United Nations: The UN World Food Programme said on Friday it had readied a plan to deliver aid by air to 19 besieged areas inside Syria but both funding and Syrian government approval would be needed before it can be put into operation.
High-altitude air drops would be viable in four areas, including Foua and Kufreya, where about 20,000 people are trapped but the other 15 areas are in urban or semi-urban areas where helicopters would be the only option, it said. "High-altitude airdrops to those locations are not possible owing to the risk of harming people on the ground along the path between release of the cargo from the airplane and the actual landing zone," it said in a statement.
The United Nations (UN) has already been air dropping aid from high altitudes to 110,000 people besieged by Islamic State (ISIS) fighters in Deir al-Zour. But air drops are a "last resort" as they are costly, complicated and deliver a mere trickle of aid. Syria's government has been largely obstructing UN attempts to reach civilian populations in other besieged zones -- rejecting requests, blocking convoys at the last moment or issuing only conditional approvals.
The International Syria Support Group (ISSG) of countries backing the Syrian peace process had set a June 1 deadline for Syria's government to allow humanitarian aid to all areas, including those in rebel hands, or risk having air drops imposed.
"On the basis of the ISSG assessment of the situation as of June 1, WFP is now activating the plan. This includes preparing a clearance request for submission by the Humanitarian Coordinator to the Syrian authorities," WFP said. "In order to implement the plan it will be necessary to have both funding and all necessary clearances in place."
Syria's opposition and Western international backers - the United States, Britain and France - have pushed for air drops to go ahead in all besieged areas, saying the fact that aid convoys reached two besieged areas this week was too little too late. But Russia and other countries are concerned about the security of the personnel involved in air drops, the United Nations has said.
The world body had previously suggested that air drops would need government approval, undermining the idea that the government of President Bashar al-Assad could be strongarmed into accepting aid by the threat of air drops....