UN Begins Food Delivery to Besieged Homs District

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Al-Akhbar Management

Published Friday, January 16, 2015

UN aid workers have begun delivering food to tens of thousands of people trapped in a besieged district of Homs city in Syria following negotiations with the parties at war, officials said on Friday.

In the absence of a nationwide peace deal, relief groups have tried to get localized agreements with fighters on all sides of the conflict to get convoys through to people in battle zones.

The UN peace envoy to Syria, Staffan de Mistura, has said he wants to start focusing on brokering "freeze zones," or local truces, in the northern city of Aleppo rather than pushing for a peace plan for the whole country.

"This is why we have put on the table the proposal of a freeze of heavy fighting in Aleppo, and eventually the return for a united, reconstructed Syrian city as it used to be because it is a symbolic microcosm of all of Syria," de Mistura told a news briefing in Geneva on Thursday, saying that Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) jihadist forces were "only 20 miles away from Aleppo."

However, de Mistura’s proposal for Aleppo has remained an “initiative project.” The battlefronts in Syria’s economic capital and its countryside have prevented any discussion of halting the fighting.

The United Nations did not give details of the Homs agreement, but local opposition activists told Reuters there was a temporary ceasefire.

Food was sent to the Homs district of al-Wa'er Thursday, Elisabeth Byrs, a spokeswoman for the UN's World Food Program (WFP), told journalists in Geneva.

"Following extensive negotiations between parties to the conflict, a first convoy carrying 8,500 family food rations were delivered to the besieged area of al-Wa'er," enough food for about 42,500 people for one month, Byrs said.

Two more convoys over the coming days will deliver food to 75,000 people, she added, 30 percent of the estimated quarter of a million people the United Nations says are trapped in besieged areas across Syria.

A UN official in Geneva said that the WFP rations were aboard an 18-truck convoy that also delivered some medical supplies and non-food items from other UN agencies

Al-Wa'er has witnessed an intensification of shelling and heavy clashes which prevented all access for humanitarian deliveries, WFP said in a statement.

Al-Wa'er has been cut off for nearly two years by government forces, opposition activists say. However, Syrian state media claimed last month that aid was delivered to al-Wa'er "almost every month."

Nearly 10 million people have been displaced by Syria's violence, which started with pro-democracy protests before growing into an armed revolt, attracting extremists from all over the world. More than 3 million refugees have fled the country, and the conflict has killed close to 200,000 people, according to the UN.

(Reuters, Al-Akhbar)

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