U.N. halts aid con­voys to Syria af­ter at­tack

Baltimore Sun - - NA­TION & WORLD - By Philip Issa and Jamey Keaten

BEIRUT — Vol­un­teers were still dous­ing the fires from an overnight at­tack on an aid con­voy that killed 20 civil­ians as the U.N. an­nounced Tues­day it was sus­pend­ing over­land aid de­liv­er­ies in Syria, jeop­ar­diz­ing food and med­i­cal se­cu­rity for mil­lions of be­sieged and hard-to-reach civil­ians.

Wit­nesses de­scribed the Mon­day at­tack on a Syr­ian Arab Red Cres­cent ware­house and con­voy in the rebel-held town of Uram al-Kubra in Aleppo prov­ince as pro­longed and in­tense, say­ing the ae­rial bom­bard­ment con­tin­ued as res­cue work­ers rushed to pull the wounded from the flam­ing wreck­age and rub­ble

he con­voy was part of a rou­tine in­ter­a­gency dis­patch op­er­ated by the Syr­ian Red Cres­cent, which U.N. of­fi­cials said was de­liv­er­ing as­sis­tance to 78,000 peo­ple in Uram al-Kubra, west of Aleppo city.

It was car­ry­ing food, medicines, emer­gency health kits, IV flu­ids, and other essen­tials sup­plied by the U.N. and the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion.

Lo­cal para­medic and me­dia ac­tivist Mo­ham­mad Ra­soul, who was among the first to ar­rive at the scene, said over 100 tons of food, medicine, and baby for­mula had gone up in flames. He said 18 of the con­voy’s 31 trucks were de­stroyed.

The at­tack “erased the con­voy from the face of the earth,” Ra­soul said.

“I’ve never seen any­thing like this at­tack,” he said. “If this had been a mil­i­tary po­si­tion, it wouldn’t have been tar­geted with such in­ten­sity.”

He said the at­tack be­gan around 20 min­utes af­ter sun­set Mon­day and con­tin- U.N. Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral Ban Ki-moon called the deadly at­tack on the con­voy in Uram al-Kubra, Syria, “sick­en­ing.” ued for two hours.

It was not clear who was be­hind the at­tack.

Both Syr­ian and Russian air­craft op­er­ate over the prov­ince, while the U.S.-led coali­tion tar­gets the Is­lamic State group in other parts of the coun­try. Syria’s rebels do not pos­sess an air force.

The U.S. holds the Krem­lin re­spon­si­ble for the airstrikes by Rus­sia or Syria that hit the con­voy, the White House said.

At the same time the at­tack took place on Uram al-Kubra, pre­sumed Syr­ian or Russian jets launched a wave of at­tacks in and around the nearby city of Aleppo, min­utes af­ter Syria’s mil­i­tary an­nounced a week­long cease-fire had ex­pired.

Rus­sia and Syria both de­nied they had car­ried out the con­voy bomb­ing. Rus­sia’s De­fense Min­istry blamed the dam­age on a cargo fire.

A cargo fire would not ex­plain wit­ness ac­counts of a two-hour bar­rage of mis­siles, rock­ets and bar­rel bombs.

Hus­sein Badawi, head of the town’s Syr­ian Civil De­fense search and res­cue group — also known as the White Hel­mets — said that on the night of the at­tack he heard the sounds of over­head bal­lis­tic mis­siles, heli- copters and fighter jets.

He and other wit­nesses re­ported see­ing a re­con­nais­sance air­craft ob­serv­ing the con­voy be­fore the at­tack.

“There were re­con­nais­sance flights be­fore the airstrikes,” Badawi said. “They filmed and combedt­hearea, and they knew there was a Red Cres­cent (fa­cil­ity). The tar­get was the Red Cres­cent, cen­tral and di­rect.”

Rus­sia’s De­fense Min­istry con­firmed Tues­day that a drone had fol­lowed the con­voy from a ware­house in the gov­ern­ment-side of Aleppo to its des­ti­na­tion in Uram al-Kubra.

The In­ter­na­tional Com­mit­tee of the Red Cross said that 20 civil­ians were killed in the at­tack, many of them died as they were un­load­ing the trucks. Syr­ian ac­tivists and paramedics had said ear­lier that the airstrikes killed 12.

U.N. Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral Ban Ki-moon called it a “sick­en­ing, sav­age and ap­par­ently de­lib­er­ate at­tack,” in his ad­dress Tues­day to world lead­ers at the Gen­eral Assem­bly in New York.

“Just when we think it can­not get any worse, the bar of de­prav­ity sinks lower,” he said, de­scrib­ing the bombers as “cow­ards” and those de­liv­er­ing aid as “heroes.”


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