The Russian Defense Ministry said on Wednesday that a U.S. Predator drone was in the area where a U.N. aid convoy was partially destroyed in Syria on Monday, while the US forces denied the accusation previously.
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.
Major-General Igor Konashenkov, a spokesman for the ministry, said the drone had taken off from the Incirlik air base in Turkey, arrived in the area a few minutes before the convoy had caught fire, and left about 30 minutes later.
He noted that such drones were armed with air-to-ground missiles.
“Only the drone’s owners know what it was doing there at the necessary moment and what tasks it was carrying out,” Konashenkov said in a statement, saying Russia was not drawing any conclusions about the drone’s presence.
Konashenkov repeated denials of any Russian involvement in the episode and said Western allegations that Moscow was directly or indirectly responsible were an attempt to distract attention from the U.S.-led coalition’s deadly bombing of Syrian soldiers near Deir al-Zor airport on Saturday.
Russian planes were not in the area at the time and had not made any air strikes there, he said, saying Moscow had informed the United States of that the same evening as the incident took place.
“The air forces of Russia and Syria did not conduct any strikes against the UN aid convoy in the southwestern outskirts of Aleppo,”
U.S. isn’t responsible for the attack
An attack on a convoy carrying humanitarian supplies in the Aleppo area of Syria appeared to be an air strike but it was not carried out by coalition jets, U.S. Central Command spokesman Colonel John Thomas said on Tuesday.
“It was certainly not the coalition who struck from the air. It does look like an air strike,” Thomas told reporters during a telephone briefing.
“The only other entities that fly in Syria are Russia and Syria,” he said.
The incident could deal a powerful blow to the ceasefire, the latest attempt to halt a war in its sixth year.
Thomas said the ceasefire in Syria was in jeopardy because of increased violence.
“This is not the vision that I think was put in place more than seven days ago, to try to get humanitarian assistance flowing into the area and try to decrease the level of violence,” Thomas said.
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.
“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.
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.