliating defeat, killing around 20 civilians in two weeks.

The Syrian army is making steady advances in the enclave, but it is facing a hostile West which is threatening airstrikes to stop the push. President Bashar al-Assad vowed on Sunday that Syrian forces would continue the latest campaign until the whole area is retaken.

"We have not started from Ghouta; we have started since the first day in combating terrorism in every place, we have started in Aleppo, Homs, Dayr al-Zawr; the operation in Ghouta is a continuation of combating terrorism in different places," Assad added.

Syria has been gripped by foreign-backed militancy since March 2011. The Syrian government says the Israeli regime and its Western and regional allies are aiding Takfiri terrorist groups that are wreaking havoc in the country.

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