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Aid convoy leaves Syria's Ghouta amid Assad's massive shelling

Assad forces airstrikes on eastern Ghouta have killed hundreds (Photo by AFP)
Aid convoy leaves Syria's Ghouta amid Assad's massive shelling
A UN convoy delivering urgently needed aid to the opposition-held Eastern Ghouta area of Syria has cut short its mission and left the enclave amid shelling, BBC reported on Tuesday.

A UN refugee agency official said the convoy - the first since mid-February - delivered as much as it could in Douma town and left after nearly nine hours.

But the UNHCR said 10 out of more than 40 trucks had not been emptied.

Activists said dozens of people died in air strikes by Syria's army on Monday, despite a supposed five-hour truce.

At least 719 people have been killed in recent weeks, many of them children.

The UNHCR's Syria representative Sajjad Malik tweeted late on Monday that "we delivered as much as we could amidst shelling".

"Civilians are caught in a tragic situation."

The Syrian Red Crescent earlier said 46 truckloads of food parcels were delivered to 27,500 people, along with health items for more than 70,000 people in the town of Douma.

"The convoy is a positive first step and will lessen the immediate suffering of some civilians in the Eastern Ghouta region," said Robert Maridni, Middle East Director of International Committee of the Red Cross.

"But one convoy, however big, will never be enough given the dire conditions and shortages people are facing. Repeated and continuous humanitarian access is essential and more must be granted in the coming period."

A World Health Organization official said that Syrian government officials had removed 70% of the supplies, which included surgical materials and trauma kits, from the trucks before they had left warehouses. This is believed to be part of the government's efforts to ensure the opposition fighters are not treated.

The Syrian government and its allied forces have reclaimed a third of the Eastern Ghouta in a matter of days, according to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), which has a network of sources on the ground. The region had been under the control of opposition groups since the civil war began in 2012.

The Syrian dictator 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 the Eastern Ghouta" to escape the areas under the control of "terrorists".

The US has condemned the government assault and said Russia, a key ally of Damascus, is killing innocent civilians.