Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Ban's report on the implementation of Resolution 2139 / Syria

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (seated, centre) poses for a group photo with Security Council members. 
22 April 2014

Report of the Secretary-General
23 April 2014
I. Introduction
1. This second report is submitted pursuant to Paragraph 17 of Security Council resolution 2139 (2014), in which the Security Council requested the Secretary-General to report, every 30 days, on the implementation of the resolution by all parties in the Syrian Arab Republic.
2. The report covers the period 22 March to 21 April 2014. The information contained in the report is based on the limited data available to the United Nations (UN) actors on the ground as well as reports from open sources and Syrian Government sources.

II. Major Developments

A. Political/Military
3. During the reporting period fighting between Government and opposition forces, as
well as between various opposition groups, continued in many parts of Syria. Fighting was particularly intense in Aleppo, Latakia, Dar’a, Homs and Rural Damascus governorates. Clashes also continued in several other parts of the country, including in Hama, Idleb, Ar-Raqqa and Deir -ez-Zor governorates. The conduct of hostilities by all parties to the conflict, including direct and indiscriminate attacks on civilians and civilian areas, continued to cause deaths and injuries.
4. In Aleppo, fighting escalated with significant shelling and the continued use of other heavy weaponry by Government forces. The use of missiles and rocket launchers by opposition groups resulted in a high number of casualties and injuries. An average of 20 shells and missiles were reported to have fallen daily on neighbourhoods in both eastern and western Aleppo between the end of March and early April. According to Human Rights Watch, which conducted a review of satellite imagery on 22 February, 1 March and 2 April 2014, there is strong evidence to suggest the use by government forces of indiscriminate aerial bombardment and ground attacks of opposition-held neighbourhoods in Aleppo. This reportedly includes over 85 major places impacted since 22 February with damage signatures strongly consistent with the use of improvised barrel and conventional bombs, resulting in the destruction of a vast number of residential buildings. This damage was particularly evident in opposition held neighbourhoods of Masaken Hanano, al Sakhour, Terbet Lala, Helwaniye, Jabal Badro, Al Heidariyya and Owaija.
5. Since 5 April, armed groups have also launched an offensive in the Al-Layramoun and Al-Zahraa neighbourhoods, in north-west Aleppo city, with armed clashes resulting in scores of civilians injured and displaced. In addition, armed clashes between Government and opposition groups in and around Ramousa town on the southern outskirts of Aleppo city have rendered access to the western part of Aleppo irregular since 12 April. Aleppo city is effectively encircled by armed opposition groups. Fighting, especially near the only supply route from Homs, Damascus and the coast into the city, has raised concerns about fuel shortages and rising food prices and other commodities in both western and eastern Aleppo.
6. In Latakia, armed opposition groups, including Jabhat al-Nusra, Ahrar al-Sham and Ansar al-Sham, launched a major offensive on Kassab town and surrounding areas on 21 March, taking control of the adjacent border crossing with Turkey from the Syrian Government. The fighting reportedly led to the forced displacement of over 7,500 people, many of whom have sought shelter in Latakia city. There have been reports of attacks on civilians, as well as looting of civilian homes and religious sites, including churches, although these remain unconfirmed.
7. In Dar’a Governorate, conflict persisted in locations with a heavy concentration of civilians including displaced people. Reports of a high number of aerial bombardments were reported in Dar’a city, Jasim and Ankhal (north Dar’a); Tassil, Tafs and Mzeireb (southwest); and Tiba and Sayda (east of al-Naseeb border crossing with Jordan). This included, for example, the damaging of grain silos storing 25 tons of wheat in Dar’a on 26 March.
8. Government-controlled cities and towns, including Damascus, were subject to indiscriminate mortar attacks and shelling by armed opposition groups. Between 26 March and 1 April heavily populated areas of Damascus, such as Al Midan, Al Mogambo, Al Sulaymaniya, Al Khaldiya and Nile Street, were attacked with mortars, resulting in secondary and tertiary displacement. In the first week of April alone, over 100 mortars were fired on neighbourhoods of Damascus. Opposition groups shelled residential areas in the city including the districts of Al-Malk, Bab Touma, al-Sadat, al-Kabbas and al-Zablatani.
9. Car bombings and suicide attacks, including against civilians, resulted in further civilian deaths and injuries. In particular, multiple instances of vehicle borne improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs) were reported in the governorates of Idleb, Dar’a, Al-Hasakeh, Latakia and Homs. For example, according to open sources, on 9 April at least 25 people, including women and children, were killed and another 100 were wounded when two car bombs exploded in the Karam al-Luz district, a predominantly Alawite neighbourhood of Homs city. Two volunteers from the Syrian Arab Red Crescent were among the injured as they arrived in an ambulance to treat people hurt by the initial blast.
10. Fighting near the Khan Danoun Palestinian Refugee camp, in south Damascus, resulted in a number of deaths and injuries of Palestine refugees. Several buildings and a mosque were also damaged. Four Palestinians were taken hostage by armed opposition groups and are still missing. After several hours of fighting the armed groups withdrew from the camp.
11. Foreign fighters continue to support all sides to the Syrian conflict, including extremist groups, armed opposition groups, and the government. The UN is unable to provide a verified assessment of their presence and activity on a nationwide scale. Interviewed by the Lebanese daily “As Safir” on 7 and 8 April, Hizbullah’s Secretary-General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah referenced Hizbullah’s “intervention” in Syria and stated that “we are present where we have to be present”. With regards to extremist foreign fighters, there have been unconfirmed reports that the flow has slowed down during the past few months.
12. Thousands of people were forcibly displaced during the reporting period due to ongoing fighting, as well as the deterioration in living conditions, particularly in the governorates of Aleppo, Latakia, Hama, Idleb, Dar’a and Rural Damascus. The largest numbers of people seem to have been displaced from opposition-held areas, in many cases, into areas under Government control which people deem to be safer. For example, around 40,000 people are estimated to have fled to Hama city due to fighting around Morek in Hama Governorate, while around 117,500 people sought shelter in Idleb city and surrounding areas. In Rural Damascus, escalation of fighting in Qudsiya led to the temporary displacement of an estimated 170,000 people residing in surrounding areas, mostly towards Damascus city.

