UN halts aid deliveries in Syria after deadly strike on convoy

Istanbul/Beirut, ACCRA, Sept. 20 – (dpa/GNA)
– The United Nations suspended all humanitarian convoys in Syria on Tuesday
after 18 aid trucks were bombed in northern Aleppo province the day before,
killing aid workers and civilians in an act that the UN said could amount to a
“war crime.”

The US charged that either a Russian or a
Syrian plane hit the aid convoy late Monday and placed most of the blame on
Moscow, the main backer of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The UN will reassess the security situation
in the wake of the attack, spokesman Jens Laerke said in Geneva. The bombing
came just hours after the Syrian army declared an end to a week-long truce,
brokered by the United States and Russia.

The trucks that were hit were part of a
31-vehicle convoy that was unloading urgently needed food and medical supplies
for tens of thousands of people at a warehouse of the Syrian Red Crescent,
trying to take advantage of the truce.

“The destination of this convoy was
known to the Syrian regime and the Russian federation and yet these aid workers
were killed in their attempt to provide relief to the Syrian people,” US
State Department spokesman John Kirby said.

The UN also said the parties to the conflict
were informed about the delivery. The International Committee of the Red Cross,
which helped organize the convoy, announced it was in mourning and denounced
the attack as a violation of international law.

“If this callous attack is found to be
a deliberate targeting of humanitarians, it would amount to a war crime,”
warned Stephen O’Brien, the UN’s top humanitarian official.

David Swanson, a spokesman for the UN in
southern Turkey, warned that as a result of the collapse of the ceasefire and
the attack, people in need would not receive aid. An estimated 13.5 million
people, including 6 million children, need assistance.

“The aid convoy that we had planned
under the cessation of hostilities had to be put on hold,” Swanson said.
“We are devastated by what has transpired.”

Airstrikes have been pounding Aleppo and
other areas of Syria since the ceasefire was ended on Monday. Fresh fighting
also took place between ground forces in the north of the country, according to
the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The rebel-held east of Aleppo city, with
hundreds of thousands of residents, has been cut off from aid deliveries since
July despite the ceasefire, making the situation at hospitals treating the
wounded more complicated due to shortages.

US officials appeared to be holding out hope
that the could negotiate a new truce deal with the Russians. The week-long
truce did manage to reduce the violence in the country and allowed some aid to
reach tens of thousands of people in need.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia
did not expect to reinstate the ceasefire, according to state news agency TASS.


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