Aid convoy to Syria's besieged Daraya refused entry

DAMASCUS, SYRIA- An aid convoy was refused entry to Syria's Daraya Thursday, the Red Cross said, dashing hopes for the first such delivery since regime forces began a siege of the rebel-held town in 2012.
Further north in the province of Idlib, unidentified aircraft carried out more than 60 raids targeting a military airport controlled by Al-Qaeda's Syria affiliate, killing 16 jihadists from Al-Nusra Front and allied fighters, a monitor said.

A truce in Syria's battleground city Aleppo expired, meanwhile, with no new last-minute prolongation after it had been extended twice through last-minute intervention by Moscow and Washington.
The five-truck convoy organised by the ICRC, the United Nations and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent had been due to deliver baby milk and medical and school supplies to Daraya.
"We urge the responsible authorities to grant us access to Daraya, so we can return with desperately-needed food & medicines" outside the capital, said the International Committee of the Red Cross after the convoy was refused entry.
A UN said it had decided against going ahead with the convoy after "nutrition items" were removed.
UN envoy Staffan de Mistura and the resident humanitarian coordinator had "decided to abort the mission to Daraya because of the removal of nutrition items for children other than vaccines from the UN convoy at the last checkpoint," said spokesman Stephane Dujarric.
Daraya had a pre-war population of about 80,000 people but that has dropped by almost 90 percent, with remaining residents suffering from severe shortages and malnutrition.
- 'We want to eat' -
In a video posted by the town's council on Facebook, residents begged for food and drink.
"We don't want books or pens. We don't want just medicine," said one young woman clutching a baby, her voice breaking.
"We want to eat. We want to drink."
World powers are to meet in Vienna next week to try to push faltering peace talks towards ending a five-year conflict that has killed more than 270,000 people.
They hope a broad ceasefire in Syria could help the flow of desperate needed relief supplies to reach people trapped by fighting and violence.
At least one civilian died in regime shelling in the town on Thursday afternoon, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
In the northern city of Aleppo, emergency workers reported no deaths in eastern rebel-held areas since the local truce expired on Wednesday night.
But two civilians including a woman died in sniper fire on the divided city's regime-controlled west, said the Observatory.
That truce came after a spike in violence that killed more than 300 civilians on both sides of the city last month.
The Britain-based Observatory said a top Al-Nusra chief was among 16 jihadists killed in a wave of more than 60 air strikes on Abu Duhur military airport in Idlib.
Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman said it was unclear if the strikes were carried out by the Syrian regime, Russian or US-led coalition aircraft.
Al-Nusra and its allies seized the military airport from regime forces last September.
Also on Thursday Al-Nusra captured Zara village in central Hama province, said the monitor.
- Stalling peace talks -
Al-Nusra and the Islamic State group are not included in a ceasefire between the regime and non-jihadist rebels implemented in late February to set the ground for UN-backed peace talks.
World powers are to meet in Vienna next week to try to push faltering peace talks towards ending a five-year conflict that has killed more than 270,000 people.
The last round of peace talks in Geneva reached a deadlock in April when the main opposition group suspended its participation over mounting violence and lack of humanitarian access.
Talks have also faltered over the fate of President Bashar al-Assad, with the opposition insisting any peace deal must include his departure. But Damascus says his future is non-negotiable.
"My priority is how we can resolve this crisis through political dialogue," said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
The head of Syria's main opposition group, Riad Hijab, earlier called for tougher action against Assad, whom he claimed had effectively received a "green light" from Moscow and Washington to continue bombing civilian areas.
Millions have fled Syria's conflict since it started with anti-government protests in 2011.
These include 20 percent of Syria's Palestinian refugees, the head of the UN Palestinian refugee agency said Thursday.
Before the war, Syria was home to about 560,000 Palestinians whose ancestors fled the 1948 foundation of Israel and ensuing conflicts.

Friday, May 13th 2016

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