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Syria conflict: UN steps up aid deliveries as truce holds

February 29, 2016 5:10 pm

An aid convoy has reached one of several besieged towns in Syria, as the UN takes advantage of a partial truce brokered by the US and Russia.

The UN and its partners are stepping up deliveries of food, water and medicine, and plan to reach more than 150,000 people over the next five days.

They hope to help 1.7 million in hard-to-reach areas by the end of March.
Earlier, the UN’s secretary general said the cessation of hostilities had held “by and large” since Saturday.

Ban Ki-moon also said a taskforce monitoring compliance, co-chaired by the US and Russia, would meet for the first time to evaluate alleged violations.

France has expressed concern about reports of air strikes by Syrian government and Russian aircraft on areas controlled by mainstream rebel forces.

Russia has said that it is only targeting UN-designated jihadist terrorist organisations – including the so-called Islamic State (IS) and the al-Nusra Front, which is part of a major rebel alliance – in line with the terms of the cessation of hostilities.

Meanwhile US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter stressed that the US-led coalition would also continue to fight IS during the truce.

“Let me make it crystal clear,” he told a news conference in Washington. “There is no cessation of hostilities in the counter-ISIL [IS] campaign. Operations continue unabated.”

The relative calm on the ground around the capital Damascus allowed 10 aid lorries carrying blankets and hygiene supplies to entered the suburb of Muadhamiya on Monday afternoon, Syrian Arab Red Crescent officials said.

On Wednesday, the UN and its partners plan to deliver aid to the rebel-held towns of Madaya and Zabadani, in the mountains north-west of Damascus, and the government-controlled towns of Foah and Kefraya, in the northern province of Idlib.