Red Cross chief travels with aid convoy to Syria's rebel Ghouta


Geneva (AFP)

The Red Cross said Thursday its president had travelled with a convoy carrying desperately needed food into Syria's rebel enclave of Eastern Ghouta.

Hunger-stricken residents in Ghouta's largest town, Douma, received food aid Thursday from a 25-truck aid convoy, carrying enough supplies to feed 26,100 people for a month.

In a statement, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said its president "Peter Maurer is travelling with the convoy to see first-hand the process of delivering the assistance and to talk with residents".

A spokeswoman told AFP this was the first time the ICRC chief had travelled with such an aid convoy.

"Over the last seven years the fighting has extracted an immensely painful human toll. We must find a way to lessen the suffering," Maurer said in the statement.

"There are three crucial issues to improve: humanitarian access, the protection of civilians, and the humane treatment of detainees," he said.

"How long will the powers behind the fighting allow it to drag on? A war of vengeance is a war without end; it's one in which everybody loses," he added.

Eastern Ghouta has been suffering a devastating five-year siege imposed by government troops that has left its 400,000 residents struggling to find food and its hospitals crippled by shortages.

Thursday's aid operation came after two consecutive days of medical evacuations from Douma, which saw dozens of civilians bussed out to receive treatment in Damascus.

It also happened as Syria's war entered its eighth year with the regime pursuing a relentless assault on the rebel enclave near Damascus.

More than 350,000 people have been killed since the conflict erupted on March 15 seven years ago with protests against President Bashar al-Assad.