US officials say humanitarian effort in Syria is another means to counter ISIS

As civilians in Syria face a third week without aid, Barack Obama says, ‘It’s not a sufficient substitute for the political outcome’

US officials say humanitarian effort in Syria is another means to counter ISIS

US officials say efforts to support civilians in Syria are an extension of the US-led anti-Daesh coalition, with a view to further weakening the militants’ self-proclaimed caliphate.

As well as providing assistance to civilians caught up in fighting, the officials said, humanitarian aid was available to those ready to return to their homes but barred from access for Daesh fighters. “We will not limit ourselves to humanitarian assistance but this means that no US assets will be used to support the self-declared caliphate,” the Pentagon said in a statement to the Guardian.

Partnerships between the coalition and regional powers such as Saudi Arabia and Jordan were being worked out “in coordination with the Russians and others”, the statement added.

However, the scale of resources available to assist the displaced in Syria is far smaller than those provided to Syrian refugees in neighbouring Jordan and Lebanon. Although Syrian civilians are ultimately the targets of any bombing campaign against Daesh, many civilians are also in the areas the extremists control and fighting will continue there.

In its latest intervention, in which it targets ISIS positions in the eastern province of Deir Ezzor near the Iraqi border, the US has reportedly dropped non-lethal assistance such as blankets and child care kits. It has also reportedly begun to refuel the Kurdish peshmerga, who are now operating on the same frontlines as the US-led coalition.

It is not clear if reports of help from European allies have also begun to flow to the Kurds and to all civilian groups in Syria such as the Syria Civil Defence (aka White Helmets), which are also based in the area. The White Helmets were also among those whose equipment was destroyed in a chemical weapons attack in Idlib province in the first week of April.

A Syrian activist group, the Insi, claimed the White Helmets had been unable to receive aid for the past 48 hours and had been turned away by the Russian army. “The White Helmets are not receiving medical and material assistance from the Syrian military,” an Insi spokesperson said.

Civilian aid is also said to be unavailable to opposition groups. Yasser Saadeddine, a commander with the Army of Islam, said: “The regime and Russian forces are preventing the opposition from getting to the countryside to take advantage of the normalisation of the situation for civilians. In the southern region the regime tried to prevent us from going to the cities for two weeks, and now they are threatening us for a third week.”

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