The UN humanitarian aid agency suspended all convoys in Syria on Tuesday following deadly airstrikes on aid trucks the previous night that activists said killed at least 12 people, mostly truck drivers and Red Crescent workers.
The attack plunged Syria’s U.S.-Russia-brokered cease-fire further into doubt. The Syrian military, just hours earlier, had declared the week-long truce had failed. The United States said it was prepared to extend the truce deal and Russia — after blaming rebels for the violations — suggested it could still be salvaged.
In Geneva, spokesman Jens Laerke of OCHA said further aid delivery would hold pending a review of the security situation in Syria in the aftermath of the airstrike. Laerke called it “a very, very dark day… for humanitarians across the world.”
The U.N. aid coordinator said the Syria government had granted needed authorizations in recent days to allow for aid convoys to proceed inside Syria. Humanitarian U.N. aid deliveries had stalled in recent weeks amid continued fighting, and the truce had not paved the way for expanded convoys as initially expected.
It was not clear who was behind the attack late on Monday, which sent a red fireball into the sky in the dead of night over a rural area in Aleppo province. Both Syrian and Russian aircraft operate over Syria, as well as the U.S.-led coalition that is targeting the Islamic State group.
Rami Abdurrahman of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which tracks the civil war, and Aleppo-based activist Bahaa al-Halaby both said the attack killed 12 people.
Among the victims was Omar Barakat who headed the Red Crescent in the town where the attack occurred, they said. The Syrian Civil Defense, the volunteer first responder group also known as the White Helmets, confirmed that casualty figure.
The convoy, part of a routine interagency dispatch operated by the Syrian Red Crescent, was hit in rural western Aleppo province. The White Helmets first responder group posted images of a number of vehicles on fire and a video of the attack showed huge balls of fire in a pitch black area, as ambulances arrive on the scene.
U.N. officials said the U.N. and Red Crescent convoy was delivering assistance for 78,000 people in the town of Uram al-Kubra, west of the city of Aleppo. Initial estimates indicate that about 18 of the 31 trucks in the convoy were hit, as well as the Red Crescent warehouse in the area.
When asked who was behind the airstrikes, Abdurrahman said Syrian President Bashar Assad’s “regime does not have the capabilities to carry out such airstrikes within two hours.”