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Syrian regime strip Eastern Ghouta aid convoy of medical supplies

The aid arrived after fresh airstrikes hit besieged Eastern Ghouta. [Getty]

Date of publication: 5 March, 2018

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The Syrian regime has stolen urgently-needed medical equipment and drugs from an aid envoy due to reach the besieged opposition enclave of Eastern Ghouta.

An international aid convoy entered Syria's besieged Eastern Ghouta enclave on Monday stripped of critical medical supplies after the regime confiscated life-saving equipment and medicine.

The United Nations said 46 trucks had entered Eastern Ghouta and arrived in the main town of Douma, in the first aid delivery since the start of the regime assault last month. 

The Syrian regime had removed most medical material from the UN vehicles, preventing surgical kits, insulin, dialysis equipment and other supplies from reaching the enclave of 400,000 people, a World Health Organisation official said.

A UN official told Reuters that the Syrian regime had also scaled back a food convoy for 70,000 people to providing for 27,500.

The rest of the food will be allowed for the full 70,000 in a second convoy in three days.

The UN's Office for the Coordination of Human Affairs (OCHA) said "the UN and partners were informed that many of the planned health supplies intended for Douma were not allowed to be loaded and not permitted to be replaced with other life-saving items".

"The items included trauma kits and other life-saving supplies."

The aid arrived after fresh airstrikes hit besieged Eastern Ghouta and regime troops were reported to have retaken a third of the enclave in a rapidly advancing offensive.

An AFP reporter in Douma said warplanes were flying overhead and explosions from further bombardment on the enclave could be heard even as the aid was being unloaded.

At least 45 people have been killed in air strikes on the enclave of Eastern Ghouta Monday, including a barrel bomb attack that killed 19 people.

Western powers have piled pressure on Damascus and its Russian ally to end the offensive on Eastern Ghouta - one of the bloodiest assaults of Syria's nearly seven-year civil war - but President Bashar al-Assad warned there would be no let up.

More than two weeks of airstrikes, artillery and rocket fire on the last major rebel-held enclave near Damascus have left more than 700 civilians dead and three quarters of housing damaged in the area.

Regime troops and allied forces pushed into the enclave from the east in recent days and by early Monday had retaken a third of Eastern Ghouta, according to the Observatory.

Over the years, Eastern Ghouta's estimated 400,000 inhabitants have depended for their survival on smuggling, local farms and rare aid deliveries as they have been trapped in a regime siege. 

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