Syria Civil War: Aid trucks reach Ghouta but government blocks some medical supplies

Syria Civil War: Aid trucks reach Ghouta but government blocks some medical supplies
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Damascus: Aid trucks reached Syria’s eastern Ghouta region on Monday for the first time since the start of one of the war’s deadliest assaults, but the government stripped some medical supplies from the convoy and pressed on with its air and ground assault.
The Russian-backed Syrian army has captured more than a third of the eastern Ghouta in recent days, threatening to slice the last major rebel-held area near the capital in two, despite Western accusations of violating a ceasefire.
The United Nations says 400,000 people are trapped inside the besieged enclave, and were already running out of food and medical supplies before the assault began with intense air strikes two weeks ago.
A senior UN official accompanying the convoy said he was “not happy” to hear loud shelling near the crossing point into eastern Ghouta despite an agreement that the aid would be delivered in safety.
“We need to be assured that we will be able to deliver the humanitarian assistance under good conditions,” Ali al-Za’tari told Reuters at the crossing point.
A World Health Organization official said the government had ordered 70% of medical supplies to be stripped out of the convoy, preventing trauma kits, surgical kits, insulin and other vital material from reaching the area.
The International Committee of the Red Cross confirmed some medical equipment had been blocked but gave no details.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said strikes targeted front lines near the town of Harasta and the villages of Beit Sawa and Hosh al-Ashari. The Observatory said 45 people were killed and 190 injured on Monday.
A military media unit run by the government’s ally Hezbollah reported that the Syrian army had taken the village of al-Mohammadiyeh, located on the southeastern corner of the enclave.
President Bashar al-Assad vowed on Sunday to continue the military push into eastern Ghouta, a densely populated area of farmland and towns just outside Damascus which government forces have encircled since 2013.
Many civilian residents have fled from the frontlines into the town of Douma, a resident said on Sunday.
Assad and his allies regard the rebel groups that hold eastern Ghouta as terrorists, and say a UN Security Council resolution demanding a country-wide ceasefire does not apply to operations against them.
A week ago Russia unilaterally announced five-hour daily pauses in the fighting, but clashes have continued during those hours and Western countries dismissed it as inadequate.
PATTERN
The fighting in eastern Ghouta follows a pattern used in other areas recaptured by the government since Russia entered the war on Assad’s side in 2015, with sieges, bombardment and ground offensives combined with an offer to let civilians and fighters who surrender escape through “humanitarian corridors”.