Beirut, Lebanon – A key July vote by the UN Security Council may end the mission of the last humanitarian lifeline for the approximately 4.4 million Syrians living in opposition-controlled areas in the northwest.
The Bab al-Hawa border crossing at the Turkish-Syrian border is the last open border crossing point through which aid can be delivered directly to areas in need without passing through the Assad government in Damascus.on 1,000 trucks carrying humanitarian aid pass Every month.
“We are totally dependent on aid,” Dr. Hamzeh Hassan of the Bab al-Hawa Hospital, the largest medical institution in the region, told Al Jazeera. “We lack medicines and surgical equipment, but when we get it, it will be shipped via Bab al-Hawa.”
The Security Council established four humanitarian border crossings into war-torn Syria in July 2014, but when the mandate was subsequently extended, Assad’s allies Russia and China used their veto power to stop the three border crossings. Reduced numbers: Ramtha is close to the Jordanian border, al-Yaroubia between Iraq and Kurdish-controlled al-Hasakeh province in the northeast, and the Bab al-Salam border crossing between Turkey and northern Syria.
Dr. Hassan, who is waiting for medical assistance to save more patients, said: “We are now in the second wave of COVID, with an exponential increase in cases.” “More equipment and medicine should arrive soon-but if the border Closed, we will face a human disaster.”
The promotion of vaccination in Idlib is also progressing slowly. “Only more than 17,000 people have been vaccinated, most of them are frontline workers,” Dr. Fadi Hakim of the Foundation of the American Medical Association in Syria (SAMS) told Al Jazeera. “If we get to the top, God bless us, we won’t be able to hold it.”
In the past decade, hundreds of thousands of Syrians have been killed and millions have been displaced. Today Idlib is Syria’s last opposition stronghold, Under control Hay’et Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), a former Al-Qaida affiliate and a Turkish-backed insurgent group.
In recent years, Syrian and Russian troops have severely damaged Idlib to regain the province, often bombing hospitals, schools, markets and homes. Cause a humanitarian crisisThe COVID-19 pandemic has also exacerbated an already dire situation.
The United States insists on keeping Bab al-Hawa open. At a telephone news conference, Jeffrey Prescott, the U.S. deputy ambassador to the United Nations, stated that the impact of the closure of Bab al-Hawa would be “immeasurable.”
“It’s actually a matter of life and death,” he said Say.
However, as an important ally of the Assad government on the front line and on the international stage, Russia is eager to permanently terminate the authorization of Bab al-Hawa and replace it through the Damascus government with delivery.
“Since the resolution was passed in July 2020, the transit capacity there has increased significantly,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Verkhnin said in March, referring to a resolution on the Security Council to extend transit missions.
“But despite this, the humanitarian situation in northwestern Syria is getting worse,” he said, accusing HTS of obstructing aid.
Moscow has repeatedly accused the United States and Europe of supporting continued cross-border assistance without going through the Damascus government, thereby politicizing humanitarian assistance.
Verkhinen said: “Due to dissatisfaction with the country’s leader, for political reasons, all of this is to undermine Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
US President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin will meet in Geneva in less than a week, and there are some items on the agenda. Some reports claim that Biden will press Putin to expand humanitarian assistance.
But according to Natasha Hall, a senior researcher at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, what is really important compared to his predecessor is the strategy of the Biden administration. They took a similar position on humanitarian border crossings, but failed to persuade them. Moscow gave in.
“It depends on how much resources the current government is willing to invest in such negotiations,” Hall told Al Jazeera.
Russia may continue to advocate for the aid of Damascus to replace the cross-border system — commonly referred to as cross-line delivery — which has never happened in Idlib.
A UN spokesperson told Al Jazeera: “So far, there has been no UN cross-line delivery to northwest Syria.” “The UN continues to work hard and advocate, but the conditions for deploying the first cross-line convoy to northwest Syria are not yet available.”
But many people, including Dr. Hakim, completely rejected this proposal based on past experience in the besieged area.
“When we tried to make cross-line deliveries in East Aleppo or Ghouta, at least 90% of the convoy was rejected,” he said, adding that his organization must obtain at least seven approvals from Damascus security and government agencies. “Even if you get approval, the convoy may be sent back to the checkpoint and many items will be removed from the truck. This is a nightmare.”
Convoys of the United Nations and partner organizations often have difficulty reaching besieged or “hard to reach” areas, and the main blame is placed on government checkpoints. Even aid that eventually arrives may become useless.
“In some cases, you will see packages…only a few disposable robes and shoe covers, but this is considered an’arrival’,” Hall explained. “All these delays and interruptions imposed by the Damascus government have resulted in a large number of drugs being disposed of because they have expired when they arrive at the clinic.”
But even in the northeast, where the Syrian government and allies did not actively participate in the conflict, NGOs have condemned the limited assistance provided through the cross-line mechanism after the closure of the Yarubia border crossing.
“Because the border is closed to the United Nations, only a few medical goods arrive in the area via alternative routes,” 42 NGO Say In a statement on Friday, it was added that the hospital lacked the medicines and equipment needed to treat COVID-19.
“At al-Hol camp, NGOs reported that about 30% of chronically ill patients cannot be covered by the drugs provided in the camp.”
Most of the fighting in Syria has subsided, but the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated an already distressing humanitarian crisis. In Idlib, the prospect of closing the only channel to provide assistance shocked Dr. Hassan.
“Trust me, if this [border crossing] At the end, we will see more pain,” he said, his voice trembling. “The medical center may last for about half a year, but I think if the border crossing is closed, I think it may not be able to provide food for more than a month. “