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Russia opens air bridge to Syrian city besieged by ISIS

The Russian and Syrian air forces have opened an air bridge to facilitate humanitarian aid deliveries to Syria’s besieged city of Deir Ezzor.

Deir ez-Zor

According to Syrian human rights activists, the tightening grip by self-proclaimed Islamic State terrorists on the city of Deir Ezzor has led to a catastrophic shortage in food and medicine.

Earlier this year, scores of civilians and soldiers were killed in the fresh assault by the terrorist organisation, while hundreds of residents were kidnapped as militants took over villages on the city’s outskirts.

The garrison of Syrian troops and local tribesmen have so far prevented the city’s fall, with the aid of Russian air strikes, but delivery of humanitarian aid has been difficult due to ongoing clashes in the vicinity of the airport.

According to local media, all available transport helicopters and planes, including the Il-76 Russian military transport aircraft, have been made available to connect the beleaguered city to the rest of the country.

According to reports from the Russian Center for Reconciliation based in Syria, almost every day, Russian transport planes deliver to the Deir Ezzor around 20 tons of humanitarian cargo, including aid delivered to the country by the United Nations.

Due to the proximity of the battle’s frontline to the city’s airport, and due to the ongoing fighting in other regions, road transport deemed too dangerous – and a shortage of available transport helicopters has led to a reliance on the Russian transport planes.

According to Russian media outlets, a large number of landing platforms were recently delivered to the Russian airbase in Lattakia from Egypt, having been used in joint exercises by Russian and Egyptian paratroopers. The landing platforms parachute loads of up to 9500kg from a height of between 500m to 1500m.

According to the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation, in 2016 with the help of airborne platforms, about 2500 tons of humanitarian aid was delivered to Deir Ezzor. Representatives of the Red Cross also reported in early March that the volume of cargo transferred had already reached 3,500 tons. Now the intensity of humanitarian flights has increased even more, as more ISIS militants are being driven out of Iraq by the ongoing government assaults.

According to human rights activists, fighting in the outskirts of the city has increased due to US-backed Kurdish militants, as well as coalition airstrikes which have allegedly wiped out aid trucks attempting to reach the city of around 200,000 inhabitants.

According to the Russian Defense Ministry, around 800 Islamic State militants crossed the border from Iraq into Syria, fleeing the ongoing fight in the city of Mosul.

Breaking news from global agencies and outlets by GEOPOLMonitor's team of writers.

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