GENEVA (Reuters) - Syria has given the United Nations permission to get aid to the Kurdish-dominated city of Qamishli by truck, the organisation said on Wednesday, relieving the strain on a base supporting thousands displaced by the war with Islamic State.
Although Qamishli lies on the Turkish border, the crossing is closed and the U.N. aid effort in northeastern Syria has relied on airlifts from Damascus to Qamishli since July 2016.
These flights are running at full capacity, twice a day, six days a week and between mid-March and the end of May, the U.N. World Food Programme used them to provide food for over 172,000 people in the provinces of Raqqa, Deir al-Zor and Hassakeh.
But Syria’s government told the U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator and the World Food Programme (WFP) on June 8 that they had approval to send humanitarian aid by road from Aleppo to Qamishli, the U.N. humanitarian report said.
“Once the road is deemed safe, (it) will be open for transport of all U.N.-provided food and non-food items.”
The U.N. humanitarian office said last week that although an estimated 95,000 people had fled Raqqa city, Islamic State’s base in Syria, between 50,000 and 100,000 remained inside.
“Despite reported attempts by ISIL (Islamic State) to prevent civilians from fleeing the city, an estimated 10,000 residents of Ar-Raqqa city have managed to leave the city since 6 June via the river, damaged bridges and land routes,” it said.
The U.N. assumes that 440,000 people may need humanitarian aid as a result of the Raqqa offensive.
WFP also said on Wednesday that it had delivered food to seven hard-to-reach areas in Raqqa and Deir al-Zor provinces, where regular aid deliveries have been blocked by conflict and sieges for more than three years.
Editing by Alexander Smith