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UN: Humanitarian access remains a challenge in Syria’s Deir ez-Zor

By Rudaw 7/9/2017
A screen grab of Syrian Arab Army video released to The Associated Press on Thursday.
A screen grab of Syrian Arab Army video released to The Associated Press on Thursday.
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — With photos showing Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and their aligned forces celebrating in Deir ez-Zor after the ISIS siege between the air base and the city was broken, the United Nations is urging humanitarian assistance.

"Now Deir ez-Zor is almost liberated..." Staffan de Mistura, the UN Special Envoy for Syria, told reporters on Wednesday in Geneva.

"And as soon as the road access will be clarified and cleared, I think that the people of Deir ez-Zor will be able to be reached via road, which means in a much cheaper and effective way."
However the UN has reservations that its convoys will be able to reach the war-torn city.
"The convoy which have been waiting for going to Kefraya and Foua, has once again been prepared and I hope, this would be working," Mistura said.

"We are talking about 7,000 people and 2,000 people respectively. This had been postponed several times."

SANA, Syria's state-run news agency, reported a convoy carrying food, medical supplies and educational materials arrived in Deir ez-Zor city on Thursday. It did not specify whether it contained UN aid.

Photos on social media on Wednesday showed jubilant fighters said to be aligned with the Syrian government celebrating.

The fighting had been near the military base of the 137th Brigade on the outskirts of Deir ez-Zor.

SANA wrote one of its reporters said "the Air Force has directed intensive strikes on the hideouts and fortified points of ISIS in the areas of al-Malha, al-Thardah and near al-Taim oil field and the villages of Shula and Ayyash and Bugheiliyeh, which resulted in the destruction of some of the targets and the elimination of many terrorists."

SAA also released video of what it said were pro-regime elements launching artillery in the area of Deir ez-Zor on Thursday.
It showed tanks, rocket launchers, and soldiers firing multiple times. A road sign in Arabic reads "Deir ez-Zor welcomes you."



Rudaw could not independently verify the location of the video, when it was taken, or what forces are shown in the video that was provided to The Associated Press by the SAA.

Russia has backed the regime in the more than six-year-long civil war that was further complicated with ISIS declaring its own state. The Russians intensified strikes in Deir ez-Zor city this week, including launching cruise missiles in support of the Syrian Arab Republic loyalists.

Deir ez-Zor province is oil-rich and the city has an air base. It sits atop the Middle Euphrates River Valley, which has been a route ISIS fighters have used to cross from Al Bukamal on the Syrian side to Al-Qaim in Iraq.

Brett McGurk, the US special presidential envoy to the anti-ISIS coalition, denied reports which said a convoy of vehicles carrying ISIS militants from the Syria-Lebanon border had arrived on the Iraqi border.

"Many false reports on ISIS terrorist convoy. It has not reached Iraq and will not reach Iraq. Buses still in open desert, with food/water," tweeted McGurk. 

The Washington Post, citing local council member Asmaa al-Ani and Mohammed Karbouli, member of the parliament’s committee on defence and security, reported that hundreds of ISIS fighters from Syria had arrived in Iraq’s Rawah with their families. 

More than an estimated 300 ISIS militants with their families were in the convoy.

The Coalition has also denied that it had dropped food or water to the convoy.


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