Donor Pledges for Syria Fall Well Below U.N. Target
International donors on Wednesday raised around $4.4 billion in emergency aid for Syria and neighboring countries in 2018, the Associated Press reported.
The sum committed at a two-day conference in Brussels falls significantly short of the $7 billion-plus target set by the United Nations for this year, the AP said.
U.N. humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock said the pledges were a “good start.” But, given the funds available, he said the U.N. would have to prioritize the most desperate cases.
He also said that “a number of important donors have not yet been in a position to confirm their financing for 2018,” according to Reuters. “That includes the United States, which has been providing more than $1 billion a year to Syria and the region in recent years,” he added.
Meanwhile, a coalition of nine NGOs, including Oxfam, Save the Children and World Vision, released a statement saying the pledges fall well below what’s required to provide adequate care to those in need in Syria and neighboring countries.
“This conference didn’t go nearly far enough to provide adequate support to the millions of Syrians in need of assistance and who are left facing an uncertain future,” the statement said.
In a separate statement, Oxfam said that “the response of the world’s richest countries to the conflict remains tragically inadequate,” according to Agence France-Presse. The head of the U.N.’s World Food Programme warned that without adequate funding, his organization would be forced to reduce food rations “to just barely keep people alive.”
Syrian Government Recaptures Eastern Qalamoun Region
Syrian state media said on Wednesday that a rebel enclave northeast of Damascus was now free of “terrorists” and under government control, Agence France-Presse reported.
“The operation to bring terrorists with their families out of the areas of Eastern Qalamoun has ended and the region is free of terrorism,” state television said, using the term it usually applies to rebels.
The rebel evacuations from Eastern Qalamoun are part of a surrender agreement reached between rebels and the Syrian government last Friday. Thousands of rebels and their families have left the enclave in recent days as part of the deal.
According to Reuters, the last 38 evacuation buses left at dawn on Wednesday en route to rebel-held areas of Idlib and Jarablus in northern Syria.
The recapture of Eastern Qalamoun is the latest in a string of government victories that have seen Syrian president Bashar al-Assad consolidate his hold over areas around the capital.
The Syrian government is now fighting to recapture the final pockets that remain outside its control in areas south of Damascus.
At least 61 pro-government fighters and 49 militants from the so-called Islamic State have been killed in battles in the Yarmouk camp and Hajar al-Aswad district, south of the capital, since April 19, AFP said, citing the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Estimates put the number of ISIS fighters in Yarmouk, Hajar al-Aswad and the nearby district of Qadam at 1,000, AFP said.
Chemical Weapons Inspectors Collect More Samples on Second Visit to Douma
Chemical weapons inspectors on Wednesday collected samples from a new location in a Syrian town hit by a suspected chemical weapons attack this month, the AP said.
Wednesday’s visit to the town of Douma is the second this month by inspectors working with the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to determine whether a chemical weapons attack did strike the area on April 7.
Investigators first visited the town last Saturday, after being delayed by Russian and Syrian government forces.
Samples collected will be analyzed at the organization’s laboratories and a report will be drafted based on the findings. However, the OPCW will not identify the perpetrator of the attack as that is beyond its official mandate – which is to determine only whether or not a chemical weapons attack did take place.
Syrian opposition activists and many members of the international community have held the Syrian government responsible – a charge Damascus has repeatedly denied.
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