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Arab states, militias pour aid into Syria as earthquake death toll exceeds 5,000

The Lebanese group Hezbollah and Iraq's Popular Mobilization Forces are among the militias that delivered aid to Syria.
Martin Griffiths, UN Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief, visits the affected neighbourhoods in the city of Aleppo on February 13, 2023 following a devastating 7.8-magnitude earthquake rocked Turkey and Syria. (Photo by -/AFP via Getty Images)

Several countries from the Middle East, North Africa and Italy as well as non-state actors that support the Bashar al-Assad government delivered aid to earthquake-stricken Syria over the last 48 hours. 

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights estimated the death toll from the earthquake in Syria at 5,273 on Monday. Death tolls in Syria vary. The actual death toll could be higher due to the difficulties of counting the dead across battle lines and the ongoing challenges that rescue efforts face.

The following is a list of aid deliveries that reached Syrian territory in the past two days, according to Syria’s official SANA news agency:

Three planes from the United Arab Emirates delivered food, tents and blankets to the Damascus and Latakia airports, and an Iraqi plane loaded with medical and food aid arrived at Aleppo’s airport on Monday.

Two planes carrying aid from Libya's Tripoli-based government flew to Beirut's airport on Monday. The Syrian Embassy in the country received the aid. 

A convoy of trucks from Oman began traveling to Syria on Sunday evening, and another convoy is scheduled to set off on Monday. The trucks are carrying medicine, food, blankets and baby formula. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also reported that an Omani plane landed in Aleppo on Sunday. 

A 22-truck convoy sent by the Lebanese militia Hezbollah arrived in Latakia on Sunday. Hezbollah's aid follows another dispatch by the Iraqi militia Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), which sent aid and volunteers last week.

An Italian humanitarian shipment arrived in Damascus on Sunday. It was first flown to the Beirut airport. Khaled Habubati of Syria’s Red Crescent organization told SANA that the delivery was the first from a European country. 

Italy’s Defense Ministry said a military aircraft took off on Saturday carrying aid for Syria. 

Qatar also donated mobile homes used during the World Cup to Syria and Turkey, Reuters reported on Monday. 

Why it matters: Turkey has been inundated with aid following last week’s major earthquake. Delivering assistance to Syria, on the other hand, has proven more complicated for the international community. Some countries, particularly the United States, do not want to deliver aid via the Assad government, which Washington has sanctioned and which it cut ties with at the outset of the conflict in 2012. Moreover, the earthquake in Syria affected both government and rebel territory. There is only one United Nations-approved international border crossing at present into rebel-controlled northern Syria. 

Several countries and entities have sent help to Syria nonetheless. Rescue workers and aid reached Syria last week from the Palestinian territories, Lebanon, Iran, Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Russia and Armenia, for example. 

Egypt notably sent a team to assist the White Helmets rescue group that operates in rebel territory, according to a tweet from the group. 

Aid is not reaching all of the affected areas, however. Martin Griffiths, the under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator at the United Nations, traveled to Aleppo on Monday. He acknowledged that people in northwest Syria "rightly feel abandoned" by the international community. 

Fared Al-Mahlool, a journalist in the town of Sarqin near the Turkish border, told Al-Monitor on Monday that no aid has reached his area yet. They are specifically in need of tents, formula, winter clothing, medicine, heaters and medical supplies, according to him.

Abu Mohammed al-Golani, who heads the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham rebel group in northwest Syria, pleaded for the international community to send help in an interview with The Guardian on Monday. 

Know more: The Syrian government said last week that it would allow more cross-border aid into rebel territory to assist with the earthquake recovery. The US Treasury Department also said it expanded humanitarian exemptions to US sanctions on Syria. 

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