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Charity suspends Syria aid plans

A British charity has suspended plans to deliver aid to Syria because of the worsening violence in Lebanon.

ShelterBox has a team of aid workers in Lebanon trying to get aid into war torn Syria, and because of a rise in violence and kidnaps in Beirut the Cornwall-based charity has taken the decision to postpone its work until security improves.

Team members Alice Jefferson, 23, from Carnon Downs, near Truro, and Phil Duloy, 31, from Falmouth, had been working with ministers in the Lebanese government to organise the importation of ShelterBoxes.

They had also been planning potential distribution to Syrian refugees with several international non-governmental organisations, including Handicap International, the International Committee of the Red Cross and the United Nations Refugee Agency and a consortium of eight local NGOs operating in the central Bekaa Valley.

ShelterBox had submitted a proposal to Lebanon's Council of Ministers through an influential contact on Wednesday afternoon. Later that same afternoon the armed wing of the Muqdad clan retaliated to the Free Syrian Army's kidnapping of their fellow clansman, Hassan Muqdad, some time earlier.

ShelterBox said details were unclear but reports stated that around 30 people were seized in the northern parts of the Bekaa Valley and in southern Beirut.

"Members of the Muqdad clan wearing balaclavas and holding automatic weapons were interviewed on live television, saying they were targeting citizens of countries and even local individuals who they deemed supportive of Syria's insurgency," said Mr Duloy.

"Their list included the very contact we had just been meeting with, who was due to pass our aid request to the government. The Council of Ministers had just one more session before a break for Eid, a national holiday lasting two and a half weeks, and we knew that security issues were pushing the importation of our aid off the agenda.

"Having found no other secure routes for ShelterBox aid in to Lebanon, we reluctantly made the decision to wait for a better chance and focus our efforts on Jordanian routes. This wave of kidnappings in Lebanon has raised fears that the fight for control over Syria will exacerbate tensions in a country already polarised by sectarian divisions."

The charity provides ShelterBoxes to families, which typically contain a tent, blankets, water storage and filtration equipment, cooking utensils, a stove, basic tool kit and other vital items.

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