Syria’s Idlib province (Photo credit: News Unrolled)
A UN spokesperson told Reuters on 12 February that humanitarian aid from government territory to the opposition-held north has been held up, as the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) extremist group is refusing to grant approval for the aid’s entry.
“There are issues with approval [from HTS],” the spokesperson said without elaborating further.
The UN spokesperson in Damascus has declined a request for comment, but said that the UN “continues to work with relevant parties to have access to the area.”
An HTS source was quoted by Reuters to have said that the armed group will not permit any deliveries from the areas under Damascus’ control, and that aid will be coming from the northern border with Turkiye.
“Turkiye has opened all the roads and we won’t allow the regime to take advantage of the situation to show they are helping,” the HTS source said. This is despite the fact that a much-needed aid convoy for the heavily affected areas of north and northwest Syria is currently awaiting approval to enter the northern Idlib governorate through the Saraqib border crossing.
On Saturday, the UN office in Damascus reportedly asked the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) to postpone the aid delivery to Idlib, which was scheduled for the following day. SARC is reportedly waiting to coordinate the aid delivery with the UN, and sources told Al-Mayadeen on 11 February that “if international organizations are late, Syria will not hesitate to deliver this aid by itself to help the disaster-stricken people.”
Thaer Salhab, the governor of Idlib, had said on 10 February following Damascus’ approval of aid to opposition-held territory that the government is ready deliver all necessary aid to the militant stronghold, but that HTS was preventing this from happening.
“The Syrian state is ready to provide the necessary assistance to Idlib, but the militants and their collaborators prevent this,” he said. Salhab confirmed that the government has declared a responsibility to assist all Syrian citizens, regardless of whether or not they reside in its territory.
“We, as the Syrian state, are ready – with the help of the International Red Cross and the Syrian Red Crescent – to deliver aid to the affected areas in the north, and to ensure that this aid reaches the people safely,” the Idlib governor added.
According to the sources quoted by Al-Mayadeen, the UAE had been attempting over the past two days to mediate between the government and the Idlib-based militants so that aid could make its way through. The news agency reported that HTS had finally approved the aid’s entry after continuous refusal.
The former Al-Qaeda branch is holding up the aid delivery in an attempt to politicize the 6 February disaster that struck Syria and Turkiye.
“The armed groups want to garner international support for themselves alone under the pretext that the Syrian government does not allow aid to make it into their areas,” Al-Mayadeen’s sources said.