The United States believes that Russian warplanes were responsible for the bombing of an aid convoy in Syria shortly after a ceasefire came to an end, government sources told CNN Wednesday.
“All the evidence we have points to that conclusion,” one of the officials said.
“All of our information indicates clearly that this was an airstrike. That means there only could have been two entities responsible,” deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes said Tuesday night, referring to Russia and its ally Syria. A Russian defense ministry spokesman countered with a claim that terrorists had destroyed the convoy.
The strikes in western Aleppo province destroyed 18 out of the 31 trucks that made up the joint UN-Syrian Arab Red Crescent convoy and killed around 20 people, including the local head of the Red Crescent. The convoy was delivering aid for 78,000 civilians. The United Nations temporarily halted humanitarian convoys into Syria after a clinic and aid trucks were deliberately targeted by jets on Monday night, but announced on Wednesday that they would soon resume.
UN aid chief Stephen O’Brien said that if the convoy had indeed been purposely targeted, it would be a war crime, because “notification of the convoy…had been provided to all parties of the conflict and the convoy was clearly marked as humanitarian.” UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the “sickening, savage and apparently deliberate attack” on the convoy and denounced the depravities of the regime of Bashar al-Assad, which “continues to barrel bomb neighborhoods and systematically torture thousands of detainees.”
The Syrian military declared the ceasefire, brokered by the United States and Russia, to be over on Monday, and immediately proceeded to attack Aleppo with airstrikes and barrel bombs. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that at least 40 Syrians had been killed in Aleppo in other air strikes on Monday night.
During the five year-long civil war, which has killed a reported 400,000 people and displaced millions, the Assad regime has been documented committing war crimes, including the indiscriminate murder of civilians through the use of barrel bombs, massacres, intentional starvation, and chemical weapons attacks. The Assad regime and its backers—Russia, Iran, and Hezbollah—have been denounced for intentionally targeting schools and medical facilities.
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