B. Human Rights
13. The treatment of civilians under the control of parties to the conflict also continued to raise serious concerns during the reporting period. This includes reports of killings; enforced disappearances; torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment; arbitrary arrest and detention; kidnappings, and increasing sexual violence, by many parties to the conflict. In addition, reports have been received of incidents of child recruitment and child labour. On 28 March, the Human Rights Council adopted a resolution extending the mandate of the independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria for one year. The High Commissioner for Human Rights called on the Security Council, on 8 April, to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court.
14. On 7 April, an elderly priest, Father Frans van der Lugt, was killed in the Old City of Homs by unidentified armed gunmen. On 14 April, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights released a paper with consistent reports of torture and other cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment by Government forces. The paper also documented torture and ill-treatment committed by ISIS, Jabhat al-Nusra, Ahrar al-Sham, Liwa Al-Tawhed and Asifat al-Shamal. In addition, the paper documented the poor conditions in which those detained by Government forces and some armed opposition groups are being held. This could constitute or lead to torture or cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment.
15. On 29 March, Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) reportedly executed and mutilated the bodies of members of the Free Syrian Army held hostage in Margila, Deir-ez-Zor. OHCHR received the names of 24 victims of the incident. During the reporting period, reports verified by OHCHR also indicate that activists documenting human rights violations in Ar-Raqqa were forced to flee the city out of fear of being kidnapped or detained due to their work.
16. Concerns also remain about the situation of civilians in other areas under opposition control, in particular given the previous track-record of some of the opposition groups involved. After the opposition gained control of Kassab, an initial report indicated that 40 people, mostly elderly Armenians, were trapped in Kassab town and surrounding villages. Eight Armenians are reported missing and there is no information about the whereabouts of Alawites who used to live in Kassab. Both Jahbat al-Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham took part in a previous offensive on Alawite villages in rural Latakia in August 2013, which resulted in the killing of at least 190 people and the kidnapping of another 200, most of them women and children. During the reporting period, Ahrar al-Sham stated that they continue to hold over 90 hostages from that incident. In a statement issued on 29 March, Jabhat al-Nusra confirmed that it had killed a number of people, although it is not clear whether this included civilians.
17. The situation of detainees in the Government-run Aleppo Central Prison, which has been surrounded by several armed groups since mid-2013, continues to be dire despite intermittent delivery of assistance by the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC). There have been reports of several cases of death as a result of starvation or denial of medical treatment, including the death of one prisoner recorded by OHCHR during the reporting period. Around 2,500 individuals, including women and children, are estimated to be held at the prison, including hundreds of prisoners who have served their sentence or have been pardoned but have not yet been released. Former detainees in many other prisons gave accounts of daily deaths in detention due to lack of medical treatment.

