More than three days after the earthquake disaster in Syria and Turkey, it has become clear that the Syrian regime is seeking with all its energies and capabilities to seize this disaster to control the entry of humanitarian aid into Syria and stop its passage through the border with Turkey. The Autonomous Administration in northeastern Syria announced the entry of aid to the affected areas under the name of “donations from the Autonomous Administration” in an attempt to exploit the disaster to achieve political goals and gains.
At a time when the Turkish authorities announced that the cross-border entry of aid into Syria is facing logistical difficulties and obstacles related to the emergency conditions in southern Turkey as a result of the earthquake, the United Nations agencies and partner institutions on the Turkish side of the border seem to be in a state of ignorance. Aid accumulates in their warehouses, but they can only enter northern Syria through Bab al-Hawa, the only crossing according to the Security Council’s mandate.
Amid this competition for aid custody, Syrians in northwest Syria are left to fend for their fate alone at the height of the disaster. Hundreds of thousands of them are displaced in temporary spaces, while White Helmets volunteers struggle to rescue those who survived under rubble and concrete blocks with their modest equipment and bare hands. Life-saving machinery and life-saving aid are in close proximity without access.
Northwest Syria hit the hardest by earthquake
The northwest of Syria is witnessing a very difficult situation, due to obstacles and the scarcity of capabilities, machinery and equipment necessary for rescue operations and medical teams. This comes in addition to the displacement of tens of thousands of Syrians and the demolition of buildings and facilities in the area, which can be described as the most affected by the earthquake that struck Turkey and Syria.
Although Turkey was the first victim of the earthquake, northwestern Syria is the most affected, and the scale of the disaster there portends even more catastrophic consequences. Years of war and the fragility of the social and economic infrastructure have exacerbated the tragedy of more than four million civilians residing in the region, as well as restrictions on the entry of life-saving aid and assistance and its limitation to the Bab al-Hawa crossing. It is open for aid crossing within the framework of the Security Council’s mandate.
In other news, several planes loaded with tons of humanitarian aid to those affected by the earthquake in Syria arrived in the areas of the Syrian regime, through Damascus and Aleppo airports, including from Egypt, the UAE, India, Iraq, Algeria, Lebanon, Iran, China and others, in addition to rescue teams, medical teams and mobile hospitals.
Amid campaigns of solidarity and sympathy for the disaster, the Syrian regime took advantage of the opportunity to renew its demands for coordination with it on aid. Western countries have not shown any willingness to meet its demands or communicate with it, but what serves the regime and tries to exploit it is the difficulty of sending aid across the border from Turkey.
An opportunity for the regime to seize
The Syrian regime sees the earthquake disaster as an opportunity to renew efforts to control humanitarian aid and UN operations in Syria, stop its entry through the border with Turkey, and control its access across the lines to northern Syria by restricting its entry through it.
The Syrian regime’s Foreign Minister, Faisal al-Mekdad, had previously called for lifting sanctions and sending immediate aid to those affected. He said that “sanctions are not an excuse for not doing so” and that they “prevent us from everything, including buying medicine.”
The special adviser to the President of the Syrian regime, Buthaina Shaaban, said that her government “will accept assistance from the United States and the European Union if they offer to provide it, but they have not offered any assistance despite the appeal of the President of the International Committee of the Red Cross to all countries of the world to contribute to this.”
Bashar al-Assad’s adviser claimed that “the West provides assistance to support terrorists in areas outside the control of the Syrian state, and is primarily interested in protecting ISIS, Jabhat al-Nusra and the White Helmets.”
This article was translated and edited by The Syrian Observer. The Syrian Observer has not verified the content of this story. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.