UN must keep moving quake aid to Syria after deadline: Amnesty

AFP , Friday 12 May 2023

Amnesty International on Friday called on the United Nations to keep delivering crucial aid to quake-stricken Syrians via two crossings in rebel-held areas even if authorisation from Damascus expires.

Antakya, Turkey
Members of a family keep warm next to a fire as they follow a rescue team searching for their relatives in a destroyed building in Antakya, southern Turkey, Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2023. AP


On February 6, a devastating earthquake hit Turkey and Syria, killing more than 55,000 people across both countries.

The UN chief said on February 13 that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had agreed to open the Bab al-Salama and Al-Rai crossings from Turkey to allow aid to enter for an initial period of three months.

Damascus has yet to announce an extension of the authorisation.

The UN "must continue to deliver aid" through those two crossings after May 13 "regardless of whether the government renews" its consent, Amnesty said in a statement.

Before the disaster, almost all crucial humanitarian aid for the more than four million people living in rebel-controlled areas of north and northwest Syria was being delivered from Turkey through one conduit -- the Bab al-Hawa crossing.

The number of UN-approved crossings into Syria had shrunk from four in 2014, after years of pressure from regime allies China and Russia at the UN Security Council.

Three days after the quake, the first UN aid convoy crossed into north and northwest Syria and carried tents and other supplies that had been expected before the disaster, sparking fierce criticism from local humanitarian groups and activists.

"The lives of more than four million people are at stake and international law is clear that their rights must be paramount," Amnesty's Sherine Tadros said in the statement.

"The UN should take a clear stand against the cruel political machinations that have hampered its humanitarian operations in northern Syria for several years," Tadros added.

Turkish-backed rebels operate the Bab al-Salama and Al-Rai crossings in the northern Aleppo province, while the jihadist group Hayat Tahrir al-Sham controls Bab al-Hawa in the Idlib region.

The UN estimated earlier this week that Syria needs almost $15 billion to recover following the quake, and put total damages and losses for the country at almost $9 billion.

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