Humanitarian Aid Sent to Besieged Syrian Towns

Convoy moves out as Turkish President Erdogan vows to prevent Kurdish forces from creating stronghold in northern Syria

At least 100 trucks of humanitarian aid have started moving towards besieged areas of Syria from Damascus, the Syrian Red Crescent and United Nations have said, in the latest delivery of supplies to trapped residents.

The Syrian government has approved access to seven besieged areas, the UN said after crisis talks in Damascus on Tuesday, a week before a planned resumption of peace talks between Syria’s warring parties.

The aid convoys on Wednesday afternoon started heading for Madaya, Zabadani and Mouadamiya al-Sham near Damascus, and to the villages of al-Foua and Kefraya in Idlib province in the northwest, five of the locations named by the UN.

  Turkey launches attacks on Kurdish units in Syria

Supplies included wheat and high-energy foods. A medical team would enter Kefraya and al-Foua, the spokesman said.

The Syrian Red Crescent was coordinating with the UN on the aid deliveries.

The UN has demanded unhindered access to all besieged areas of the country, where it says hundreds of thousands of people are trapped by fighting and deliberate blockades by Syria’s various warring sides.

Movement on the humanitarian side of the conflict came as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed that Turkey would not allow the creation of a Kurdish stronghold in northern Syria.

Speaking on Wednesday, Erdogan said there was no question of Turkish forces stopping their bombardment of Syrian Kurdish fighters.

“We will not allow a new Qandil on our southern border” with Syria, Erdogan said in a televised speech in Ankara, referring to the mountain in northern Iraq which for years has been a stronghold of the Kurdistan Workers Party armed group.

READ MORE: Syria’s Kurds ‘won’t retreat’ despite Turkish shelling

Alluding to calls to stop shelling Kurdish positions, Erdogan said after Turkey hit their positions for four days in a row: “Forgive me, but there is no question of us doing such a thing.”

The rapid advance of US-backed Kurdish fighters in northern Syria, taking advantage of Russian air strikes to seize territory near the Turkish border, has infuriated Ankara and threatened to drive a wedge between NATO allies.

Washington has long seen the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party and its YPG military wing as its best chance in the battle against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in Syria – to the chagrin of fellow NATO member Turkey, which sees the group as “terrorists” and fears it will stir up greater unrest among its own Kurdish minority.

Russian bombing has transformed the five-year-old Syrian civil war in recent weeks, turning the momentum decisively in favour of Moscow’s ally President Bashar al-Assad.

The Syrian army has come within 25km of the Turkish border and says it aims to seal it off altogether, closing the main lifeline into rebel territory for years and recapturing Aleppo, Syria’s largest city before the war.

Meanwhile, the YPG has exploited the situation, seizing ground from other Syrian opposition groups in the area.

Now, Kurds have started to carve out a fiefdom in the north of fragmenting Syria, similar to the autonomy enjoyed by their kin in northern Iraq.

The fighting in Syria started as an unarmed uprising against President Assad in March 2011, but has since expanded into a full-on conflict that has killed more than 260,000 people, according to UN estimates.


Reprinted with permission from Al Jazeera