First UN aid
flight takes off from Iraqi Kurdistan for Syrian
December 15, 2013
The UN plane before departure at Erbil International
airport in Iraq's autonomous Kurdistan region,
December 15, 2013. Photo: AFP •
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Kurdistan region 'Iraq',— The first United
Nations aid flight from Iraq to Syria took off on
Sunday after being delayed for several days due to
bad weather, an AFP journalist said.
The plane departed the Erbil airport in Iraq's
autonomous Kurdistan region around 3:30 pm (1230
GMT), and was expected to arrive in Qamishli in
Syrian Kurdistan [northeastern Syria] some 40
"Over the next few days, we will be sending to
Qamishli... 400 tonnes of food," Abeer Etefa, senior
Middle East spokeswoman for the UN World Food
Programme, told AFP.
The flight on Sunday was carrying about 40 metric
tonnes of aid, Etefa said.
The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) and children's agency
UNICEF were also to send aid into Syria via air.
The airlift, which has the go-ahead from both the
Syrian and Iraqi governments, had been expected to
begin on Thursday, but was delayed by a storm that
shuttered the airport in the Kurdish city of
Amin Awad, who heads the UNHCR Syria response,
has said the supplies are desperately needed in the
hard-to-reach areas as the war-fatigued population
braces for what is expected to be one of the
harshest winters in a century, he said.
UNHCR spokesman Peter Kessler earlier told AFP that
the "region of northeastern Syria has been very
difficult to reach, very perilous to reach, since
"UNHCR has operated an airlift from Damascus to
Qamishli from July," but "this is to my knowledge
the first international airlift," Kessler said.
The original plan was for aid to be transported into
north and northeastern Syria by truck, but "there
was a shift in the elements that controlled that
road and the border and we shifted to an airlift,"
He said airlifting aid into Syria would not be
sustainable in the long run.
The UNHCR meanwhile plans to spend $195 million to
help "winterise" Syria and the surrounding
As part of the programme, the agency has begun
distributing items such as isolation tents, plastic
sheeting and warm clothing, especially for children
and other vulnerable people, as well as cash for
fuel, Awad said.
The civil war between forces loyal to Syrian
President Bashar al-Assad and rebels seeking his
overthrow has raged for 33 months and killed more
than 126,000 people.
But Kurdish-majority areas of the country's
northeast were relatively quiet until clashes broke
out this year between Kurds and jihadist rebels,www.Ekurd.net
pushing tens of thousands of Syrian Kurds across
the border into Iraq's autonomous Kurdistan region.
According to UNHCR, Iraq's three-province autonomous
Kurdistan region, from which the aid flights will
depart, hosts over 200,000 registered Syrian
refugees -- the vast majority of those staying in
Regions and cities names in Kurdish may have been
changed or added to the article by Ekurd.net
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