Four medics were killed and a nurse critically wounded late on Tuesday when an airstrike hit a clinic in a village near Syria’s second city of Aleppo, the aid group that supports it said.
The four staff of the Union of Medical Care and Relief Organizations were in two ambulances that had been called to the clinic to take some patients for more specialized treatment, the group said.
The clinic in the village of Khan Tuman was completely leveled in the 11pm strike, and more dead were feared to be buried under the rubble, the group added.
“The building has three floors, including a basement. Because of the intensity of the bombardment, the three stories collapsed and are completely destroyed,” the groups’ hospitals and trauma director for the area, Ahmed Dbais, said in a statement. “We don’t yet know exactly how many dead there are.”
Khan Tuman is near Urum al-Kubra, the town where an attack on aid trucks and a warehouse killed about 20 civilians on Monday, triggering a war of words between major powers.
The US on Tuesday blamed Russia for the overnight attack on the aid convoy, as the UN announced it was suspending overland aid deliveries in Syria, jeopardizing food and medical security for millions of besieged and hard-to-reach civilians.
Confusion continued about who struck the convoy, but the White House insisted it was either Russia or Syria.
White House Deputy National Security Adviser for Strategic Communications and Speechwriting Ben Rhodes said either way, the US held Russia responsible, because it was Russia’s job under the week-old ceasefire to prevent Syria’s air force from striking in areas where humanitarian aid was being transported.
“All of our information indicates clearly that this was an airstrike,” Rhodes said, rejecting a claim by the Russian Ministry of Defense that a cargo fire caused the damage.
Both Russia and Syria have denied carrying out the bombing.
Within one minute of the strike, the US tracked a Russian-made Su-24 attack aircraft directly over the region of the attack, US officials said.
Even that revelation failed to definitively implicate Russia, because both the Russian and Syrian air forces fly the Su-24, although the officials said there were strong indications that the jet was flown by the Russian military.
The officials spoke anonymously, because they were not authorized to comment publicly on the incident.
Witnesses described the Monday attack on a Syrian Arab Red Crescent warehouse and convoy in rebel-held Urum al-Kubra as prolonged and intense, saying the aerial bombardment continued as rescue workers rushed to pull the wounded from the flaming wreckage and rubble.
The convoy was part of a routine interagency dispatch operated by the Syrian Red Crescent, which UN officials said was delivering assistance to 78,000 people in Urum al-Kubra. It was carrying food, medicine, emergency health kits, intravenous fluids and other essentials supplied by the UN and the WHO.
Local paramedic and media activist Mohammad Rasoul, who was among the first to arrive at the scene, said more than 100 tonnes of food, medicine and baby formula had gone up in flames.
He said 18 of the convoy’s 31 trucks were completely destroyed.
The attack “erased the convoy from the face of the earth,” Rasoul said.
“I’ve never seen anything like this attack,” he said. “If this had been a military position, it wouldn’t have been targeted with such intensity.”
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