Syria conflict: UN suspends all aid after convoy hit

Media captionAn activist from the Syrian Civil Defence White Helmets shows the area said to have been hit by attack

Syria's war

Da BBC, 20 de Setembro, 2016

The UN has suspended all aid convoys in Syria after a devastating air attack on its lorries near Aleppo on Monday.

The strikes destroyed 18 of the 31 lorries, which were bringing wheat, clothes and medical kit to the area around Urum al-Kubra.

A senior local official of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent was among about 20 civilians killed, aid officials said.

Russia and Syria have both insisted that their forces were not involved in the incident.

Russian defence ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said that after studying video taken at the scene they "did not find any signs of munitions hitting the convoy".
"Everything shown in the video is the direct result of a fire which mysteriously began at the same time as a large scale rebel attack on Aleppo," he said.

The Syrian military, quoted by state media, said there was "no truth" to reports that the army had targeted the convoy.

A media activist who witnessed the attack told the BBC Arabic service that Russian reconnaissance planes had been spotted, apparently filming the passage of the convoy.

He said the first strike came at about 19:00 local time on Monday, when a helicopter dropped several barrel bombs. This was followed by rocket and machine-gun fire from aircraft, he said.
Aid workers in shock: Imogen Foulkes, BBC News, Geneva

Just a day ago, aid workers in Geneva were "almost celebrating" one said, because all the necessary permits had been received, all the warring parties had been notified, and a convoy was finally going to Aleppo province.

The 31 lorries were carrying supplies for 78,000 people in Urum al-Kubra. But this morning, the optimistic mood had changed.

Aid workers familiar with some of the world's most brutal conflicts were in shock, some close to tears, others expressed disgust. Vitamins and blankets, books and pencils for children, medicines to treat burns or diabetes have all been destroyed.

The head of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent's office in Urum was killed, dying of his injuries as he waited hours to be evacuated. Now the UN and the Red Cross have suspended aid deliveries. Millions of Syrians who had hoped the brief ceasefire might bring some relief will, a Red Cross spokesman said, go on suffering, "and they have been for years".

A UN spokesman said the convoy had received proper permits, and all warring parties - including Russia and the US - had been notified.

The President of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Peter Maurer, has denounced the attack as a "flagrant violation of international humanitarian law".

Syrian Red Crescent president Abdulrahman Attar said: "It is totally unacceptable that our staff and volunteers continue to pay such a high price because of the ongoing fighting."

The US expressed "outrage" over the attack, which took place hours after the Syrian army declared a US-Russian brokered truce over.

Washington has said it will "reassess the future prospects for co-operation" with Russia - an ally of Syria's government.

Aid deliveries to besieged areas had been a key part of the cessation of hostilities deal brokered last week.
Media captionAn Aleppo resident spoke to Newsday amid airstrikes and gunfire

The convoy was being unloaded at a Red Crescent warehouse when the attack began. The aid had been due to be delivered to people in rebel-held areas around Urum al-Kubra, who were last supplied in mid-July.

The UN said the aid included:
Winter clothes
Education and nutrition items
Nine tonnes of medical supplies including trauma kits, burn treatments, IV kits and fluids, medication for chronic conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure and cardiological conditions

A health clinic near the warehouse was also badly damaged.

"The destination of this convoy was known to the Syrian regime and the Russian Federation," state department spokesman John Kirby said.

"And yet these aid workers were killed in their attempt to provide relief to the Syrian people," he added.

The attack appeared to signal the collapse of the latest effort by the US, which backs the rebels, and Russia to halt the violence in Syria.

Image copyrightAPImage caption

The attack on the convoy left aid supplies damaged beyond use and strewn over the ground

Image copyrightREUTERSImage captions

Boxes of medical supplies were destroyed, shortly after unloading

"We don't know if it can be salvaged," a senior US official told journalists on condition of anonymity.

"At this point the Russians have to demonstrate very quickly their seriousness of purpose because otherwise there will be nothing to extend and nothing to salvage."

Russian presidential press secretary Dmitry Peskov said the chance of renewing the ceasefire was "very weak", Interfax has reported.

In other comments, reported by Reuters, Mr Peskov said: "Unfortunately, we can state... that our American colleagues have failed to separate terrorists from the so-called moderate opposition."

Media captionThe UK's former international development secretary, Andrew Mitchell, says the attack could be a war crime

After the army announcement, activists said Aleppo and the surrounding area had been targeted.

A member of the White Helmets group that helps civilians caught in the violence said there had been "heavy bombing on many neighbourhoods" of Aleppo, causing multiple casualties.

"Our rescue teams are now trying to get people from under the rubble," Ismail told the BBC's Newsday programme. "The situation has changed completely. Before the sky was clear. Now I hear warplanes."

He said people risked dying "in two ways - from bombing, and the lack of food, the lack of basic needs", and appealed for renewed international efforts.

"Do something to save these kids who do not know what this war is."

The Syrian military and rebels had already accused each other of violations before the latest incidents.

The US and Russia are to hold further talks on the Syrian situation in New York on Tuesday, the state department said.

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