Syrian border crossing reopens to allow aid into jihadi-held area of northwest Idlib province

Damascus indicates operations could resume ‘in full co-operation and co-ordination with the Syrian government’

The Syrian government has authorised the United Nations to deliver humanitarian assistance for six months to the jihadi-held sector in northwest Idlib province through the Bab al-Hawa border crossing with Turkey.

Syrian UN ambassador Bassam Sabbagh handed a letter to the UN Security Council that said operations could resume “in full co-operation and co-ordination with the Syrian government”.

Mr Sabbagh told reporters the UN should not communicate with al-Qaeda-founded Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham — the dominant jihadi group which he called a “terrorist” organisation — and should instead permit the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent to manage aid operations.

UN deliveries

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said: “We’ve received the letter and are studying it.” While commercial and civilian traffic across the border has continued normally, Syria said UN deliveries could resume on Thursday.


They were reportedly suspended at midnight on Monday with the expiry of the Security Council mandate for operations outside government control, which Russia and Syria argue violate Syrian sovereignty. While the US and Britain asked for a year’s renewal, Russia rejected this option and vetoed a resolution for a nine-month extension. The council dismissed Russia’s proposal for a six-month extension, which has been the practice since 2021.

Bal al-Hawa is a conduit for 80 per cent of the aid that reaches needy families among the 2.7 million living in Idlib. Hundreds of lorries carrying food and medical supplies have crossed via Bab al-Hawa monthly.

Following February’s devastating earthquakes in Syria and Turkey, the Syrian government allowed two smaller crossings to open to expedite the passage of emergency aid, but they are set to close next month. Some local farmers are said to be returning to the war-ravaged area.

Michael Jansen

Michael Jansen

Michael Jansen contributes news from and analysis of the Middle East to The Irish Times