06/03/2016, 15.21
SYRIA – UNITED NATIONS
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Syrian conflict: UN "studying" aid distribution, but weapons are dropped without a problem

UN experts vet helicopter use in aid delivery to besieged civilians. Operational difficulties and great inefficacy are a hurdle. At least 600,000 people live in besieged 19 locations, with another four million in hard-to-reach areas. The international coalition drops ammunition and weapons to the rebels.

Damascus (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The United Nations is meeting today to find ways to distribute aid in Syria’s besieged areas to provide immediate relief to the starving civilian population.

UN experts are evaluating the use of helicopters despite obstacles and inefficiency compared to land transport.

Last month the 20-member International Support Group for Syria set 1 June as the deadline for overland aid delivery. In case of failure, airplanes and helicopters would be considered, even if they are more complicated from an operational point of view and less efficient.

According to UN sources report, at least 600,000 people live in 19 besieged locations, most of them surrounded by government forces. Another four million Syrians are stuck in difficult-to-reach areas.

Deputy Special Envoy of the UN Secretary General for Syria Ramzy Ezzeldin Ramzy confirmed that aid deliveries are not imminent because of the complexity of the operations and the need to get the green light from Syrian authorities in Damascus.

With the 1 June deadline gone, France and Britain are pressing to kick off operations. Hence, the decision by UN experts to proceed with helicopters despite obstacles. So far, Syria’s five year civil has cost the lives of 280,000 people and displaced millions.

The World Food Programme “has studied the issue and is in the process of finalizing its plans," Ramzi said; however, operations are "a very complex venture". Still, airdrops would be "put into effect at the earliest possible date."

Aid is one of the key unresolved points at the UN-sponsored peace talks in Geneva (Switzerland) between the government and rebels, which have so far yielded no significant results.

On Wednesday, Syrian authorities authorised aid delivery to Daraya, a town 10 km from the capital. Under siege since 2012, its residents have been reduced to starvation. However, this delivery did not included food.

Meanwhile, fighting goes on on the ground between the Syrian army, rebel groups and Jihadi militias, in an ever-changing context.

A series of attacks by Syrian forces killed at least 23 civilians in rebel-held areas of Aleppo.

In Aleppo and Raqqa provinces, northern Syria, Kurdish forces continue their offensive against the Islamic State (IS) group. 

Sources told the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights that planes from the international coalition dropped large quantities of ammunition and weapons to help rebels defend the city of Marea, north of Aleppo, from IS.

Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman reports that in the last 24 hours, coalition planes dropped “ammunitions, light weapons and anti-tank mines in Marea".

According to Rahman, this is the first time that the US-led international coalition dropped weapons to non-Kurdish fighters.

A US Defence official in Washington confirmed that weapons were dropped but denied that it was the first time, or that light and anti-tank weapons were included.

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