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Friday, March 24, 2023

Over 23,000 dead from quake in Turkey and Syria

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Syrian President Bashar al-Assad visits neighborhoods impacted by the earthquake in the northern city of Aleppo, Syria, on February 10. (-/AFP/Getty Images)

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad criticized Western countries in his first televised comments since the 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck parts of the country five days ago, Syrian state media showed.

Assad and his wife, Asma, visited different sites affected by the earthquake and visited survivors at a hospital in Aleppo, pictures on state-run news agency SANA showed.

Standing near a building destroyed by the earthquake, Assad told reporters that Western countries “have no regard for the human condition.” This comment is in line with statements heard from government officials and Syria’s state-run media, who have pinned the lack of humanitarian aid and hindered rescue equipment on US and EU sanctions.

The US says its sanctions are not imposed on humanitarian efforts, and on Friday, the US Treasury issued a “General License” for 180 days, which authorizes all earthquake relief-related transactions otherwise prohibited by sanctions regulations. The Syrian Foreign Ministry called this a measure a means to give a “false impressions of humanity,” SANA said.

Remember: Almost 11 million people have been affected by the disaster in Syria, the UN said. The death toll in Syria stands at least 3,384, including 2,037 in rebel-held areas in the northwest, according to the “White Helmets” civil defense group – and 1,347 deaths in government-controlled parts of Syria, according to Syrian state media. More than 5,000 people have been injured across all affected territories, according to authorities.

The delivery of urgent supplies to quake-hit areas of northern Syria has been complicated by a long-running civil war between opposition forces and Assad’s government, who is accused of killing his own people. Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad says any aid it receives must go through the capital Damascus.

That leaves rebel-held areas reliant on aid groups including the UN, who has only been able to send two convoys since Monday, which is starkly different to Turkey, where 70 countries and 14 international organizations have promptly offered teams of rescuers, donations and aid as of Thursday.

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