Beirut: The Syrian government allowed supplies to enter two contested front-line areas near the capital, a relief official said today. Activists said the death toll from two weeks of infighting in the north between rebel forces and an al-Qaida-linked group climbed to more than 1,000 people.
The head of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, Khaled Iriqsousi, told that enough supplies to feed 10,000 people for a month entered the Damascus suburbs of al-Ghezlaniya and Jdaidet al-Shibani today. The areas are east and west of the capital of a region known as Ghouta.
The government`s decision to permit the supplies to enter appeared to be a goodwill gesture on its part as well as an attempt to present itself as a responsible partner ahead of a peace conference scheduled to open next week in Switzerland.
It was not clear whether the move was part of arrangement agreed to by Damascus and the main Western-backed opposition group, the Syrian National Coalition, to allow humanitarian aid into some blocked-off areas.
That agreement was announced in Paris by US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who together are working to ease the bloody strife that has engulfed Syria since an uprising there began nearly three years ago. A peace conference is scheduled to be held in Switzerland next week.
Earlier today, United Nations Resident Coordinator Tareq al-Kurdi said UN organisations operating in Syria would start delivering urgent humanitarian aid to al-Ghezlaniya and Jdaidet al-Shibani.
Iriqsousi said 30 trucks carrying 2,000 boxes of food entered the two areas without incident. He said each box is about 40 kilograms and includes items like rice, lentils, baby formula, blankets and detergents.
"This is the first time we have reached this area. It is considered one of the entrances of Ghouta," Iriqsousi said by telephone from Syria. "We hope that this will be the beginning for wider supply efforts."
One of the areas hardest hit by food shortages in Syria is the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk, where residents say 46 people have died since October of starvation, illnesses exacerbated by hunger or because they couldn`t obtain medical aid.
Iriqsousi said three recent attempts to enter the camp did not succeed.
"We tried from all roads and the response was bullets," he said, suggesting that profiteers might be responsible since they are benefiting from high food prices.