Syria: Aid convoy enters besieged Eastern Ghouta

Syria: Aid convoy enters besieged Eastern Ghouta
From Al Jazeera - March 5, 2018

A 46-truck convoy carrying humanitarian aid has begun entering Eastern Ghouta through the government-controlled Wafideen checkpoint for the first time in nearly a month.

"At last... A convoy ... carrying desperately-needed aid for tens of thousands is on its way to Eastern Ghouta, Syria," Robert Mardini, the head of the Middle East operations for the International Committee of the Red Cross, said in atweeton Monday.

The convoy includes surgical and medical items, as well as 5,500 food and flour bags enough for 27,500 people, a spokeswoman from the ICRC said.

Ali al-Za'tari, a senior United Nations official with the convoy, told Reuters news agency that it would take "many hours" to offload the aid in the rebel-held enclave and that it might be "well after nightfall" before it could leave eastern Ghouta.

More than 700 civilians have been killed duringan aerial offensive that began on February 18. The area, home to 400,000 people, has been under siege by the government ever since armed opposition groups took control in mid-2013.

A30-day ceasefireunanimously voted for by the members of the United Nations Security Council on February 24 has largely failed to hold.

Residents of Eastern Ghouta,which lies to the east of Damascus and was known as the breadbasket of the capital,have previously voiced theirscepticismof a Russian-proposed "five-hour daily humanitarian pause" that began last Tuesday.

These pauses would supposedly create "humanitarian corridors" to allow the evacuation of those seeking medical treatment and the entry of aid convoys, but air strikes have continued to target civilians and residential areas.

Earlier, state government media, Sana, accused "terrorist groups" of stopping civilians from evacuating Eastern Ghouta through Wafideen for the seventh day in a row.

"The terrorist groups in Ghouta are still preventing civilians from leaving, even with ambulances and transport buses waiting on the other side of the safe corridors," Sana said.

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