UN sus­pends all con­voys in Syria

Jamaica Gleaner - - INTERNATIONAL NEWS -

BEIRUT (AP): HE 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 USRus­sia-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.

TDa­m­aged trucks car­ry­ing aid, in Aleppo, Syria, af­ter a UN hu­man­i­tar­ian aid con­voy in Syria was hit by airstrikes Mon­day. 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.

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