C. Humanitarian access
18. Approximately 9.3 million people, more than 6.5 million of them internally displaced,
continue to be in need of urgent humanitarian assistance within Syria. It is estimated that 3.5 million people reside in areas that are difficult or impossible for humanitarian actors to reach due to a number of factors, some of which are set out below. This includes at least 242,000 people who live in areas that are besieged by either government or opposition forces.
19. The operational environment in Syria remains extremely challenging due to continued violence and insecurity, including direct and indiscriminate attacks on civilian areas, as well shifting conflict lines and the proliferation and fragmentation of armed opposition groups. These factors have continued to hamper humanitarian access.
20. During the reporting period, UN humanitarian agencies and partners delivered increasing amounts of assistance to Syrian men, women and children. This included, for example, food assistance dispatched by WFP for 4.1 million people, an 11 per cent increase compared with the 3.7 million people reached in February. UNHCR and partners provided relief items to 155,540 people between 25 March and 1 April reaching hard to reach locations such as Karak and Moarabeh in Dar’a for the first time. UNICEF and partners provided water treatments to produce safe water for more than 1.7 million people, including 460,000 litres of sodium chloride that was distributed in 11 governorates. 40 per cent went to hard-to-reach areas, through the provision of water tanks and generators. In addition, 54,770 children received school supplies and space for their education in nine hard-to-reach areas. Since March, WHO and partners have also provided medicines and medical equipment, including surgical supplies to partners, for up to 1.5 million people, including for 445,710 people in hard-to-reach and contested areas. This included, for example, 113,000 people in Abu Kamal in Deir-ez-Zor, which was reached for the first time, and 408,470 people in opposition-controlled areas in Deir-ez-Zor, Idleb and Ar-Raqqa governorates.
21. Despite these modest gains, humanitarian agencies are faced with increasing challenges to deliver regular and timely, needs-based humanitarian assistance to affected people, particularly to those in hard to reach locations and areas under siege. During the reporting period the assistance provided, whether through regular agency programming or through inter-agency convoys, only reached 34 out of the 262 locations identified as being heard to reach or besieged; a mere 13 per cent of locations. This included food assistance for 339,642 people (9.7 percent of the 3.5 million people) and essential relief items for 60,482 people (1.7 percent of the 3.5 million people). This included areas that the UN has not been able to reach in a number of months, including Eastern Aleppo City, Douma in Rural Damascus, Karak and Moarabeh in Dara’a Governorate, rural areas in Ar Raqqa, Deir ez-Zor city and camps for internally displaced persons in northern Idleb, which had not been reached since the start of the crisis. WFP reported an increase in the number of people supported with food in hard-to-reach areas with an estimated 297,750 people reached, up from 115,500 during the previous period. Of the 297,750 people reached, 185,250 people were reached via WFP regular aid programmes and 112,500 people were reached via inter agency convoy. Assistance to Al-Hasekeh also increased during the reporting period, largely as a result of the movement of aid across the Nusaybin border with Turkey.
22. The vast majority of hard to reach locations, however, remain extremely difficult for the UN and its partners to reach. This lack of access is particularly acute in five governorates that have been consistently difficult to reach. Ar-Raqqa, Deir-ez-Zor, Dar’a, Rural Damascus and Aleppo governorates. The entire governorates of Ar- Raqqa and Deir-ez-Zor have received extremely limited humanitarian assistance over the past six months due to insecurity and a proliferation of armed groups, including in particular ISIS, as access is blocked to the north-eastern part of the country. In Ar- Raqqa and Deir-ez-zor governorates, three out of 22 hard to reach locations were reached during the reporting period. In Dar’a only two out of 70 hard to reach locations were reached with assistance for 10,000 people. The main obstacles included on going active conflict and a lack of cooperation from the local Governor. This prevented UN cross-line aid deliveries. In Rural Damascus, where around 178,000 people continue to be besieged by Government forces, only three out of the 35 hard to reach locations were accessed. Active conflict and government restrictions, in particular to besieged areas continued to prevent access to people in need.
23. Despite the delivery of assistance by UNHCR to eastern Aleppo on 8 April, the mission was complicated and dangerous. A four-hour ceasefire was negotiated by UNHCR and SARC to deliver relief items to 2,500 people. Due to the presence of landmines in the no-man’s land between front lines, relief items were moved on 54 small pull-carts with the help of 75 workers and UNHCR/SARC staff. Travelling a distance of 1.5 kilometers, the workers made five consecutive round trips to transport the relief items. All of eastern and northern Aleppo, under the control of multiple opposition groups, remains hard to reach for the United Nations.

