Air raids and shelling yesterday pounded key battlefronts in Syria, as outrage mounted over an airstrike on an aid convoy hours after Syria’s military declared an end to a week-long truce.
The UN said it was suspending all humanitarian aid convoys in Syria after the deadly raid late on Monday, which killed several civilians, including a senior employee of the Syrian Red Crescent.
The strike and renewed violence across the country dimmed hopes that the fraught ceasefire negotiated by Moscow and Washington could be revived.
Key players, including the US and Russia, were yesterday to meet in New York in an effort to salvage the peace process, which US Secretary of State John Kerry had warned could be the “last chance” to end Syria’s civil war.
However, on the ground in Syria, activists and journalists reported intensifying fighting.
In the battleground city of Aleppo, air raids and artillery fire hit rebel-held areas until approximately 2am, a journalist said.
Residents spent the night huddled in their apartments sharing news about the collapsing truce via text messages and heard loud intermittent booms yesterday morning.
At least 39 civilians were killed in an overnight bombardment of Aleppo and the surrounding province, and fresh clashes erupted on the city’s southern edges, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
In the week after the truce was declared on Sept. 12, only 27 civilians were killed as fighting dropped significantly across the country.
Monday night’s raid on the convoy destroyed at least 18 of 31 vehicles delivering aid under a joint UN, Red Cross and Red Crescent operation for the town of Orum al-Kubra in Aleppo Governorate.
The observatory, a Britain-based monitoring group, said 12 Red Crescent volunteers and drivers had died in the strike.
UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs spokesman Jens Laerke told reporters in Geneva, Switzerland, that as an “immediate security measure, other convoy movements have been suspended” following the raid.
This marks a “very, very dark day for humanitarians in Syria and indeed across the world,” he said, adding that it was “paramount that we are able to establish the facts through an independent investigation.”
Red Cross spokesman Benoit Carpentier told reporters that a senior official of the Syrian Red Crescent was among those killed.
Infuriated UN officials had earlier warned the strike could amount to a war crime.
“If this callous attack is found to be a deliberate targeting of humanitarians, it would amount to a war crime,” UN Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Stephen O’Brien said.
Aid to desperate civilians was a key element of the US-Russia deal, but deliveries were minimal during the truce and cross-border assistance for besieged civilians in eastern parts of Aleppo city never entered Syrian territory.
Syria’s military unilaterally announced the end of the truce on Monday night, accusing rebels of failing to “commit to a single element” of the deal.
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