Quake-ravaged Syria to open more border crossings for foreign aid delivery
The central government of war-torn Syria has finally agreed to open two more border crossings to allow urgently required humanitarian aid into the country devastated by last week’s powerful earthquakes, the UN says.
More than 36,000 people are now known to have been killed by the February 6 tremor, including over 31,000 in Turkey and at least 5,700 in Syria.
While neighbouring Turkey has reportedly received aid from over a hundred countries and relief organisations, Syria – which has largely been isolated by the international community – has received much less support.
Moreover, entities still willing to lend a helping hand have to deal with President Bashar al-Assad’s government’s strict restrictions on aid delivery, especially to rebel-held areas in northern Syria.
Aid had also been slow to reach these areas as until the government gave a green light to open more border crossings, foreign aid delivery to these devastated parts was made only through the Bab al-Hawa Border Crossing on the Syria-Turkey border.
Scores of Syrians have expressed fury over the lack of support. While the central government has blamed difficulties in rescue efforts on the impact of Western sanctions, international aid organisations say the key hindrances are the government’s mismanagement and refusal to engage with all areas.
The two new border crossings – in Bab al-Salam and Al Ra’ee on the border with Turkey – are expected to make a big difference. The UN made the announcement after high-level talks with the Syrian president in Damascus on Monday. The crossings would initially be open for three months, although it isn’t clear when they would open.
In the first few days following the earthquake, some relief supplies were delivered to the government-controlled areas of the country, primarily from friendly countries like Iran, Russia, and the UAE. But the north-western rebel-controlled areas, which appear to have faced the brunt of the disaster, remain virtually cut off.