Fragmented opposition, Syrian govt both hamper aid: agencies

Fragmented opposition, Syrian govt both hamper aid: agencies
A Syrian refugee girl sits on humanitarian aid boxes, received by her father at Al Zaatri refugee camp in the Jordanian city of Mafraq, near the border with Syria September 8, 2013.

GENEVA - Aid workers are having to negotiate with an increasing number of rebel sub-factions to organise delivery of aid to Syrian civilians, while the government continues to deny access to many areas, severely hampering their work, agencies said on Friday.

Bringing supplies from the capital to the divided northern city of Aleppo - a distance of 355 kms - is slow and fraught, said Pierre Kraehenbuehl, director of International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) operations worldwide.

"When colleagues of ours travel from Damascus to Aleppo it is something between 50 and 60 checkpoints on the way. This is what you have to deal with," he told a news conference in Geneva.

"Therefore it multiplies the number of people that you need to talk to on the ground, from a variety of groups, everything from organised armed forces across to loosely structured non-state groups, rebel groups, but also of course the criminal actors," he said.

"... there is very strong fragmentation on the opposition side and you have multiplicity of groups, sometimes even disagreement within the same group, so that you have to negotiate with several factions within the same opposition group."

The World Food Programme, which is trying to bring rations to three million Syrians a month, said armed groups in the northeast have blocked roads and more areas of Damascus and the countryside around the city are inaccessible due to fighting.

Hundreds of rebels have pledged allegiance to al Qaeda-affiliated forces in northern and eastern Syria, activists and Islamist sources said on Friday, strengthening the group's control in the region.

Entire units have joined the small but powerful al Qaeda-linked groups - the Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) - in recent days, according to the sources inside Syria.

The ICRC, an independent humanitarian agency, is in contact with all groups and is able to work in some opposition- and government-held areas of Aleppo, Kraehenbuehl said.

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