Syrian Government Demands 40% of AANES Aid for Access

QAMISHLI, Syria (North Press) – The Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES) has agreed to hand over to the Syrian government 40 of the 100 fuel trucks it had sent to areas affected by the Feb. 6 earthquake in return for safe passage for the remaining 60 trucks and a medical convoy, a source within the Kurdish Red Crescent (KRC) told North Press.

The KRC medical convoy, consisting of three trucks of supplies, two ambulances, as well as two staff cars, has been waiting to pass from AANES-held territory to areas affected by the earthquake since Feb. 11.

According to an on-the-ground source, the convoy carries tents, mattresses, blankets, winter clothes, baby food, heating fuel, as well as medicine and medical equipment. Doctors, paramedics, and KRC staff are among the convoy.

In parallel, the AANES sent 100 fuel trucks to government-held areas on Feb. 8, two days after the earthquake. Both convoys have been held up by government forces at the al-Tayha crossing point west of Manbij. The KRC source said the AANES has asked the medical NGO to take charge of their trucks as well.

Both convoys were initially meant to relieve Kurdish-held areas in the northwest – namely, the Aleppo northern countryside, locally known as Shahba region, and the neighborhoods of Sheikh Maqsoud and Ashrafiyeh in Aleppo city – as the Syrian government keeps both areas under embargo.

However, the KRC source said that “if those areas are sufficiently provided for, we would help wherever it is necessary – as long as we are allowed to, of course.” According to the agreement reached last night, both convoys will head to the Shahba region.

Negotiations have been ongoing throughout the past days, “at all levels,” the KRC employee says. Yesterday morning, the government demanded 80% of both the fuel trucks and medical supplies. The Italian embassy and the UN representatives in Damascus have gotten involved, too.

Unilaterally, KRC has also attempted to cooperate with the Syrian Arabic Red Crescent, though “they don’t want to negotiate with us,” the source said. “All talks are good, important and necessary, but what happens on the ground is often quite different. What is important for us are the talks we are having with Damascus,” the source told North Press yesterday afternoon.

Later that day, the government acceded to let both convoys pass in exchange for 40 of the AANES fuel trucks. The remaining 60 were allowed to pass last night. The KRC convoy was set to follow this morning.

Earthquake fatalities in Kurdish-held territories of northwest Syria have been comparatively mild. Six people died in Sheikh Maqsoud and around 100 were injured, the local council said. Yet damaged buildings have displaced 60.000 residents. The Shahba region has taken in 3.500 families. Neither the government nor international NGOs have sent aid to these regions.

The AANES has also sent aid into opposition-held territory. This morning, it announced 165 trucks of humanitarian aid sent by residents of northeast Syria had made it into Turkish-occupied Syria.

Reporting by Sasha Hoffman