Damascus, March 5 (IANS) A humanitarian aid convoy on Monday entered for the first time in over two weeks the besieged rebel-held area of Eastern Ghouta on the outskirts of Syria’s capital, following intensified bombing by Syrian government forces that has killed over 700 people.
The convoy successfully arrived in Douma, the largest city in the Eastern Ghouta region, with 46 truckloads of health and food supplies, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Syria said on Twitter.
“The UN and Red Crescent are entering Douma in Eastern Ghouta with health and nutrition supplies, along with food for 27,500 people in need,” the OCHA said on its account.
However, the OCHA also stated that “many life-saving health supplies were not allowed to be loaded” into the convoy by the Syrian government.
A World Health Organisation spokesman, Tarik Jasarevic, said that Syrian authorities had removed various medical supplies from the UN convoy before it was allowed into Eastern Ghouta.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), a United Kingdom-based war monitor, said that the Syrian Army and its allies continued to advance into Eastern Ghouta despite the entry of the aid convoy.
The SOHR added that unidentified aircraft had bombed different parts of the rebel-controlled area, but did not list the convoy’s destination, Douma, among the targeted locations.
The war monitor said that pro-government forces appeared to be trying to cut the rebel-held area into two sections, and that there had been widespread civilian displacement ahead of the government’s advance.
A spokesperson for the International Committee of the Red Cross, Ingy Sedky, told Efe news that the distribution of assistance was a “positive first step to reduce the suffering of civilians in the area”, but stressed that humanitarian organizations needed continuous access to Eastern Ghouta.
The aid convoy, led by the OCHA’s humanitarian coordinator in Syria, Ali al-Za’tari, was the first to enter the besieged region since February 14.
Since February 18, Eastern Ghouta has been heavily bombed by Syrian and Russian aircraft, as well as by artillery and surface-to-surface rockets.
The bombings have killed at least 724 people, including 151 children and 93 women, according to the SOHR.
According to the UN, some 400,000 people remain trapped in Eastern Ghouta’s rebel-held network of towns and satellite cities on the outskirts of Damascus, which has been under siege by forces loyal to the Syrian government for several years, preventing much-needed food and humanitarian aid from entering.
Defiant President Bashar al-Assad said on state television on Sunday that the offensive against “terrorism” should continue and dismissed dire assessments of the humanitarian situation in the enclave as “ridiculous lies”.
The US had condemned the Syrian government assault and blamed Russia of killing innocent civilians in name of conducting counterterrorism operations.