LATTAKIA, SYRIA — Armenia delivered on Tuesday the first batch of humanitarian assistance to civilians in Syria increasingly suffering from the country’s devastating civil war.
The Armenian Foreign Ministry said a transport plane carrying the aid landed at the Russian military’s Hmeimim airbase in northwestern Syria early in the morning. Photographs released by it showed Armenia’s consul general in Aleppo and the airbase commander standing on the tarmac and watching as the cargo was unloaded from the plane.
In a series of tweets, the ministry thanked Russia’s defense and foreign ministries for “assisting in the transportation.” It was not immediately clear whether the aid, presumably including food, was airlifted by a Russian or Armenian aircraft.
The Armenian government announced Friday that it will send two planeloads of relief aid to Syria to “support the population affected by the Syrian conflict.” It did not specify where and how the supplies will be distributed.
The announcement came shortly after five ethnic Armenian residents of Aleppo were killed and 11 others wounded amid intensifying fighting in the war-ravaged city between Syrian government forces and rebels. The Foreign Ministry in Yerevan condemned “the deplorable use of weaponry against the civilian population of Aleppo, including of the Armenian districts.”
An estimated 80,000 ethnic Armenians lived in Syria before the outbreak of the bloody conflict there five years ago. The mostly middle-class community was concentrated in Aleppo, the country’s formerly largest city.
Only several thousand Syrian Armenians are thought to remain in Aleppo now. Virtually all of them live in neighborhoods controlled by government troops. Many are apparently unable to flee the war zone or simply have nowhere to go.
Friday’s deaths, reportedly caused by opposition shelling, led to renewed calls for the Armenian government to help evacuate the remaining Aleppo Armenians. An Armenian Foreign Ministry spokesman said on Monday that the authorities are “not discussing” such a possibility yet.
More than 16,000 Syrian Armenians have taken refuge in Armenia in the last four years.