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News > World

Airstrike Hits Aleppo Aid Convoy as Cease-Fire Begins to Crack

  • A man rides a motorcycle past a damaged building in the rebel-held al-Shaar neighbourhood of Aleppo, Syria, September 17, 2016.

    A man rides a motorcycle past a damaged building in the rebel-held al-Shaar neighbourhood of Aleppo, Syria, September 17, 2016. | Photo: Reuters

Published 19 September 2016

Shelling resumed amid charges and counter-charges of betrayal and duplicity.

The United Nations confirmed Monday that an airstrike hit an aid convoy near Aleppo killing and injuring several people including aid workers, which came hours after the Syrian military declared a one-week truce brokered by the United States and Russia after a U.S. airstrike hit Syrian troops the day before.

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At least 18 of 31 trucks in a U.N. and Syrian Arab Red Crescent convoy were hit along with a SARC warehouse, said U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric. The convoy was delivering aid for 78,000 people in the hard-to-reach town of Urm al-Kubra in Aleppo Governorate, he added.

U.N. aid chief Stephen O'Brien said initial reports indicated many people had been killed or seriously wounded, including SARC volunteers, adding that if the "callous attack" was found to be deliberate it would amount to a war crime.

"Notification of the convoy ... had been provided to all parties to the conflict and the convoy was clearly marked as humanitarian," he said in a statement, calling for an immediate, independent investigation.

However, the U.N. gave no details as to who carried out the attack or how many died as world leaders converged in New York for the annual U.N. General Assembly gathering under the shadow of fresh violence in Syria.

The attack appeared to signal the imminent collapse of the latest effort by Washington and Moscow to halt Syria's more than five-year-long conflict.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said it was too early to call the cease-fire finished, and the U.N. said that only Washington and Moscow could declare it over, as they were the ones who had originally agreed to it.

Washington said it was working to extend the truce but called on Russia to first clarify the Syrian army's statement that it was over.

However, the cease-fire came under added strain during the weekend when a U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State group killed more than 60 Syrian soldiers in eastern Syria. Assad called that incident "flagrant aggression," while Washington called it a mistake.

Meanwhile Russian and U.S. officials met in Geneva Monday and the International Syria Support Group—the countries backing the Syria peace process—were scheduled to meet Tuesday in New York to assess the cease-fire agreement. But both the Syrian army and the rebels spoke openly of returning to the battlefield.

An end to the truce could doom any chance of the Obama administration negotiating a Syria breakthrough before it leaves office in January. Kerry overcame skepticism of other administration officials to hammer out the deal, gambling on cooperation with Russia despite the deepest mistrust in decades between the Cold War-era superpower foes.

Syria Truce 'Will Not Hold Out' Says Senior Rebel Source

Syria accused the rebels of exploiting the calm to rearm while violating the ceasefire 300 times, and vowed to "continue fulfilling its national duties in fighting terrorism in order to bring back security and stability."

Asked about the army's statement, Kerry told reporters in New York that the seven days of calm and aid deliveries envisaged in the truce had not yet taken place.

"It would be good if they didn’t talk first to the press but if they talked to the people who are actually negotiating this," Kerry said. "We just began today to see real movement of humanitarian goods, and let’s see where we are. We’re happy to have a conversation with them."

Aid was delivered to the besieged town of Talbiseh in Homs province Monday, the Red Cross said, for the first time since July. The convoy brought in food, water and hygiene supplies for up to 84,000 people, it said.

But most aid shipments envisioned under the truce have yet to go in, especially a convoy destined for rebel-held eastern parts of Aleppo, where some 275,000 civilians are believed to be trapped without access to food or medical supplies.

The U.N. said it had received government approval to reach nearly all the besieged and hard-to-reach areas where it sought to bring aid, but access to many areas was still constrained by fighting, insecurity and administrative delays.

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