Six days had passed since the earthquake hit half of the country before President Assad appeared in Aleppo to check the damage.
He did not address the nations but answered a few questions in the same defiant attitude.
Activists circulated video clips and photos showing Assad relaxed with a smile on his face most of the time during the tour, which was supposed to be humanitarian to console those affected by the effects of the earthquake.
Observers and analysts agreed that the Syrian regime is trying to exploit the earthquake catastrophe to achieve political gains, foremost of which is the lifting of Western sanctions, and this was evident in the various statements of loyalist officials.
The death toll across Turkey and Syria following Monday’s catastrophic earthquake has reached 33,181, according to the latest figures, according to CNN.
In Syria, the total number of deaths stands at 3,576, including 2,168 in rebel-held areas in the northwest, according to the ‘White Helmets’ civil defence group, and 1,408 deaths in government-controlled parts of Syria, according to Syrian state media citing the health ministry on Saturday.
The White Helmets, who announced the end of their search and rescue operations on Friday, told CNN on Saturday that the total number of dead is expected to be much higher.
UN relief chief Martin Griffiths has said he expects the death toll to at least double after he arrived in southern Turkey on Saturday to assess the quake’s damage.
UAE foreign minister meets with Assad
The United Arab Emirates foreign minister met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus on Sunday, according to the Syrian state news agency SANA.
UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan arrived in the country to discuss the repercussions of the deadly earthquake, SANA reported.
Assad thanked bin Zayed for the UAE’s support, adding that it was one of the first countries to send humanitarian assistance alongside search and rescue teams.
Bin Zayed expressed his sincere condolences to the families of the victims and wished a speedy recovery to those injured, reiterating the UAE’s support.
Following the meeting with Assad, he visited areas affected by the earthquake and was briefed on efforts being made by Emirati rescue teams, SANA reported.
UN Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees
Foreign and Expatriates Minister, Faisal Mekdad, discussed with UN Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees in Syria, Kelly T. Clements the standing cooperation between Syria and the international Organization in the aftermath of the earthquake that hit the area many days ago.
Minister Mekdad briefed Clements and the accompanying delegation on the impacts of the earthquake in the stricken provinces, the number of victims, the wounded and the destroyed infrastructure, referring to the negative effects of the unilateral coercive measures that prevented the Syrians from securing requirements and tools of rescue operations.
“Syria calls for doubling the international efforts, whether UN agencies or the member countries, to support the government’s efforts exerted to face the repercussions of the earthquake and offer assistance to the Syrian quake-affected persons,” Mekdad said.
Clements, in turn, extended condolence to the government and people, as well as to families of the victims, stressing the international organization’s endeavours to exert every possible effort and put all possible capabilities to address the impacts left by the natural catastrophe.
Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and All the East John X Yazigi, appealed to all countries and governments of the world to help Syria overcome the repercussions of the devastating earthquake that struck Syria.
The Patriarch stressed that the Church puts all its efforts into supporting relief work.
Earthquake-Hit Aleppines Head Towards IDP Camps Amid Aid Shortages
An official in a camp for IDPs from the Afrin region in northwestern Syria said on Sunday that waves of displaced people from Aleppo city have arrived at the camp, and are still continuing to arrive, following the earthquake that hit Syria and Turkey North Press reported.
Khlousi Besso, an official at Berkhwedan camp, near the town of Tel Rifaat, in Aleppo, locally known as Shahba region, said that since Feb. 6, 821 families, including 5.842 people, have registered in the camps.
The camps lack tents and equipment needed for the new IDPs, as the Syrian government has also imposed an embargo on the region, he added.
Shahba has been subjected to a government siege for nearly three months. Living standards have deteriorated sharply and have been compounded by a currency crisis in the country.
As an excavator claws at the shattered remains of yet another home in Syria’s rebel-held northwest, Abdel Qader Abdelrahman surveys the debris in the hope of spotting people who might – against all the odds – still be alive underneath, Reuters reported.
The former school principal joined the White Helmets in 2022 as a medic, drawn to its humanitarian mission through a 12-year war that has carved Syria into cantons held by rival armed groups.
Monday’s deadly earthquake – which has so far killed more than 2,000 people in the rebel-held enclave and more than 3,500 in total across Syria – forced him to take on a more direct search and rescue role.
“We have been working for five days,” he told Reuters, having not returned home or seen his family in that long. “We are answering all the calls for help.”
“When we remove someone alive, we forget all the pain and the fatigue and everything that is happening to us… Our goal is to save people from this destruction.”
Syria quake aid held up by hardline group, U.N. says
Earthquake aid from government-held parts of Syria into opposition-controlled territory has been held up by “approval issues” with one hardline group, a United Nations spokesperson said on Sunday.
The hostilities that crisscross Syria, according to Reuters, shattered by nearly 12 years of conflict, are an added challenge for aid workers trying to reach the northern regions affected by Monday’s earthquake, which killed at least 29,000 people in Turkey and Syria and flatted swathes of towns and cities.
Of the 3,500 deaths so far reported in Syria, the bulk occurred in the northwest, in territory largely held by the Islamist group Hayat Tahrir al-Sham.
The area has received little assistance as the front lines with the government are sealed off, and only a single border crossing links it to Turkey to the north. The Syrian government last week said it was willing to send aid to the northern zone.
A Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) source who was not authorized to talk to the media told Reuters the group would not allow shipments from government-held parts of Syria and that aid would be coming in from Turkey.
“We won’t allow the regime to take advantage of the situation to show they are helping,” the source said.
A spokesperson for the U.N.’s humanitarian aid office told Reuters “there are issues with approval” by the group, which the U.N. and the United States classified as a terrorist organization, without giving further information.
A U.N. spokesperson in Damascus declined to comment, saying the U.N. “continues to work with relevant parties to have access to the area.