Syria’s President Bashar Al-Assad has said that he will open two more border crossings to allow aid into Syria following two earthquakes that devastated parts of the country.
The two crossings, Bab Al-Salam and Al Ra’ee, will allow more aid to flow from Turkiye and into northwest Syria, initially for three months.
“Opening these crossing points – along with facilitating humanitarian access, accelerating visa approvals, and easing travel between hubs – will make aid go in faster,” said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
“As the toll of the 6 February earthquake continues to mount, delivering food, health nutrition, protection, shelter, winter supplies, and other life-saving supplies to all the millions of people affected is of the utmost urgency.”
The crossings were previously shut after Russia used its veto at the UN Security Council to force their closure in 2020.
All other aid was supposed to go via Damascus, but the government has allowed little into opposition-held territory.
Before the earthquake, the only crossing through which aid entered northwest Syria was Bab Al-Hawa. But even this was not operating in the initial aftermath of the quakes as the road leading to it was badly damaged by the earthquakes, exacerbated by heavy snowfall, which meant that trucks did not begin arriving until Thursday.
Residents say the aid arriving is nowhere near enough given the scale of the disaster that has left over five million people across the country homeless, and almost a million in need of hot food.
Groups of volunteers in each of the towns affected joined Syria’s Civil Defence teams to search for survivors but over a week after the earthquakes they have said they are winding down search and rescue operations and recovering bodies.
The death toll in northwest Syria and southern Turkiye is almost 40,000 including 5,714 in Syria, and more bodies are still being recovered, the UN has said it is likely to surpass 56,000.