The Russian Defense Ministry said on Tuesday that neither Russian nor Syrian war planes had struck a humanitarian convoy near Aleppo the previous day, saying the convoy’s whereabouts had only been known to militants on the ground.
Air raids rocked northern Syria’s Aleppo province on Tuesday, hours after 18 lorries in the UN convoy were hit in the Uram al-Kubra district west of Aleppo city.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that the attacks were carried out by either Assad regime’s or Russian aircraft and at least 32 people were killed.
“The air forces of Russia and Syria did not conduct any strikes against the UN aid convoy in the southwestern outskirts of Aleppo,” defence ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said in a statement carried by Russian news agencies.
Konashenkov said the attack the previous night doesn’t appear to have been from an air strike.
The Russian military “carefully studied the video recordings of the so-called activists from the scene and found no signs that any munitions hit the convoy”, Konashenkov said.
“Everything shown on the video is the direct consequence of the cargo catching fire, and this began in a strange way simultaneously with militants carrying out a massive offensive in Aleppo.”
Staffan de Mistura, United Nations Special Envoy for Syria, denounced the air raid. “Our outrage at this attack is enormous… The convoy was the outcome of a long process of permission and preparations to assist isolated civilians,” he said.
Life-saving aid supplies lost
At least 18 of 31 trucks in a U.N. and Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) convoy were hit on Monday along with an SARC warehouse. The convoy was delivering aid for 78,000 people in the hard-to-reach town of Urm al-Kubra in Aleppo province.
A rescue worker who witnessed the convoy attack said more than 20 missiles pounded the area for hours, even hitting his team as they searched the debris for survivors. Hussein Badawi, who leads the White Helmets in Uram al-Kubra, accused Syrian and Russian aircraft of taking part.
“Life-saving aid supplies have been totally damaged and a health clinic destroyed, depriving thousands of civilians of much needed food and medical assistance,” said Benoit Carpentier of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.
SARC’s director in Urem al-Kubra, Omar Barakat, was among the dead, Mardini said. “The team is in shock.”
“Omar was badly injured and the rescue team could not reach him for two hours. When he was evacuated he could not survive his wounds,” he said.
Aid delivery suspended.
The United Nations has suspended all aid convoys to Syria following the attack on aid trucks, which could amount to a “war crime”, according to UN official Jens Laerke.
“As an immediate security measure, other convoy movements in Syria have been suspended for the time being pending further assessment of the security situation,” Jens Laerke, U.N. humanitarian aid spokesman, told a news briefing in Geneva.
“If this callous attack is found to be a deliberate targeting of humanitarians, it would amount to a war crime,” said Stephen O’Brien, the top UN humanitarian official, adding the warring parties had been told about the aid convoy.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, speaking at the UN General Assembly in New York, called those who attacked the convoy “cowards”.
“Powerful patrons that keep feeding the war machine also have blood on their hands,” Ban added.
“Yesterday’s attack is a flagrant violation of international humanitarian law and it is unacceptable,” Peter Maurer, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said in a statement. “Failing to protect humanitarian workers and structures might have serious repercussions on ongoing humanitarian work in the country, hence depriving millions of people of aid essential to their survival.”
The Syrian crisis began as a peaceful demonstration against the injustice in Syria. Assad regime used to fire power and violence against the civilians and led to armed resistance. 450.000 Syrians lost their lives in the past five years according to UN estimates, and more than 12 million have lost their homes.
— Middle East Observer (@MEOorg) September 19, 2016