First aid in Syrian rebel areas via a second border

First aid in Syrian rebel areas via a second border post

A UN aid convoy entered rebel-held areas of northern Syria through the Bab al-Salama border crossing on Tuesday for the first time since 2020, an AFP journalist reported.

• Also read: Deadly earthquake: “The biggest natural disaster in a century” for Europe

• Also read: Earthquake in Turkey and Syria: death toll rises to 35,000

• Also read: Miraculous rescues a week after earthquakes in Turkey and Syria

The convoy consists of 11 humanitarian aid trucks from the International Organization for Migration (IOM), a spokesman for that UN organization told AFP in Geneva.

This aid is part of the emergency response to the February 6 earthquake, which had its epicenter in Turkey and killed more than 35,000 people, including more than 3,600 in Syria.

The trucks are carrying tents, mattresses, blankets and carpets, among other things, IOM spokesman Paul Dillon told AFP.

Bab al-Salama links Turkey to areas in northern Aleppo province controlled by pro-Turkish Syrian factions and home to 1.1 million people.

“This is a very good initiative by the UN,” hailed Abdel Rahman Moustafa, head of the “Provisional Government” of the pro-Turkish Syrian opposition, which administers these areas.

So far, aid has only come in through the Bab al-Hawa border post, which connects Turkey to the jihadist-held region of Idlib (northeast), which is home to more than three million people.

The Bab al-Salama border crossing was closed in 2020 under pressure from Russia, an ally of Damascus, for United Nations humanitarian aid.

After the earthquake, NGOs and opposition figures criticized the slow arrival of UN aid in the rebel areas, where the population was already living in difficult conditions before the tragedy.

“The UN’s cross-border aid is a lifeline,” Martin Griffiths, the UN’s under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs, said on Twitter on Tuesday.

He also added that “26 UN aid trucks” passed through Bab al-Hawa.

On Monday, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres announced that humanitarian aid would pass through the Bab al-Salama and al-Rai crossings further east to facilitate the delivery of relief supplies to disaster areas.

The opening of the two new border crossings “will allow more aid to enter faster,” Mr Guterres said.