First aid convoy since 2012 enters long-besieged Syrian town

A long-awaited humanitarian aid convoy entered the Damascus suburb of Daraya, under siege from government forces since 2012, as an international deadline for the provision of relief to besieged areas of Syria expired.

The International Committee of the Red Cross tweeted that the convoy had entered Daraya, almost three weeks after an earlier convoy was turned back by government forces.

The siege of Daraya, where the United Nations estimates some 4,000 to 8,000 residents remain, has angered the Syrian opposition which cited it as one of the reasons for suspending its participation in peace talks in Geneva last month.

The United States, Syrian government ally Russia, and other countries jointly announced this month that if humanitarian aid was denied to besieged areas starting from June 1, the UN's World Food Programme (WFP) would be called on to carry out air drops.

The WFP has previously airdropped aid to government-held areas in the eastern city of Deir al-Zour that are under siege from Islamic State jihadists, but not to areas besieged by government forces.

The supplies brought into Daraya contained medicines, vaccines, nutrition items for children and baby milk, an official with the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs told dpa.

Local activists have been calling for food aid as well for local residents. The official said that the UN was seeking approval for a second convoy to contain food supplies.

Russia, which provides key military and diplomatic backing to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, earlier announced a 48-hour ceasefire in Daraya.

Moscow initiated the ceasefire to provide humanitarian aid to residents in the area, Sergei Kuralenko, head of Russia's centre for promoting peace in Syria, said, according to state news agency TASS.

The ceasefire went into effect at 00:01 Wednesday (22:01 GMT Tuesday) and had been agreed to with the governments of Syria and the United States, Kuralenko said.

Last update: Wed, 01/06/2016 - 17:38
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