Beleaguered Syria suffers also due to Suez Canal closure

BEIRUT (AP) — Syria has begun rationing the distribution of fuel in the war-torn country amid concerns that shipments could be delayed because Egypt's Suez Canal is being blocked by a giant cargo ship that has run aground, the Oil Ministry said Saturday.

The container ship remained stuck sideways in the Suez Canal over the weekend, as authorities prepared to make new attempts to free the vessel and reopen a crucial east-west waterway for global shipping.

Even before the Ever Given ran aground, Syria had been suffering from fuel shortages mostly caused by Western sanctions.

Syria has been struggling with deteriorating economic conditions, shortages of basic goods and medicine. Syrians have been forced to wait in long lines to buy subsidized bread and fuel.

The Oil Ministry said that fuel is being rationed to allow the basic services in Syria can continue while the Suez Canal remains blocked. Such services include bakeries, hospitals, water services and telecommunications centers.

Earlier this year, the Syrian government raised the price of fuel, including fuel products that had been subsidized, 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 has caused huge devastation to the Syrian economy, isolated its government and displaced its people, driving most of them into poverty. The pandemic restrictions have added to pressure on the economy, compounded by the financial crisis in neighboring 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 that has also left the country’s infrastructure in ruins and most of its oil and agriculture resources outside of government control.