Sunday 20 May 2018

Aid convoy finally reaches besieged Damascus suburb

This photo released by the Syrian Red Crescent shows civilians gathering near a convoy of
vehicles of the Syrian Red Crescent in Douma, eastern Ghouta, yesterday. Photo: AP
This photo released by the Syrian Red Crescent shows civilians gathering near a convoy of vehicles of the Syrian Red Crescent in Douma, eastern Ghouta, yesterday. Photo: AP

Josie Ensor

The bodies of the two infants were laid next to each other on the hospital floor, bundled tightly in United Nations food sacks. It was all the doctors had left to wrap the growing number of dead.

The picture of the latest victims of the Syrian government's offensive on Eastern Ghouta has become a symbol for its besieged residents.

Bashar al-Assad. Photo: AP
Bashar al-Assad. Photo: AP

"All the UN is good for now is providing cover for the bodies of our dead children," one remarked.

The UN Security Council unanimously passed a resolution on a 30-day ceasefire on February 24, but it is yet to be implemented.

More than 200 people have been killed waiting for the ceasefire. So for many it was too little, too late when UN trucks carrying food and aid finally made it to the enclave yesterday.

Forty-six trucks of food and medical equipment reached Eastern Ghouta after days of wrangling with the regime, and not before the vehicles were stripped of more than 70pc of their load.

Even as the convoy passed yesterday afternoon, air strikes hit just a few hundreds yards away. Residents of Eastern Ghouta, trapped for five years by President Bashar al-Assad's forces, have been living in dire conditions, many of them without sufficient food or electricity.

Only one delivery has reached the enclave this year - it came last month, and was enough to help just a fraction of its nearly 400,000 residents.

Charities have warned there are dozens of people who require evacuation for urgent medical treatment, and say others face starvation if aid is not allowed in.

Pro-Assad forces have made sudden advances into Eastern Ghouta in recent days despite a Russian-organised "humanitarian pause", the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Syria's Central Military Media said troops continued their advance from the east and were 3km from meeting up with soldiers advancing from the west, which would cut the suburb into two parts.

More than 50 people were killed on Sunday and more than 45 were reported dead yesterday, according to the Syrian American Medical Society, which supports hospitals in the area. Tens of thousands were reported to have been driven from their homes, forced further into the centre of the suburb by fighting.

"Many, many people have been displaced," Mohammed Katoub, a resident of Eastern Ghouta, told 'The Daily Telegraph' via the messaging service WhatsApp.

The UN Human Rights Council yesterday ordered investigators to look into the latest violence, after Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein, the world body's rights chief, warned crimes against humanity had likely been committed.

© Daily Telegraph, London

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