Shaky Truce Holds in Syria But Aid Still Desperately Needed
iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — A shaky truce appeared to be holding in Syria Tuesday — nearly one day after a ceasefire brokered by Russia and the U.S. went into effect — but critical aid still waited to to be brought to millions of people trapped in deadly conflict zones.
“The majority of Syrian provinces have witnessed silence,” in the first night of the temporary truce that went into effect on Monday at sundown, the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Tuesday.
Cities and towns that have been lit up by heavy gunfire and bombardments in recent weeks experienced their first night of widespread calm. Aleppo, Damascus, Reef Dimashq, Idlib, Dará, Quneitra and Homs all saw a cessation of major fighting, the Observatory said.
But even as fighters on both sides observe a pause in the hostility, millions of civilians across the country face a dire humanitarian emergency, aid groups say.
More than 13 million people require humanitarian assistance of some kind across Syria.
Some 6 million people have been forced from their homes inside Syria’s borders, nearly one million of whom have been uprooted in the past six months alone. During a span of just eight days ending earlier this month, more than 100,000 people were forced to flee intense violence in the central city of Hama. Many of these people need shelter, food and medical care.
Of particular concern are the nearly 600,000 Syrians the United Nations estimates are living in besieged areas, cut off from regular access to basic necessities and living with the daily threat of deadly violence.
Up to 275,000 people in eastern Aleppo City have been almost entirely cut off from vital supplies, including food, water, medicine and electricity for over a month, the UN says.
“The nationwide ceasefire must allow lifesaving aid to finally reach the over 600,000 people trapped in besieged areas, and provide the space to resume regular deliveries of humanitarian assistance to the over 13.5 million people in need of aid inside Syria, including 6 million children,” the International Rescue Committee said in a statement.
In remarks in Washington, D.C. on Monday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called the ability to deliver aid into the city of Aleppo “literally the difference between life and death for tens of thousands of people.”
Kerry said the cease-fire appeared to be holding and that aid groups were moving forward on their plans.
“Humanitarian assistance needs to begin to flow,” Kerry said. “Now, that can take a day or two or so. It depends. But the UN has indicated that they are prepared and preparing to take those deliveries in. And it is important — and a very important part of this equation — that access to humanitarian goods takes place.”
According to the agreement reached last week, the U.S. will move forward with military cooperation with Russia after certain conditions are met, including seven consecutive days of “humanitarian access,” Kerry said.
Some 400,000 to 500,000 people have died so far in Syria’s five-year-old civil war, according to the most recent estimates.
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