GENEVA (Reuters) - The United Nations appealed to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and rebel groups on Thursday to allow aid convoys to enter eastern Aleppo as U.N. relief operations in Syria resumed after a 48-hour suspension due to a deadly attack.
U.N. trucks loaded with food, medical and other supplies for 35,000 people arrived in the rebel-held besieged Damascus suburb of Mouadamiya, U.N. spokesman Jens Laerke said. The U.N hopes to send others to besieged areas in Idlib and near the Lebanese border in coming days.
The world body suspended land deliveries after a 31-truck convoy was attacked on Monday night at Urem al-Kubra in western Aleppo. The Syrian Arab Red Crescent says a staff member and around 20 civilians were killed and a warehouse destroyed.
“Forty trucks are sitting at the Turkish-Syrian border, the food will be expiring on Monday. The drivers are sleeping at the border, and they have done that now for a week,” U.N. humanitarian adviser Jan Egeland told reporters.
“So please, President Assad, do your bit to enable us get to eastern Aleppo and also the other besieged areas. We also have to get assurances in the east Aleppo case from the armed opposition groups to enter,” he said of the divided northern city.
U.S. officials believe Russian aircraft were responsible for the strike, but Moscow has denied involvement and the Russian Defense Ministry said on Wednesday a U.S. Predator drone was in the area when the convoy was attacked.
“The devastating sustained attack at our convoy at Big Urem outside Aleppo this Monday is the worst attack ever sustained on a cross-line, cross-border convoy,” Egeland said on Thursday.
The attack left a “tremendous cloud” over the whole system for obtaining authorizations from all warring sides “that is the pre-condition for a lifeline to millions of people”, he added.
Mouadamiya was “a very important town where people have been suffering for very long and where they feel squeezed by all armed actors.”
Egeland said the United Nations also hoped to deliver aid to rebel-besieged towns of Foua and Kufreya in Idlib and government-blockaded Madaya and Zabadani near the Lebanese border within days.
“Madaya is a place where people have been starving and where there was a meningitis epidemic. We’re loading, we hope to go soon,” he said. “We need a re-boot, we need a re-start for security assurances, guarantees for the humanitarian lifeline.”
additional reporting by Marina Depetris; Writing by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Toby Chopra and Peter Graff