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Syrian refugees not receiving aid

March 9, 2013 at 12:21 PM   |   Comments

ALEPPO, Syria, March 9 (UPI) -- Much of the humanitarian aid the United States and other international donors have sent to Syria is going to areas controlled by the Assad regime, rebels said.

Washington has sent $385 million in humanitarian aid intended for Syrians displaced by the country's civil war but little of the aid is reaching areas held by the opposition, The New York Times reported Saturday.

"Aid is a weapon," said Omar Baylasani, a rebel commander from Idlib. "Food supply is the winning card in the hands of the regime."

Washington said it has been donating more aid -- a total of $60 million in 2012 and 2013 -- to organizations that deliver flour, food baskets, blankets and medicine to the stable rebel-controlled territories. However, the rest of U.S. aid has largely been delivered through the United Nations, which requires its aid relief agencies to follow Syrian President Bashar Assad's rules for distribution as long as his government is recognized by the international organization.

"The government, whether you like it or not, is still the government," said Jens Laerke, a spokesman for the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Displaced Syrians living in areas controlled by the Assad regime have access to shelter at U.N.-operated camps but those who have taken refuge in areas controlled by the opposition face shortages of food, fuel and medical care, the report said.

Ghassan Hitto, the head of the aid coordination arm of the Western-backed Syrian National Council, estimated about 60 percent of Syrians are living outside of Assad's rule, and are not receiving aid.

"We believe we are owed an explanation over where this money is going, but every time we ask, we can't get an answer," he said.

Saed Bakur Abu Yahia, the director of a civilian medical clinic in a rebel-held sector north of Aleppo, said the clinic turns away hundreds of people in need of medical care after 4 p.m. each day, due to a lack of power to keep the lights on.

Yahia called the lack of foreign aid "a catastrophe," the Times reported.

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