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UN suspends aid deliveries in Syria amidst scores of Aleppo airstrikes

AMMAN: The Assad regime and Russia are responsible for more […]

AMMAN: The Assad regime and Russia are responsible for more than 90 barrel bombs and missile strikes in the 24 hours after the Syrian army’s General Command declared an end to the ceasefire, a Civil Defense spokesman told Syria Direct on Tuesday.

“Since 7pm Monday night, more than 60 barrel bombs and naval mines have been dropped on Aleppo province,” Abu Layth, the spokesman for the Aleppo Civil Defense, told Syria Direct on Tuesday. The spokesman cited an additional “30 airstrikes, including cluster bombs and incendiary weapons.”

In total, the Civil Defense counts more than 48 deaths in the last day, including 12 members of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) who were killed in Monday’s air attack on a 31-truck aid convoy that was about to depart to deliver assistance to rebel-held areas in west Aleppo province. The convoy had been held up for a week, but was granted regime permission to move on Monday before the bombings.

“The destination of this convoy was known to the Syrian regime and the Russian Federation, and yet these aid workers were killed in their attempt to provide relief to the Syrian people,” State Department John Kirby said in a statement on Monday.

 A convoy preparing to leave for rural west Aleppo on Monday. Photo courtesy of SARC Aleppo.

Around 7:30pm Monday evening, four regime helicopters allegedly dropped eight barrel bombs on the SARC convoy and neighboring warehouse in the town of Orem al-Kubra, killing an estimated 20 aid workers and truck drivers, the Aleppo Civil Defense reported. Other local news sources claim that the attack came from a Russian warplane.

Moscow and Damascus denied involvement in the airstrikes. Russian and Syrian warplanes “did not carry out any airstrikes on a UN humanitarian aid convoy in the southwest of Aleppo,” Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said in a statement Tuesday.

The ministry appeared to blame unnamed “militants.” The convoy’s movements “were only known by the militants who were in control of the area,” Konashenkov added.

“There’s no truth to the claim that the Syrian Arab Army targeted a humanitarian aid convoy in the Aleppo countryside,” Syrian state news agency SANA reported on Tuesday.

 Aftermath of Monday bombing of SARC aid convoy. Photo courtesy of the Aleppo Media Center.

“Let me be clear: if this callous attack is found to be a deliberate targeting of humanitarians, it would amount to a war crime,” Stephen O’Brien, the United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, said in a statement on Tuesday.

In the aftermath of the aid convoy bombing, the United Nations suspended their aid delivery operations across Syria.

“As an immediate security measure, other convoy movements in Syria have been suspended for the time being, pending further assessment of the situation,” Jens Laerke, spokesman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, told a press conference in Geneva on Tuesday.

SARC, the regime-affiliated implementer of aid deliveries across Syria, similarly announced a three-day suspension of activities as a period of mourning.

“The head of SARC sub-branch in Orem Al-Kubra, Mr. Omar Barakat, and a number of truck drivers and offloading workers were killed during the attack,” the statement reads. SARC is suspending “operations for three days in protest against it.”

The international community condemned the attack while stopping short of blaming any one party.

“From what we know of Monday’s attack, there has been a flagrant violation of international humanitarian law, which is totally unacceptable,” Peter Maurer, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) president said in a joint SARC-ICRC statement on Tuesday.

The attack on the aid convoy is just the latest in a wave of airstrikes destroying civilian life, from roads to bakeries to hospitals to homes, says Aleppo’s Civil Defense spokesman.

“The message here is clear,” Abu Layth told Syria Direct. “Every single thing that we need to survive, the regime will make a point of targeting, even humanitarian aid.”

A local councilman in the rebel-held, blockaded Damascus suburb of Madaya agreed, adding that the delayed aid puts more pressure on already hungry residents.

“They pin all of their hopes on this aid,” Firas al-Hussein, spokesman for the Madaya Local Council, told Syria Direct. “They wait with immense anticipation for its arrival because of the blockade and the hunger.”

“It seems that, one way or another, these bombs are going to kill us,” said al-Hussein.

“Either the bombs will get us, or we’ll go hungry when the aid convoys are hit.”

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