BEIRUT - Shooting forced the United Nations to abort a delivery of food and polio vaccines to a besieged area of Damascus after the Syrian government insisted it use a dangerous route, a UN spokesman said.
Aid workers in Syria have accused authorities of hampering deliveries to rebel-controlled areas and threatening groups with expulsion if they try to avoid bureaucratic obstacles to help people trapped in an almost three-year-old civil war. Syria blames rebel attacks for aid delays.
The UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) said Damascus had authorized a six-truck convoy to deliver food for 6,000 people, 10,000 doses of polio vaccine and medical supplies to the Yarmouk Palestinian district where 15 people are known to have died of malnutrition and 18,000 are trapped by fighting.
UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness said in a statement Syrian authorities had "required" that it use the southern entrance to Yarmouk.
That meant it had to drive 20 km (12 miles) "through an area of intense and frequent armed conflict, in which numerous armed opposition groups, including some of the most extreme jihadist groups, have a strong and active presence".
When the convoy passed the southern checkpoint, its Syrian government escort sent a bulldozer to clear the road of debris and it was fired on by unknown assailants.
Machinegun fire erupted and a mortar exploded close to the convoy, Gunness said, and UNRWA's Syrian security detail told the convoy to withdraw. No one was wounded, he said.