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UN to Fly Aid to Syrian City Near Islamic State Area

  • Lisa Schlein

FILE - Displaced Syrians collect rations provided by the World Food Program in front of a distribution center in Damascus, Oct. 19, 2014.

FILE - Displaced Syrians collect rations provided by the World Food Program in front of a distribution center in Damascus, Oct. 19, 2014.

The U.N.’s World Food Program reports it soon will begin regular flights of food and other relief supplies from the Syrian capital, Damascus, to the northeastern city of Kamishly. The WFP says the air bridge service will be open for all humanitarian organizations operating within Syria.

The World Food Program reports its initial plan is to have 25 humanitarian flights over a one-month period. It says the planes will carry 1,000 tons of relief supplies and that 70 percent of the first loads will be food. The remaining 30 percent will consist of non-food items.

Humanitarian flights over one month

WFP spokeswoman Bettina Luescher says planes will take off from Damascus International Airport for Kamishly airport, which is under government control. “We will bring food in for 150,000 people and we will concentrate on food in the beginning because the food situation on the ground has been really dire,” she said.

FILE - Syrian men carry aid parcels provided by the UN World Food Programm (WFP) and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent in the rebel-held town of Al-Houla, on the northern outskirts of Homs in central Syria, on May 25, 2016.

FILE - Syrian men carry aid parcels provided by the UN World Food Programm (WFP) and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent in the rebel-held town of Al-Houla, on the northern outskirts of Homs in central Syria, on May 25, 2016.

Kamishly is on the border with Turkey and close to Iraq. It is under control of both the Syrian government and Kurdish forces, with the latter controlling the majority of the city.

Luescher says a number of international agencies, including the World Health Organization, U.N. refugee agency and International Committee of the Red Cross, are interested in ferrying desperately needed relief supplies to the inhabitants of Kamishly.

Islamic State blocking aid

She says it has not been possible to deliver aid by land to Hassakeh governorate, where Kamishly is located, since early 2014. The reason is that Islamic State, also known as ISIS, controls nearby Raqqa and Deir Ezzour governorates.

Raqqa, Syria

Raqqa, Syria

“As in all places, we would rather do this by land convoys … but because of the ISIS controlling in other areas and problems with getting across border points to the neighboring country, we are using the airlift option this time,” said Luescher.

As of June 23, Luescher says the WFP has provided food rations for 3.5 million people in 12 of Syria’s 14 governorates. She says the agency is aiming to reach a total of 4 million people with food aid in the next few weeks.

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