Besieged areas
24. The situation of approximately 242,0001 people in besieged areas remains of grave concern. It is estimated that approximately 197,000 people live in areas that are besieged by Government forces in the Old City of Homs, Madamiyet Elsham, Eastern Ghouta, Darayya and Yarmouk, while approximately 45,000 people live in areas besieged by opposition forces in Nubul and Zahra.
25. During the reporting period, 23,700 people or almost 10 % of people living under
siege in two of these besieged areas were reached with limited assistance: Douma, in eastern Ghouta and Yarmouk in Damascus.
26. Eastern Ghouta. On 29 March, an inter-agency convoy led by the RC/HC, delivered
food for 5,000 people and relief items for 15,000 people. An additional convoy to Douma, although approved, was put on hold by the United Nations as the Government refused to allow medicines to be included in the convoy. A new request for a convoy to Douma, to take place on 22-25 April, was submitted on 16 April, emphasising the need to deliver medicines and other medical supplies. A response is still pending. The majority of towns in eastern Ghouta have been besieged since 2012.
27. Madamiyet Elsham. Previous reports of thousands of people returning to Madamiyet
Elsham have now been cross-checked by the UN and it is now estimated that approximately 15,000 people have returned to the town following the truce/ceasefire agreement and subsequent reduction in active conflict. This increased the number of people in besieged Madamiyet Elsham from 5,000 to 20,000 people. There continue to be reports of limited movements of people in and out of the area, who have been permitted to bring in very small amounts of food. Medicines and reconstruction/shelter materials continue to be prohibited. In addition, the United Nations and SARC are still unable to enter the area to deliver humanitarian assistance.
28. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) approved an inter-agency convoy to Madamiyet Elsham which was scheduled for departure on 1 April. However the convoy did not depart as the Government communicated to the Humanitarian Coordinator that conditions for the receipt of the assistance on the ground were not met, so the convoy could not proceed. In ongoing efforts to facilitate the necessary conditions for humanitarian access, on 6 April, the UN met with representatives from the National Reconciliation Committee and the opposition reaching an agreement on the mechanism for the delivery of humanitarian aid to the town. On the basis of this agreement, a further request was submitted by the Humanitarian Coordinator to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) on 9 April for an accompanied inter-agency convoy between 14-17 April with food and non-food items for up to 5,000 people and medicines for up to 37,000 people. The convoy request remains pending with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Madamiyet Elsham has been besieged since late 2012.
29. Yarmouk. Continued fighting in and around Yarmouk disrupted efforts to access the area. During the reporting period food parcels were distributed to some 2,173 families. There have been reports that around 15,000 people have returned to Madamyet Elsham , bringing the total number of besieged in Madamyiet to 20,000. The number of people besieged in Yarmouk is now estimated at 18,000. Around 150,000 are besieged in Eastern Ghouta (as opposed to 160,000 after a recent UN assessment) , while 8,000 continue to be besieged in Darayya, 45,000 in Nubul and Zahra by opposition armed groups and 1,000 in the Old City of Homs. This brings the number of people besieged to 242,000 ( 197,000 by Government forces) and 45,000 by opposition forces. 
(approximately 8,692 people), sufficient to meet only 15 percent of the minimum food needs of the resident population. UNWRA’s distribution activities were either authorized or enabled on only seven days during the reporting period, with the last food distribution taking place on 8 April . Approximately 18,000 civilians, the majority of whom are Palestine refugees, remain trapped in the area, facing acute risks of hunger and malnutrition, exposure to communicable diseases, poor sanitation and lack of medical care. Given that an UNRWA food parcel lasts for a maximum of ten days, UNRWA states that there will be no food in Yarmouk from 20 April. Yarmouk has been besieged since June 2013.
30. Darayya. Approximately 8,000 people remain besieged in Darayya, Rural Damascus with no access to assistance or evacuations occurring during the reporting period. Darayya has been besieged since November 2012.
31. Old City of Homs. It is estimated that 1,000 people remain in the Old City of Homs.
Heavy clashes between Government, pro-government and opposition forces inside the Old City erupted on 15 April. This fighting followed a breakdown of intensive negotiations between the Syrian Government, the local reconciliation committee and other representatives inside the Old City aimed at agreeing on a truce. Assistance was last provided to the Old City on 7-12 February 2014 through a joint UN/SARC mission. The Old City of Homs has been besieged since June 2012.
32. During the 7-12 February mission, 1,400 people were evacuated, including 470 men and boys between 15 and 55 years, who were taken to the Government's Al-Andalus facility for Government screening. Of these men and boys, 57 remain at the facility awaiting clearance. A further 25 who were cleared remain in the facility for various reasons, including lack of civil documents, loss of homes, and lack of relatives nearby. Among those who were cleared 19 have been reported arrested or missing after leaving the facility. Further follow up by UNHCR revealed that of these 19, six were released, two are missing, and one person is still in detention. UNHCR was unable to verify the current status of the remaining 10 individuals. On 7 April, during a meeting between the Humanitarian Coordinator and the Governor of Homs, the Governor reported that a further 660 males between the ages of 15-55 have left the Old City since the end of the UN facilitated evacuations in February, and that a total of 500 men and boys now remain at the facility. The Humanitarian Coordinator has expressed to the Governor the UN's serious concerns regarding the status of the men and boys in Al-Andalus. It was agreed with the Governor that the UN will provide humanitarian supplies for those at Al-Andalus through a local partner.
33. Nubul and Zahra. On 4 April the Syrian Government approved convoys to the besieged towns of Nubul and Zahra, as well as four near-by communities (Kafr Hamra, Hreitan, Heyan and Meyer). The UN has been engaged in intense negotiations with opposition groups to facilitate access to the towns and re-establish access to rural Aleppo, over the last two weeks. The opposition groups in question initially put forth stringent conditions, including that: i) Syrian forces immediately cease shelling in Aleppo; ii) the situation in Aleppo central prison be solved; iii) humanitarian assistance be delivered to Homs and Rural Damascus; iv) all women and children be released from detention; and v) Government forces withdraw from Nubul and Zahra. While these conditions have been relaxed, negotiations continue. Nubul and Zahra have been besieged since April 2013.

