Wed | Aug 16, 2017

UN suspends all convoys in Syria after attack

Published:Wednesday | September 21, 2016 | 9:00 AM
Damaged trucks carrying aid, in Aleppo, Syria, after a UN humanitarian aid convoy in Syria was hit by airstrikes Monday.
Aa vest of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent hanging on a damaged vehicle, in Aleppo, Syria, Tuesday, 2016. A UN humanitarian aid convoy in Syria was hit by airstrikes Monday as the Syrian military declared that a US-Russian brokered cease-fire had failed, and U.N. officials reported many dead and seriously wounded.
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BEIRUT (AP):

The United Nations (UN) humanitarian aid agency suspended all convoys in Syria yesterday following an overnight attack on aid trucks that the International Committee of the Red Cross said killed about 20 civilians, mostly truck drivers and Red Crescent workers.

The attack has plunged Syria's US-Russia-brokered ceasefire further into doubt. The Syrian military, just hours earlier, had declared the week-long truce had failed. The United States said it was prepared to extend the truce deal, and Russia - after blaming rebels for the violations - suggested it could still be salvaged.

It was not clear who is behind the attack, which sent a red fireball into the sky over a rural area in western Aleppo province. Both Syrian and Russian aircraft operate over the province, while the US-led coalition targets the Islamic State group in other parts of the country.

In Geneva, Jens Laerke, a spokesman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said that all aid deliveries had been halted pending a review of the security situation in Syria in the aftermath of the airstrikes. Laerke called it "a very, very dark day ... for humanitarians across the world".

A member of the Syrian Civil Defense - a group of volunteer first responders also known as the White Helmets - criticised the UN humanitarian aid agency for suspending the convoys.

Ibrahim Alhaj told the Associated Press that Syrian civilians would pay the price for the decision - and that the UN should have condemned the attacks on the convoy rather than suspending aid.

20 CIVILIANS DEAD

The International Committee of the Red Cross and the Syrian Red Crescent issued a statement yesterday saying 20 civilians had been killed in the convoy attack, many of them struck while offloading aid from the trucks. Much of that aid had been destroyed, they said. ICRC President Peter Maurer said the attack was a "flagrant violation of international humanitarian law" and "totally unacceptable".

The convoy was part of a routine inter-agency dispatch operated by the Syrian Red Crescent. UN officials said it was delivering assistance for 78,000 people in the town of Uram al-Kubra, west of the city of Aleppo. Initial estimates indicate that about 18 of the 31 trucks in the convoy were hit, as well as the Red Crescent warehouse in the area.

When asked who was behind the airstrikes, Rami Abdulrahman of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said Syrian President Bashar Assad's "regime does not have the capabilities to carry out such airstrikes within two hours".

He said the airstrikes on Aleppo province, including the ones that hit the convoy, were part of some 40 air raids that lasted about two hours - starting at about 7:30 p.m. Monday - and that "it was mostly Russian warplanes that carried out the air raid."

The Local Coordination Committees, another activist group in Syria, said Russia's air forces and government warplanes dropped 25 bombs, damaging some 20 trucks and destroying the Red Crescent warehouse in Uram al-Kubra.

A paramedic, speaking in a video released by Aleppo 24 News, blamed Russian and government warplanes, as well as Syrian army helicopter gunships.

The Syrian and Russian militaries have both denied they were involved in the attack.