Syria conflict: UN steps up aid deliveries as truce holds

An aid convoy has reached a besieged suburb of the Syrian capital Damascus, as the UN takes advantage of a partial truce brokered by the US and Russia.The UN and its partners are stepping up deliveries of food, water and medicine, and plan to reach more than 150,000 people over the next five days.They hope to help 1.7 million in hard-to-reach areas by the end of March.

Earlier, the UN's secretary general said the cessation of hostilities had held "by and large" since Saturday.
Ban Ki-moon also said a taskforce monitoring compliance, co-chaired by the US and Russia, would meet for the first time to evaluate alleged violations.France has expressed concern about reports of air strikes by Syrian government and Russian aircraft on areas controlled by mainstream rebel forces."Let me make it crystal clear," he told a news conference in Washington. "There is no cessation of hostilities in the counter-ISIL [IS] campaign. Operations continue unabated."Sealed off'The relative calm on the ground around the capital Damascus allowed 20 aid lorries carrying blankets and hygiene supplies to enter the besieged rebel-held suburb of Muadhamiya on Monday afternoon, Syrian Arab Red Crescent officials said."The mission is ongoing to deliver another 21 trucks by midnight," said Muhannad al-Assadi of the Red Crescent.He said he had seen a change in the residents of Damascus since aid deliveries started."They told me they are very pleased with the items we're delivering to them. I saw women walking in the street, children playing in the street, a lot of children coming out of their schools with their teachers. I saw children eat. They're getting well because they are eating. Yes I saw some difference," he said.On Wednesday, the UN and its partners plan to deliver aid to the rebel-held towns of Madaya and Zabadani, in the mountains north-west of Damascus, and the government-controlled towns of Foah and Kefraya, in the northern province of Idlib.

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