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Syria Today – Assad Returns from Oman, EU Announces 6 Steps Plan to Help Syrians

Your daily brief of the English-speaking press on Syria.
Syria Today – Assad Returns from Oman, EU Announces 6 Steps Plan to Help Syrians

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad concluded on Monday a short visit to Oman, where he met Sultan Haitham bin Tariq at the Bait al-Baraka Royal Palace, said the Omani Foreign Ministry.

The Ministry said Sultan Haitham renewed his condolences and sincere sympathy for the victims of the devastating earthquake that struck Syria and Türkiye on Feb. 6th.

It added that the Sultan assured Assad that Oman would continue to support Syria as it grapples with the aftermath of the earthquake.

Assad thanked the Sultan, the government, and the Omani people for their solidarity and support with Syria, lauding Omani relief efforts that helped in mitigating the impact of the earthquake.

According to SANA, the Sultan underscored that his country would continue its support to Syria till the country overcomes the quake impacts and repercussions of the blockade imposed on the Syrian people.

He said that Syria is a brotherly country and that Oman is looking forward to seeing it return to its normal relations with all other Arab States.

Assad, for his part, voiced his gratitude to Sultan Haitham and the Omani people for their solidarity with Syria and the relief aid they have dispatched, underlining that the greater thanks are for Oman’s stance in support of Syria during the terrorist war imposed on it.

Oman is the only Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) country that has not severed its diplomatic and political ties with Damascus after the eruption of the Syrian conflict in 2011.

In May 2021, Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad visited Oman on his first visit to an Arab and Gulf country since assuming his position. In July 2019, former Omani Foreign Minister Yusuf bin Alawi visited Damascus, the second since the eruption of the conflict in 2011.

Panic injures many as traumatized Syria hit by new earthquakes

Fear and panic caused the most injuries in northwest Syria when two new earthquakes hit on Monday evening, just two weeks after the catastrophic 7.8 magnitude earthquake that devastated large parts of the region, including southern Turkey.

At least six people have been killed and hundreds wounded across both countries, Al-Jazeera reported.

“Many were hurt because of stampedes, panicking, and even jumping off buildings,” Oubadah Alwan, a spokesperson for the Syria Civil Defence, also known as the White Helmets, told Al-Jazeera.

The rescue group estimated more than 190 injuries in the opposition-held part of the country that is home to four million.

“Civilians are mostly sleeping out and refusing to go back into their homes despite the cold,” Alwan said. “People are traumatized.”

The streets were filled with people who had also evacuated their houses and shelters. His family remained outside for four to five hours before making their way to a shelter, too afraid to go home.

Khadija Ali Omar, 70, recounted feeling the “horror” as bits of the ceiling crumbled as she fled her house with her daughter, who has a disability.

“How we made it out, I don’t know,” she said.

The Syrian American Medical Society, which runs hospitals in northern Syria, said it treated several people who suffered heart attacks brought on by fear.

More than 4,000 people died in Syria following the February 6 quakes while more than 41,000 deaths were reported in Turkey.

How does aid get into rebel-held northwest Syria?

International aid groups are not bound by the UN’s cross-border aid mechanism and can truck aid through other crossings with Turkey’s approval.

International organisations also provide funding to aid groups in the northwest to “buy what they need either from the local market or from Turkey through commercial crossings”, said Racha Nasreddine of ActionAid.

But with millions made homeless by the quake, stocks of blankets, food and tents were quickly depleted.

Although donations poured in, local groups struggled to secure necessities as prices of basic goods shot up at home while roads leading to Turkey were damaged in the tremor, she said.

And while planeloads of foreign aid flooded regime-held areas after the quake, Syria’s northwest was largely left to fend for itself.

– Who is blocking relief to the northwest? –

Although the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad does not control crossing points with Turkey, the United Nations sought its approval to use them.

Syria and its ally Russia have long insisted that all relief passes through regime-controlled areas. Moscow has threatened to veto the UN cross-border mechanism at past security council meetings.

Many aid groups say they do not trust Syrian authorities to dispatch aid to areas under rival control.

On February 10th, the Assad regime said it approved the delivery of humanitarian aid directly from government-held territory to rebel areas.

Six steps to get European assistance to the people in Syria after the earthquake

On 6 February, a powerful earthquake of magnitude 7.8 – one of the strongest earthquakes in the region in more than 100 years – struck the southeastern Anatolia Region of Türkiye, affecting 10 provinces in Türkiye and 6 governorates in Syria. Another powerful 7.5 quake struck the same day.

This disaster could not have come at a worse time for Syrians. After 11 years of war, the Syrian crisis is characterized by unparalleled suffering and humanitarian needs. The EU immediately mobilized all its emergency and humanitarian tools to help Syrian people in need wherever they were. But how is this done?

In Northwest Syria, almost 3 million people were internally displaced before the earthquake out of a total population of 4 million. Millions of Syrians live displaced in inferior shelters, braving winter conditions and scarcity.

To support those affected by the earthquake, we followed six essential steps.

Step 1: Mobilizing our humanitarian partners on the ground.

Step 2: Activating the EU Civil Protection Mechanism

Step 3: Activating the European Humanitarian Response Capacity

Step 4: Delivering the assistance to the hubs

Step 5: Coordinating with our humanitarian partners to reach Syrians

Step 6: Assistance is distributed to the people who need it

Shameful failure of UN, int’l response to NW Syria earthquake

Canadian Syrian writer Abdulrahman Matar wrote and op-ed for SyriaWise website, in which he accused the United Nations and the international community of “insulting” the Syrian people.

“The devastating earthquake that struck northwestern Syria on Feb. 6 has added insult to the already existing injury in this region that has been suffering from a number of disasters, armed conflicts, occupation, and poor economic conditions, to name just a few, Matar wrote.

He described justifying inaction with claims that the Turkey-Syria border crossings were not open for aid convoys as “nonsensical,” stressing that aid did not even reach these crossings, and there was no denial of entry to relief convoys.

It seems that the UN is not looking at NW Syria seriously, almost taking a position similar to that of the Assad regime, despite the international sanctions imposed on the regime because of its repression and massacres in Syria and the fact that this regime is not complying with UN Resolution 2254, he added..

While Matar called for an immediate rescue and support plan, he reminded that “it is not wise at all to send international aid through the Syrian regime, at a time when the state is suffering an almost complete collapse of the government administration, with rampant corruption, which led to the failure to supply the disaster area with aid, the theft of materials and the confiscation of aid supplies by armed militias and groups loyal to the Assad and Iranian regimes.”

He concluded that the United Nations’ apology for its negligence is “worthless. In the absence of humanitarian and moral motives, the United Nations and the major powers must resort to an international humanitarian intervention without allowing the Russian veto to be an obstacle to that.”

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