UN: Airstrikes didn’t carry on attack on aid convoys in Syria

UN halts aids delivery in Syria after aid convoys were hit Aleppo
Damaged Red Cross and Red Crescent medical supplies lie inside a warehouse after an airstrike on the rebel held Urm al-Kubra town, western Aleppo city, Syria September 20, 2016. REUTERS/Ammar Abdullah

The United Nations said on Tuesday that a humanitarian convoy in Syria was hit by “attacks” on Monday rather than “air strikes” as it had said earlier.

“We are not in a position to determine whether these were in fact air strikes. We are in a position to say that the convoy was attacked,” U.N. humanitarian spokesman Jens Laerke said.

A statement from the top U.N. humanitarian officials in Syria and the region had described “air strikes” but was swiftly amended to read “attacks”, after what Laerke said was probably a drafting error.

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.

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.

War crimes

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.

“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.”

Russian denial

The Russian Defense Ministry said on Tuesday that neither Russian nor Syrian war planes had struck a humanitarian convoy near Aleppo the previous day.

“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.”

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.