TEHRAN, March 15 (UPI) -- Forty tons of medical aid has arrived in Damascus, Syria, the first of four plane loads Iran said it is sending its "regional ally."
Raouf Sheibani, Iran's ambassador to Syria, told the official Islamic Republic News Agency Thursday the supplies included medicine, medical equipment, food products, ambulances, blankets and tents.
The move he said was to show Tehran's support for Syria.
"Iran is standing fully behind the Syrian regime of President Bashar Assad as it battles armed rebel groups it describes as terrorists," Sheibani said.
The Iranian aid shipment arrived in Damascus Thursday, the day marking the first anniversary of the anti-government demonstrations that erupted in Syria last year and has so far claimed more than 8,000 lives.
Gen. James Mattis, head of the U.S. military's Central Command, was quoted by The New York Times recently saying Iran is working earnestly to keep Assad in power.
An unnamed U.S. intelligence official was quoted in The Washington Post saying "the aid from Iran is increasing, and is increasingly focused on lethal assistance."