Cross-border assistance
34. Distribution of the aid transported (from 20 to 25 March) from Turkey to Syria through the Nusaybin/Quamishli border crossing is on-going in opposition, government and Kurdish controlled areas through partners in Qamishli city, Tal Tamir, Al Shaddadeh, al Hawl, Jwadiyeh, Derbassiyeh, Tal Brak, Tal Hamis and Amuda in Rural Al-Hasakeh Governorate, Al Hasakeh city, Al-Malkieh district and Ras Al-Ain district in the northern part of Al Hasakeh. On 8 April WFP received written authorization from the Government of Syria for an additional convoy via Nusaybin crossing from Turkey. These rations were initially intended for importation to Syria via Al Yaroubiyah crossing from Iraq, for which consent was withdrawn by the Government of Syria in January. WFP has 34 trucks of food rations available to cross via Nusaybin. The UN is expecting a positive response from the Turkish authorities following a request on 10 April.
35. Requests made by the United Nations to the Syrian authorities to urgently authorize the use of additional border crossings still remain pending. The Syrian Government has consistently stated that they will only allow the use of border crossing points that are controlled by them. The other crossings points for which requests have been made are Bab-al Salam and Bab-al Hawa on the border with Turkey, both of which are controlled by the Islamic Front; Al Yaroubiyah crossing point with Iraq controlled by the PYD and Tal Shihab crossing point with Jordan controlled by the Free Syrian Army. A request to directly restock warehouses on route from Al Naseeb crossing point, controlled by the Syrian Government at the border with Jordan in Dar’a or Sweida was previously authorized.

