Only border crossing for UN aid from Turkey to Syria is hampered

UN officials say the only UN-approved crossing point between Syria and Turkey for transporting international aid to Syria is not functioning due to earthquake damage to roads surrounding it, complicating an already cumbersome response to the ongoing humanitarian crisis.

The crossing, known as Bab al-Hawa, has been the only link for UN aid to opposition-held areas in Syria for the past nine years during the country’s civil war.

Most aid to Syria goes through Damascus, the capital, which is in government-controlled territory. Because President Bashar al-Assad’s government has been able to tightly control aid destined for opposition-held areas, cross-border aid deliveries from Turkey have been a lifeline for opposition-held areas. opposition in the north.

Officials from the United Nations World Food Program said on Tuesday that the Bab al-Hawa crossing remained intact after Monday’s devastating earthquake, but was not in use because the roads leading to it had been damaged or closed. The agency said it was using stocks already in Syria to respond for now, but these will need to be replenished.

Without Bab al-Hawa, there is little chance of getting cross-border aid into northwest Syria, where the crossing is located, said Julien Barnes-Dacey, Middle East and Africa program director. of the North at the European Council on Foreign Relations.

“Even getting to Bab al-Hawa seems like a huge ordeal right now,” he added. “It’s not like the roads are working to Syria from Turkey.”

In the hours following the earthquake, aid groups in northwest Syria were able to distribute some of the aid, as many maintain warehouses full of supplies in anticipation of potential disasters or disasters. massive displacements, previously due to war.

Given the devastation in Syria and Turkey, there was confusion among aid groups and others about the exact condition of the crossing and what help, if any, could have been provided. .

Bab al-Hawa’s administration said in a social media statement on Tuesday that the crossing “remains open to humanitarian aid and movements for anyone who wants to help our afflicted people.” But even though it was technically open, it appeared to be out of service due to damage to surrounding areas.

“Everything in this area has been doomed,” said Monzer al-Salal, executive director of the Stabilization Support Unit, an aid group that works on public service and governance in IS-held areas. opposition from northwest Syria.

Aid groups are also using three other crossing points between Turkey and northern Syria to deliver aid. But while Syrian aid groups said those crossings were open, they said they had not heard of any United Nations or other aid reaching Syria through any of them. of these crossing points since the earthquake. Some aid workers had used other crossings to enter Syria and assess the damage, but not to deliver aid, according to al-Salal.

Some countries friendly to the Syrian government sent aid directly to Damascus. Iran sent a plane to Damascus on Monday evening with 70 tonnes of food, tents and medicine, with more expected to arrive in Aleppo and Latakia on Tuesday, according to Iranian state media and the Syrian Red Crescent.

The extensive destruction wrought by the earthquake in Turkey is also hampering the flow of aid to Syria, given that much of it would typically come from Turkey.

“You have injured Syrians on both sides of the border,” al-Salal said, referring to the millions of Syrian refugees living in Turkey, many of them in the south near the border. “Most aid workers themselves have their own crises.”

Earlier on Tuesday, he said he saw messages people were sending in Gaziantep asking anyone with water tanks, shovels and saws to help work through the rubble in the Turkish city. “Yesterday I was inviting the aid groups to have a meeting to coordinate, but that didn’t happen,” he said. “Everyone is still busy trying to lift the rubble.”

Aid efforts to opposition-held areas have also met with resistance outside the country. In recent years at the United Nations, Russia, a close ally of Mr. Assad, has tried to block Turkish aid to opposition areas of Syria.

Addressing the United Nations on Monday, Bassam al-Sabbagh, the Syrian government representative, called for the lifting of Western sanctions against Syria, saying they were blocking aid and suggesting that aid should instead go through by the Damascus government.

Ned Price, spokesman for the US State Department, said on Monday that the United States was committed to doing what it could to meet the humanitarian needs of the Syrian people.

Hwaida Saad contributed report.

nytimes Eur

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