‘We delivered as much as we could amidst shelling’

A United Nations aid convoy of 46 trucks made its way into the war-torn rebel-held enclave of Eastern Ghouta to deliver some much-needed relief to the Syrians pinned down in the region.

Unfortunately, according to the UN refugee agency UNHCR, after spending nine hours in the main city of Douma, the convoy had to cut short its mission because of the ongoing air and ground assault.

As a result, 10 of the trucks were unable to be unloaded of their supplies, and another four were only partially emptied.

The UNHCR’s Syria representative Sajjad Malik tweeted late on Monday that “we delivered as much as we could amidst shelling”.

“Civilians are caught in a tragic situation.”

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) confirmed this, saying the situation was too dangerous to allow the team to continue at that time.

“The team is safe, but given the security situation a decision was taken to go back for now. They off-loaded as much as possible given the current situation on the ground,” spokeswoman Iolanda Jaquemet said.

Linda Tom, spokesperson for the UN’s humanitarian coordination office OCHA in Syria, told AFP the air strikes continued during the convoy’s deployment, “including on Douma city while the convoy was offloading”.

On top of pressing on with the assault, the Syrian government ordered 70% of medical supplies to be stripped out of the convoy, preventing trauma kits, surgical kits, insulin and other vital material from reaching the area, according to a World Health Organisation official.

The ICRC confirmed some medical equipment had been blocked but didn’t elaborate.

The Syrian Red Crescent said food parcels were delivered to 27,500 people in Douma, along with health items for more than 70,000 people.

“The convoy is a positive first step and will lessen the immediate suffering of some civilians in the Eastern Ghouta region,” said Robert Maridni, Middle East Director of the ICRC.

“But one convoy, however big, will never be enough given the dire conditions and shortages people are facing. Repeated and continuous humanitarian access is essential and more must be granted in the coming period.”

The five-hour daily cease-fire ordered by Russia as a compromise to the UN’s desired 30-day truce, hasn’t been honoured, and at least 68 more civilians were killed on Monday as the Russia-backed government forces continue their offensive.

According to the latest toll released by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, 775 civilians have been killed since the assault began, including at least 173 children.

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