Free Passage of Medical Supplies, personnel and Equipment
36. The delivery of medical supplies continued to be negotiated on a case by case basis. The inclusion of surgical supplies or any item that may be used for surgical interventions (including bandages, gloves, injectable medicines, antiseptics, anaesthetic medicines) continue to be restricted by the Government, for delivery in opposition held areas. Only medicines for non-communicable diseases, pain-killers and antibiotic are allowed into opposition held areas. Prior to distribution, supplies are checked multiple times by security forces, and in some cases the amount of medicines in convoys is decreased.
37. During the reporting period, medical supplies that would have assisted 216,015 people in hard to reach and besieged areas were either removed from convoys, or the convoys were not allowed to proceed. This includes medical supplies for 195,000 people in the besieged areas of Madamiyet Elsham and Douma and for 21,350 people in locations in Homs and Aleppo. However, convoys to hard to reach areas in Idleb, delivered all medicines and medical supplies, including some surgical equipment, sufficient to meet the basic needs of at least 65,000 people in Saraqab and Sarmada. In other parts of the country, many more people were denied medicines, particularly if the requests included surgical equipment, blood transfusion equipment or perfusions. In Yarmouk, the Syrian authorities continued to refuse to authorize UNRWA to distribute medical supplies, with the exception of the 15,000 polio vaccines distributed since December and a small quantity of mineral supplements, vitamin supplements and rehydration salts.
38. Negotiations are ongoing to allow medicines and medical supplies into opposition
areas without any exceptions. On 10 April, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs communicated that all syringes or devices required for vaccination are now authorized to all areas. Mechanisms are also being explored with the Government to enable patients in besieged areas to have access to surgical treatment and hospital care.
39. Two new confirmed polio cases were reported in Syria in April in Aleppo and in Hama governorates. The March round of the polio vaccination campaign has reached almost 3 million children. Post-campaign monitoring indicates that vaccination coverage was greater than 85 per cent in all but two governorates, Damascus (79%) and Rural Damascus (84%).
40. Facilitation letters from the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs were received for all areas across the country for the fifth polio vaccination campaign. However, insecurity continued to hinder the immunization of children in numerous locations including in rural areas of Hama, Dar’a, Deir-E- Zor, Aleppo, Homs, Hassakeh, Ar Raqqa, Rural Damascus, Quneitra, Latakia and besieged areas.
41. There has been no progress on the demilitarization of hospitals and no examples of such demilitarization occurring during the reporting period.

Administrative procedures
42. On March 31, the Government communicated, in writing, that a follow up Note Verbale would be sent to the HC with specific instructions for a new procedure for the clearance of unaccompanied convoys. This procedure would allow trucks to be checked and “sealed” at warehouses to facilitate passage at checkpoints. The written communication remains pending but instructions were sent to military checkpoints that they comply with the new procedure.
43. A total of 18 international NGOs are authorised to work in Syria. On 8 April, MOFA sent a directive to an international NGO in Syria, through SARC, to either terminate cross border operations across the Turkish border or end its cooperation with Damascus within two weeks of the date of the directive. The international NGO has requested an extension to stay until the end of the month of April while also seeking permission for a high level delegation to visit the country and discuss the issue with the Government. During the reporting period 5 new national NGOs were authorized to work with the UN.

44. International non-governmental organizations (INGOs) continue to be prevented from partnering with national NGOs and face significant restrictions for staff to travel to field locations. Many INGOS are also prevented from establishing sub-offices in field locations, or from expanding operations from sub-offices. A proposed Memorandum of Understanding with SARC that would reduce many of the restrictive clauses was submitted to the Government on 26 February by the Government of Switzerland. The agreement of the Government to this memorandum remains pending.

45. The revised visa policy established by the Government of Syria on 4 March continued to be implemented. From 22 March to 21 April, the UN submitted 31 new visa requests or renewals. Of these, 16 have been approved, within the agreed time-frame of 15 working days. 15 remain pending, including 2 for DSS, as six others pending from last year were cancelled by DSS. In addition, 13 new visa or renewal requests which had been pending prior to the reporting period were approved. Four new INGO visas were also approved, leaving a total of 16 requests pending.

