NEWS BRIEF The United Nations will resume deliveries of humanitarian aid to tens of thousands of civilians in Syria days after an attack on one of its convoys killed at least 20 people.
UN spokesman Jens Laerke said Wednesday that “several” convoys are expected to reach their destinations as early as Thursday, but he did not name the locations, the Associated Press reported. Laerke said the convoys will not go to Aleppo, the epicenter of Syria’s civil war, which is in its sixth year, and the humanitarian crisis it created.
Deliveries came to a halt after an air strike hit a convoy of Syrian Arab Red Crescent trucks in northwestern Syria Monday night. The bombing engulfed 18 of the 31 trucks in flames and killed 20 civilians, including Omar Barakat, the organization’s local director. The trucks were carrying UN-supplied food, medicine, and other aid to the 78,000 people of Urm al-Kubra, a rebel-held town near Aleppo. The attack occurred hours after Syrian forces called off a weeklong, nationwide cease-fire brokered by Russia and the U.S., who are on opposing sides of the civil war between Bashar al-Assad’s government and Syrian opposition groups.
Responsibility for the attack is disputed, and U.S. and Russian officials have spent the days since trading blame. White House Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes said U.S. intelligence suggests the convoy was hit by an air strike, and pointed to the fact that Syrian rebel groups don’t have an air force. He did not say whether the strike came from Russian or Syrian aircraft, but said the U.S. holds Russia responsible because, under the terms of the failed cease-fire, Moscow was supposed to keep Syrian forces in check.
The Kremlin says Russian and Syrian forces are not at fault, and on Wednesday the Russian Defense Ministry claimed a U.S. drone was flying near the area just minutes before the convoy was bombed.
The failed cease-fire brokered earlier this month had allowed aid workers unrestricted access to Aleppo and nearby besieged neighborhoods.