Syria: Aid convoy enters Eastern Ghouta

46 trucks carrying urgently needed supplies has entered the Syrian enclave despite air strikes 

An aid convoy carrying urgently needed supplied has entered the rebel-held Syrian enclave in Eastern Ghouta, two weeks into a renewed regime offence that has killed more than 700 civilians.

The 46 trucks are the first to reach the besieged enclave since mid-February, despite a recent UN call for a ceasefire and short, daily truces ordered by Russia.

Despite being allowed to deliver food, humanitarian officials said the Syrian military had refused to allow the loading of critically needed medical aid.

A desperate shortage of supplies meant that the wounded have been dying from treatable injuries and illnesses, aid organisations said.

The aid delivery – the first in weeks – will offer a brief respite for some of the residents of the enclave near the capital, Damascus, who have endured two weeks of intense violence despite a UN security council resolution last week demanding a ceasefire and the delivery of aid. The carnage has continued despite a daily five-hour truce ordered by the Russian president, Vladimir Putin.

A World Health Organisation official told the Guardian: “During the obligatory routine inspection conducted by Syrian national authorities, many supplies in the WHO shipment were rejected, including all trauma, surgical, dialysis sessions and insulin.

“WHO has long spoken out against the removal or rejection of lifesaving treatments and medical items from aid convoys by national authorities. The health supplies provided by WHO in these convoys are selected after extensive consultations with health partners working in these areas and are desperately needed to save lives and reduce suffering.”

The airstrikes and artillery bombardment have been coupled with a ground offensive by the regime of Bashar al-Assad and his allied Shia militias, whose advances are aimed at splitting eastern Ghouta in half and cutting off rebel fighters.

President Bashar al-Assad said on state television on Sunday that the offensive against "terrorism" should continue, and he dismissed dire assessments of the humanitarian situation in the enclave as "ridiculous lies".

He said he supported a Russian-sponsored daily truce of five hours, to allow "the majority of those in Eastern Ghouta" to escape the areas under the control of "terrorists".

Thousands of civilians have fled from the advancing government troops deeper into Ghouta. “People are scared of massacres and so they are fleeing inwards,” said one doctor in Ghouta.

Neither the daily pause ordered by the Russians - Syria's main backers - nor the ordering of a nationwide ceasefire by the UN Security Council have led to any humanitarian relief for the enclave.

The UN says that the "collective punishment of civilians is simply unacceptable".

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