Syria Red Crescent delivers aid to encircled town; U.N. says sieges trap 487,000


Syria’s Red Crescent on Tuesday delivered aid to a town under government siege outside Damascus, aid workers and a monitor said.

“The Syrian Arab Red Crescent today entered Al-Tal, and delivered 14 trucks of aid provided by the International Committee of the Red Cross,” said ICRC spokesman Pawel Krzysiek.

He said the delivery included food and hygiene kits for some 3,500 families, as well as 25 metric tons of bulk food for a collective kitchen in the town.

Al-Tal, north of Damascus, is controlled by rebels, including al-Qaida affiliate Nusra Front, and has been under siege for five months, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor, which also reported the delivery.

The issue of sieges in Syria’s war has been a key sticking point at fresh talks being convened in Geneva on a political solution to the conflict.

The U.N. says some 486,700 people in Syria are living under sieges imposed by the government, rebels or the Islamic State group.

But a total of 4.6 million people live in “hard-to-reach” areas, including those under siege, where food and medicine are hard to come by.

Syria’s main opposition umbrella group has refused to begin new peace talks with the regime until U.N. Security Council resolutions calling for the lifting of sieges in Syria are implemented.

The issue has gained increasing prominence with reports of dozens of deaths from starvation in the town of Madaya, which is under government siege.