Pro-Assad Bombing of Aid Convoy as Ceasefire Ends

By Scott Lucas – eaworldview – 20 Sept 2016 – Syria’s Assad regime and/or its Russian ally has bombed a UN aid convoy, as it ended a seven-day US-Russian ceasefire. The convoy the UN and Syrian Arab Red Crescent were delivering assistance at warehouses in Orem al-Kubra in Aleppo Province when they were attacked. The warplanes then struck a second time in a “double tap” operation, as rescuers tried to assist the wounded from the first assault.A local resident reported five missile strikes. Of the 31 trucks, 18 were hit. At least 20 people were killed. The Red Crescent director in the Aleppo area and 11 other personnel died, while 18 were wounded. Bodies burned inside vehicles and could not be retrieved because of the ongoing attacks.The head of UN humanitarian operations, Stephen O’Brien, said: There can be no explanation or excuse, no reason or rationale for waging war on brave and selfless humanitarian workers trying to reach their fellow citizens in desperate need of assistance….

Let me be clear: if this callous attack is found to be a deliberate targeting of humanitarians, it would amount to a war crime. I call for an immediate, impartial and independent investigation into this deadly incident. The perpetrators should know that they will one day be held accountable for violations of international humanitarian and human rights law.

Bombing Across Opposition-Held Aleppo

There was also pro-Assad bombing of parts of opposition-held eastern Aleppo city, with the Syrian American Medical Society reporting 12 dead in one attack and posting pictures and video of injured children.

“It started with an hour of extremely fierce bombing,” said Besher Hawi, the former spokesman for the opposition city council. “Now I can hear the sound of helicopters overhead. The last two were barrel bombs.”

Video showed bombing of eastern Aleppo through the night.

The Local Coordination Committees documented 74 deaths across Syria on Monday, including 45 in Aleppo Province.

Assad and Russia: Ceasefire is Over

The Syrian military announced the “end of the freeze on fighting” on Monday afternoon, claiming — without evidence — that rebels had breached the ceasefire more than 300 times.

Russia’s Defense Ministry supported the formal renewal of military operations, calling the ceasefire “pointless”:

Syrian servicemen and peaceful citizens are still dying. The cause of this is the fact the United States has no effective leverage to influence Syria’s opposition and is unaware of the real situation on the ground.

Considering that the conditions of the ceasefire are not being respected by the rebels, we consider it pointless for the Syrian government forces to respect it unilaterally.

The Syrian military had resumed bombing before Monday’s developments, with airstrikes from the northwest to the south of Syria over the weekend. Among them was an attack on Dael in Daraa Province which killed at least 12 people and wounded dozens.

However, the Russian-regime announcements and the bombing of the aid convoy shredded any prospect of a stoppage which would allow aid and open the way to political talks.

They also exposed a US position which seemed detached from reality, as Secretary of State John Kerry said, “[The ceasefire] was quite good last night, trucks are moving, let’s see how it goes today.”

As reports of the bombings were confirmed, a “senior Obama administration official” said:

We don’t know if [the ceasefire can be salvaged.

At this point the Russians have to demonstrate very quickly their seriousness of purpose because otherwise there will be nothing to extend and nothing to salvage.

State Department spokesman John Kirby said the US was “outraged”: “The United States will raise this issue directly with Russia. Given the egregious violation of the Cessation of Hostilities, we will reassess the future prospects for cooperation.”

However, Kerry continued to hesitate over what action might be taken:

Well, the Syrians do not – didn’t make the deal. The Russians made the agreement. So we need to see what the Russians say. But the point – the important thing is the Russians need to control Assad, who evidently is indiscriminately bombing, including of humanitarian convoys. So let’s wait and see and collect the facts. We need to see where we are, and then we’ll make a judgment. But we don’t have all the facts at this point.

Russia Stages Another Rebel Attack?

As it announced the end of the ceasefire, the Russian Defense Ministry declared that “militants” interrupted an online video broadcast with shelling on the front southwest of Aleppo.

The Ministry said, a web camera “monitoring the implementation of the ceasefire reigme” was knocked out of service at the al-Assad Military Academy. It said no Russian servicemen were hurt.

Just after the start of the ceasefire last week, a Defense Ministry briefing was punctuated by a display on a large video screen of supposed rebel shelling of the main route north of Aleppo city.

Analysts evaluated that the “attack”, which featured two Russian officers clumsily diving to the ground and a reporter running for supposed safety, was probably staged.

The Defense Ministry proclaimed that an assault by the jihadists of Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, formerly Jabhat al-Nusra, was repelled with “some 100 militants of the group’s forward unit” killed and four tanks, three infantry fighting vehicles, and nine pickup trucks destroyed.

There is no corroboration elsewhere of the Ministry’s claims.