The second convoy of aid organized by the ICRC has arrived in the Syrian town of Madaya with hopes for another convoy within the next few days. The UN Security Council is preparing to meet to demand the sieges be lifted.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) held talks with the Syrian government, various armed groups and regional powers for nearly four months to gain permission to take in aid convoys to three besieged towns this week.
Six trucks, organized jointly by the ICRC, the Syrian Arab Red Crescent and the United Nations, brought wheat flour, medicine, nutritional material, blankets, hygiene supplies and clothing into Madaya, according to Pawel Krzysiek, the ICRC’s spokesman in Syria.
The town of Madaya, north-west of Damascus and near the border with Lebanon, has been under siege by fighters loyal to the Syrian government for five months.
Also on Thursday, three trucks with aid supplies went into the villages of Foua and Kefraya in northern Syria. The villages have been besieged by rebels fighting to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
"There is possibly now a window of opportunity based on this positive development to make a significant step forward (...) in terms of lifting these sieges and stop with these medieval tactics of besieging towns and villages, and depriving people of humanitarian assistance," Dominik Stillhart, director of operations at the ICRC, said on Thursday. Another convoy is expected to be sent to the town of Zabadani, close to the border with Lebanon, in the next few days, according to the UN.
Emergency UN Security Council meeting
France, Britain and the United States on Thursday requested an emergency UN Security Council meeting to demand the lifting of sieges in Syria and to allow aid deliveries to civilians facing starvation.
French Ambassador to the UN Francois Delattre said the meeting was due to be held on Friday. It "will draw the world's attention to the humanitarian tragedy that is unfolding in Madaya and other towns in Syria," he said.
Also on Thursday, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon spoke out against the use of starvation as a weapon in the Syrian war: "Let me be clear: the use of starvation as a weapon of war is a war crime," Ban told reporters.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, speaking in Qatar, said that those responsible should be prosecuted. "We condemn any such action," Zeid said after a conference on human rights. "Starving citizens is a war crime under the international humanitarian law. Of course, any such action deserves to be condemned, whether it is Madaya or Idlib.
The Commissioner continued: "Should there be prosecutions? Of course, that should be the case. At the very least there should be accountability for these crimes."
jm/jil (Reuters, AFP)