UN Extends Direct Aid to Rebel-held Idlib Region in Syria, Bypassing Damascus
The United Nations has extended for an additional six months its cross-border humanitarian aid to the Idlib region in northwest Syria, an area that remains outside the control of Bashar Assad’s government. The aid is delivered through Bab al-Hawa Border Crossing on the Syria-Turkey border rather than going through official government channels via Damascus. Bab al-Hawa is the last remaining humanitarian border crossing of four that the Security Council set up in July 2014. Russia and China used their veto powers to close the other three crossings in order to strengthen Assad’s hold on the war-torn country. Russia also threatened to discontinue the aid that goes through Bab al-Hawa, but a last-minute compromise in the Security Council was reached in July of last year, allowing the UN to continue delivering humanitarian assistance via Bab al-Hawa at least until this month. Humanitarian advocates feared that Russia would now demand a new Security Council vote on the matter, and use the opportunity to withdraw its support for the aid operation, creating a humanitarian catastrophe for the region’s 3 million residents. But Russia instead allowed the mandate to be extended automatically for another six months. More than 1,000 trucks carrying food, medicine and other humanitarian items go through every month. “We need aid to be delivered through cross-border and through cross-line. Those are essential elements for us to meet the humanitarian needs of all Syrians,” UN spokesman Stéphane Dujarric told reporters during a news briefing on Monday.