Thirty-five trucks carrying humanitarian aid in accordance with the terms of a United Nations-brokered six-month ceasefire reached tens of thousands of displaced residents in the regime-encircled Outer Damascus towns of Zabadani and Madaya earlier this week.
The delivery coincided with the arrival of aid in two rebel-encircled Idlib towns also covered by the ceasefirereached in Turkey late last month between the Victory Army coalition in Idlib and an Iranian delegation negotiating on behalf of regime forces. The agreement stipulates the delivery of humanitarian aid to all three towns, in addition to the evacuation of the wounded, fighters and civilians.
While aid trucks driving in to an exhausted town make for a good photo op, the reality is that the parcels distributed to families do not cover more than a week of basic commodities. The convoy that arrived in Zabadani provided enough “only for two or three days,” Abu Nidal al-Suri, director of the Zabadani field hospital who helped distribute the aid, tells Ghalia Muhkalalati. There are no plans for future shipments.
Q: You said previously that the aid is only enough for two-thirds of the displaced. What did the parcels contain, and how were recipients chosen?
The aid contained canned goods like beans as well as rice, sugar, chickpeas and some grains.
It was distributed on a priority basis, first to civilians, then to the wounded and after that to fighters.
One of 35 trucks carrying humanitarian aid that arrived in Zabadani on Sunday. Photo courtesy of Abu Nidal al-Suri.
Q: Is the aid sufficient to meet the needs of the displaced?
After a 110-day blockade [since regime and allied forces began their campaign in July], it is only enough for two or three days.
Representatives from the UN, the Red Crescent and the Red Cross accompanied the aid when it was delivered. We spoke with them about the tragic situation of the civilians, the lack of baby formula and flour [in the aid box], the subject of withdrawing the wounded as well as the need for a solution to the crisis and to break the regime siege on Madaya.
The representatives responded that they would pass along our requests but said that they were bound by the terms of the agreement between the Victory Army and Iran and that they only have the power to implement its terms.
Q: What about the other terms of the ceasefire, including evacuating Zabadani’swounded to Idlib?
As for moving the wounded, only two critically injured peoplehave been transported so far. A new difficulty has been presented by the current Russian intervention and bombings.
Negotiations between Iran and the Victory Army are ongoing to change the route of evacuation because of the current battles and Russian bombing [in Idlib and Hama].
[Ed.: Between 100 and 250 wounded rebel fighters from Zabadani were meant to be transported 375 kilometers north across the Hama countryside to rebel-held Idlib province.]