Storm delays Iraq-Syria aid airlift again

December 14, 2013 - 3:18:12 am

A boy walks on snow as he holds a plastic gallon during snowfall in the Duma neighbourhood of Damascus yesterday. 

BAGHDAD: Severe weather has delayed the start of the first UN airlift of aid from Iraq to Syria for a second day, a spokesman said yesterday.

A powerful winter storm sweeping the eastern Mediterranean is causing mayhem across the region and inflicting extra hardships on Syrians convulsed in civil war and on refugees who have fled the fighting. 

The storm, Alexa, is expected to last until today, bringing more snow, rain and cold to Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel, the Palestinian territories and Egypt.

“Qamishli airport remains closed, but apparently weather conditions are improving,” said UN refugee agency (UNHCR) regional spokesman Peter Kessler, referring to the city in northeast Syria to which aid is to be flown.

“We hope to have word from authorities there, hopefully later today or tomorrow,” which “would then give us an idea when the airlift might start,” he said. The airlift, which has been given the go-ahead by the Syrian and Iraqi governments, was initially expected to begin on Thursday.

UNHCR plans to fly some 40 metric tonnes of aid into the area, which has become increasingly dangerous to reach, providing “core relief items for 10,000 families, or about 60,000 people,” Kessler said. The UN’s World Food Programme and Unicef were also to send aid into Syria via air.

UNHCR said it planned to spend $195m to help “winterise” Syria and the surrounding countries. It has begun distributing tents, plastic sheeting, warm clothing, especially for children and other vulnerable people, and cash for fuel.

The civil war between forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Al Assad and rebels seeking his overthrow has raged for 33 months and killed about 126,000 people. Kurdish-majority areas of the country’s northeast were quiet until clashes broke out this year between Kurds and jihadist rebels, pushing thousands of Syrian Kurds across the border into Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan region. Agencies

 

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