Warehouses Seized by Syrian Militants Leads U.S. to Suspend Aid

The U.S. has suspended non-lethal aid to northern Syria after members of a militant Islamist rebel group seized warehouses belonging to the Western-backed Supreme Military Council.

The decision applies to “all deliveries of non-lethal assistance into northern Syria while we evaluate the situation on the ground and gather additional details,” Jen Psaki, a State Department spokeswoman, told reporters today in Washington. The U.K. also has halted aid temporarily, the Foreign Office said in a statement.

The Islamic Front, an umbrella organization of six militant groups, took control of the warehouses this week. The U.S. has sought to withhold non-lethal aid -- including items such as night-vision goggles, communications equipment and body armor -- from such Islamist groups while backing rebels it describes as moderate.

Saudi Arabia has indicated it won’t be constrained by the U.S. restrictions on the effort to topple President Bashar al-Assad because it considers the U.S.-backed factions disorganized and largely ineffective. Saudi Arabia’s main regional adversary, Iran, is Assad’s close ally.

Militants have been seizing U.S. supplies at the border with Turkey for months, according to an official with an international aid agency who asked not to be identified discussing the incidents.

“Assistance continues through other neighboring countries to other parts of Syria” and humanitarian aid isn’t affected, Psaki said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Nicole Gaouette in Washington at ngaouette@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: John Walcott at jwalcott9@bloomberg.net

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