The United States has blamed Russia for an airstrike that targeted a UN aid convoy near Syria’s Aleppo province on Monday, shortly after the Syrian military ended a ceasefire due to recurrent breaches by terrorist groups.
UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said that at least 18 of 31 Syrian Red Crescent trucks carrying UN-provided food were destroyed in an airstrike in Aleppo’s Urm al-Kubra region.
Washington quickly held Moscow responsible for the attack, arguing that the Russian military was in charge of making sure that a shaky ceasefire, brokered earlier by the US and Russia, stays in place.
“The destination of this convoy was known to the Syrian regime and the Russian federation and yet these aid workers were killed in their attempt to provide relief to the Syrian people,” US State Department spokesman John Kirby said in a statement.
“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 with Russia,” he added.
Syria's army announced the end to the week-long ceasefire on Monday, blaming militants' lack of commitment for the failure of the truce.
Stephen O’Brien, the UN’s emergency relief coordinator, called for immediate investigations into the deadly incident since all parties of the conflict were aware of the convoy and its route.
“Let me be clear: if this callous attack is found to be a deliberate targeting of humanitarians, it would amount to a war crime,” he asserted.
The UN Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, also condemned the attack, saying, “our outrage at this attack is enormous.”
An unnamed senior US official told the media that Washington held Moscow primarily responsible for the attack.
“We don’t know at this point whether it was the Russians or the regime. In either case, the Russians have the responsibility certainly to restrain – refrain from taking such action themselves, but they also have the responsibility to keep the regime from doing it,” the official said.
The Kremlin did not immediately respond to the American claims.
The attack comes days after US-led airstrikes killed over 60 Syrian soldiers in the Syrian city of Dayr al-Zawr on Saturday, while surrounded by Takfiri militants in an airport.
According to De Mistura, more than 400,000 people have been killed in the conflict in Syria, since it broke out in March 2011.