Syrian air force ‘targeted’ aid convoy in deadly bombing: UN probe
GENEVASyria’s air force carried out the September 2016 raid that killed at least 10 aid workers in Aleppo province by deliberately targeting a humanitarian convoy, a U.N.-backed probe said on March 1.
“Syrian air forces targeted a humanitarian aid convoy in Aleppo countryside,” the United Nations Commission of Inquiry (COI) said referring to the Sept. 19, 2016 attack in Urem al-Kubra, adding that the raid “was meticulously planned and ruthlessly carried out,” to destroy the aid.
A separate U.N. investigation said in December last year that it was unable to establish blame for the bombing that forced aid groups to temporarily stop deliveries of life-saving relief.
The COI also said that all Syrian sides that fought in the battle for Aleppo committed war crimes and the deal to evacuate civilians following the rebel defeat was a “crime of forced displacement.”
The COI for Syria documented violations including chemical attacks and civilian executions perpetrated during the Damascus regime’s five-month siege of eastern Aleppo, which had been a key opposition stronghold.
From July 21, 2016 to Dec. 22, when government troops recaptured the city, the Syrian air force and its Russian ally “conducted daily air strikes” on Aleppo, the COI said.
There is conclusive evidence that Syrian aircraft dropped “toxic industrial chemicals, including chlorine”, but there is no information indicating the Russians used chemical weapons, the report said.
Meanwhile, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said on Feb. 28 that a U.N. Security Council resolution put forward by Western powers to punish Syria’s government over its alleged use of chemical weapons would harm peace talks in Geneva.
The resolution, vetoed by Russia and China, amid U.N.-led peace talks between the warring Syrian parties, had aimed to ban the supply of helicopters to the Syrian government and to blacklist Syrian military commanders.
“It is counter-constructive,” Gatilov told reporters. “The climate will be negative, not because we veto it, but because this resolution was put forward.”
Salem al-Muslet, a spokesman for the High Negotiations Committee, said that the opposition regretted Russia’s seventh veto on Syria, but planned to meet Gatilov and hoped that Russia would pressure its ally, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
“We hope that they come here having something in mind to push the political process here in Geneva, because with this regime, we will reach nowhere unless there is a pressure and the only country that can deliver pressure on the regime is Russia,” Muslet told Reuters Television.
The Geneva peace process has barely reached first gear, with five days of discussion solely on how to arrange the talks.
On March 1, the Syrian opposition said that they had been told by U.N. mediator Staffan de Mistura that government negotiators were prepared to discuss a political transition at peace talks in Geneva.
“We heard from de Mistura that due to Russia pressure there is acceptance to tackle the issues enshrined in [Security Council resolution] 2254 and most importantly political transition,” Nasr al-Hariri told reporters after meeting de Mistura, Reuters reported.
He added the government delegation was trying to prioritize other points to avoid tackling the political issues directly and was using violence on the ground to foil the talks.