War-torn Syria suffers effects of Suez Canal blockage
Syria’s Assad regime has begun rationalizing the distribution of fuel in the war-torn country amid concerns of delays of shipments arrivals resulting from a giant cargo ship wedged in Egypt’s Suez Canal, the regime’s oil ministry said on Saturday.
A giant container ship remained stuck sideways in the Suez Canal for a fifth day Saturday, as authorities prepared to make new attempts to free the vessel and reopen a crucial east-west waterway for global shipping.
Even before the skyscraper-sized Ever Given, carrying cargo between Asia and Europe, ran aground Tuesday, Syria had been suffering from fuel shortages which the Assad regime has blamed on Western sanctions.
The US and other western countries say that their sanctions only target senior Assad regime officials, while allowing Syrians to meet their essential needs.
Read more: Bread queues and hunger in Assad's Syria
Syrians have been struggling with deteriorating economic conditions, shortages of basic goods and medicine, and have been forced to wait in long lines to buy subsidized bread and fuel.
The regime oil ministry said that while waiting for the return of shipping traffic to normal through the Suez Canal, and in order to ensure the continued provision of basic services to Syrians at bakeries, hospitals, water stations and telecommunications centres, the ministry is currently rationalizing the distribution of available quantities of oil derivatives of diesel and gasoline.
It added that the measures aim “to ensure their availability for the longest possible period.”
Earlier this year, the Assad regime raised the price of fuel, including subsidized prices, by more than 50%, in the third increase this year. It also raised the price of cooking gas.
Nearly 80% of Syrians live in poverty, and 60% are food insecure - the worst food security situation ever seen in Syria, according to the United Nations.
A decade of conflict, which started in 2011 after the suppression of peaceful protests by the Assad regime, has caused huge devastation to the Syrian economy and displaced millions of its people, driving most of them into poverty.
Coronavirus pandemic restrictions have added to pressure on the economy, compounded by the financial crisis in neighbouring Lebanon, which has been a bridge to Syria economically and financially.
More than half a million people have been killed in Syria’s 10-year conflict, most of them as a result of regime bombardment of civilian areas.
Schools and hospitals have been targeted and the country’s infrastructure is in ruins.