Safety and security of staff and Premises
46. On 19 April, SARC in Hama reported an explosion at a check point on Salamiyeh road while 4 privately-contracted trucks carrying WFP supplies from Safita warehouse in Tartous for delivery to SARC Hama were waiting to pass; the trucks were severely damaged and two drivers were killed. On 10 April, two UNRWA staff, a school attendant and a teacher, sustained minor injuries due to the impact of a mortar on a Government school in Jaramana (Rural Damascus) also used by UNRWA. Two SARC volunteers were injured in a car bomb attack in Homs city on 9 April.
47. 25 UN national staff members continue to be detained (21 from UNRWA, 2 from IOM and 2 from UNDP). Three UNRWA national staff members are missing.

48. While the crisis in Syria can only be solved through a political solution, it is with regret that I inform the Council that we have drifted even farther away from this goal. After two rounds of intra-Syrian negotiations in January and February, the Geneva II talks on implementation of the Geneva Communique have stalled. While current conditions may not be conducive for a quick resumption of peace talks, international and regional actors, and the Syrian parties themselves, must put aside their differences and refocus on promoting a political solution to the crisis.
 49. With the ever-increasing violence and extremism, I repeat my strong calls on all in the region and beyond to stop the flow of arms and fighters to all parties in Syria. All in the international community must do all they can to prevent extremist groups from acquiring financial resources, weapons, food and other supplies. All regional actors must also exercise restraint and avoid provocation which would lead to a further escalation of the conflict.
50. I am greatly concerned that the opening of a new front in northern Latakia increases the risk of sectarian violence, particularly with the involvement of Jabhat al-Nusra – an Al-Qaeda affiliate listed by the Security Council Sanctions Committee - in the takeover of Kassab village along the Turkey-Syria border. I note that some of the groups involved in the Kassab offensive have espoused dangerous sectarian rhetoric and were also part of an operation in Latakia Governorate in August 2013, which led to hundreds of deaths and civilian kidnappings.
51. I remain deeply concerned by the continued indiscriminate attacks on populated areas and civilians, including with barrel bombs that have destroyed entire neighbourhoods. I want to remind all parties that under international humanitarian law it is prohibited to fire at or bombard civilians and to make civilian infrastructure the objects of attack. Such attacks, even if in reprisal, are prohibited by international humanitarian law and continue to challenge the very essence of our shared humanity.
52. Two months since the adoption of Security Council resolution 2139 (2014), none of the parties to the conflict have adhered to the demands of the Council. Civilians are not being protected. The security situation is deteriorating and humanitarian access to those most in need is not improving. It remains an extremely challenging environment in which to work. Thousands of people are not getting the medical care, including life-saving medicines, that they need. Medical supplies, including life-saving medicines and vaccines, and equipment for the wounded and the sick are commodities privileged throughout the Geneva Conventions. Denying these is arbitrary and unjustified, and a clear violation of international humanitarian law. Yet, medicines are routinely denied to those who need them, including tens of thousands of women, children, and elderly. The Security Council must take action to deal with these flagrant violations of the basic principles of international law.
 53. I must again urge the parties, and in particular the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic, to honour their obligations under international humanitarian law and act now. Resolution 2139 leaves no room for interpretation or further negotiation of access. The parties must comply and allow and facilitate the delivery of essential relief items to civilians in need, in particular in those most difficult to reach areas listed in Resolution 2139. Almost 3.5 million civilians remain largely without access to essential goods and services. Not to comply constitutes arbitrary denial of access. The Council also called upon all parties to lift the sieges of populated areas. This call has not been heard and I consider it shameful that nearly a quarter of a million people are being deliberately forced to live under such conditions.

54. Since my previous report on the implementation of resolution 2139, I call yet again upon all parties to the conflict to work with the United Nations to establish durable and lasting arrangements at key border and combat line crossings to facilitate access. Also, I call again on the Syrian government to streamline convoy procedures and grant blanket approvals to reach all those that are desperately in need and facilitate the passage of medicines including medical supplies. The time for extended access negotiations and waiting for permits and clearances should be over. People are dying needlessly every day. The UN is ready to take any steps possible to facilitate the impartial delivery of urgently needed humanitarian relief to those most deprived in line with international humanitarian law and the humanitarian imperative to care for the wounded and sick.

(PDF copy with Annexes here

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