In Breach of Ceasefire, Syrian Government Has Yet to Authorize Aid Convoys
There may be fewer casualties as a result of the pause in fighting in Syria this week, but there are also starving men, women, and children who continue to suffer because of Bashar al-Assad, the president of the combusting nation. In a briefing with reporters in Geneva on Thursday, the U.N. mediator for Syria said the Assad government has failed to authorize letters that aid convoys need to pass through checkpoints. As a result, the vital aid millions of Syrians hoped to receive during the week-long ceasefire has yet to arrive.
“It’s particularly regrettable because we are losing time,” Staffan de Mistura, the mediator, said. Beginning Monday, the ceasefire has largely held. Jointly implemented by the United States and Russia, the intention is to test whether fighting can remain paused for a week.
If it can, the United States, which opposes Assad’s government, and Russia, Assad’s ally, will begin cooperating in the fight against an enemy shared by all sides, including the rebel groups fighting Assad’s regime: the Islamic State. The ceasefire agreement does not include ISIS or other terrorist groups, such as Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, formerly known as the Nusra Front.
But the cessation of hostilities agreement was also intended to crack open a window through which U.N. trucks could pass through, bringing aid to the most devastated pockets in Syria–including areas near Damascus, Homs, and Aleppo. That part of the ceasefire has been a failure, and it’s unclear if a joint U.S.-Russia campaign hinges on the humanitarian relief portion of the deal. Assad is in charge of authorizing the letters that aid groups need to proceed.
“Can well-fed, grown men please stop putting political, bureaucratic, and procedural roadblocks for brave humanitarian workers that are willing and able to go to serve women, children, wounded civilians in besieged areas?” said Jan Egeland, the U.N. special adviser on humanitarian affairs.
And while combat has halted in much of the country, casualties were still recorded since the arrangement went into effect. On Thursday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported airstrikes in ISIS-held territory in an eastern province. At least seven civilians were killed, and 30 more were injured. Of the four buildings that were hit with the strikes, one was a school, the group said.
A day earlier, Russia said it killed 250 ISIS fighters near the desert city of Palmyra.