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HRW: Syrian Government Hindering Aid Deliveries

FILE - Men unload aid boxes from a Red Crescent aid convoy in the rebel held besieged town of Jesreen, in the eastern Damascus suburb of Ghouta, Syria, March 7, 2016.

Human Rights Watch said Monday the Syrian government has not lived up to commitments to allow unhindered humanitarian deliveries to besieged areas where the United Nations says hundreds of thousands of people are badly in need of aid.

HRW highlighted Daraya and Eastern Ghouta, saying Syria has not given aid groups permission to make deliveries. It insisted the government immediately allow aid into besieged areas and criticized U.N.-reported instances of medical aid being removed from those convoys that have been allowed in.

"The Syrian government cannot justify its ongoing starvation tactic of areas around Damascus or its removal of basic medicines from aid convoys," said HRW Middle East Director Nadim Houry.

Increased access for aid groups and a cessation of hostilities that went into effect five weeks ago have been greeted as cautious signs of progress alongside renewed U.N.-brokered peace talks to try to end the five-year-old conflict in Syria.

The cease-fire does not apply to fighting militant groups like Islamic State or the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said an airstrike Sunday killed Nusra spokesman Abu Firas al-Souri and at least 20 other militants in northern Syria. The Observatory said Syrian or Russian planes were believed to be responsible for the strike.