• Aid convoy attacked as Syria ceasefire collapses

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    ALEPPO: A convoy delivering aid to Syrians in Aleppo province was hit by an air strike, leaving 12 dead hours after the Syrian military declared an end to a week-long ceasefire, monitors and the UN said.

    At least 18 trucks were destroyed as the convoy travelled to the hard-to-reach town of Orum al-Kubra in Aleppo province, with the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights saying 12 Red Crescent volunteers and drivers had died.

    The Observatory was unable to confirm if the planes responsible were Syrian or Russian.

    The UN and Syrian Arab Red Crescent humanitarian mission had sought to take advantage of the ceasefire, which collapsed on Monday night as shells and bombs rained down on Aleppo city and the surrounding province.

    The Observatory said a total of 36 people had died in the violence across the battleground region. An AFP correspondent inside Aleppo city reported almost non-stop bombardment and constant sirens.

    Syria’s military announced the end to the truce earlier Monday, accusing rebels of more than 300 violations and failing to “commit to a single element” of the US-Russia deal.

    The ceasefire, which came into force on September 12, saw an initial drop in fighting but violence began to escalate late last week and the deal came under severe strain over the weekend.

    US Secretary of State John Kerry had warned that the truce could be the “last chance” to save the country.

    Aid under attack

    The attack on the convoy is likely to provoke anger at the UN General Assembly in New York, with the delivery of aid to desperate Syrian civilians in rebel-held areas stressed as a key condition of the deal by Washington.

    The US, Russia and other key players are set to gather there on Tuesday for talks aimed at ending the five-year conflict that has killed more than 300,000 people and displaced millions.

    “Our outrage at this attack is enormous,” the UN envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, told reporters.

    “The convoy was the outcome of a long process of permission and preparations to assist isolated civilians.”

    Aid distribution to Syrian civilians caught up in the conflict had already faced severe difficulties.

    The UN held back deliveries destined for Aleppo city because it was unable to obtain security guarantees, leading the UN’s humanitarian chief Stephen O’Brien to say he was “pained and disappointed.”

    Jan Egeland, head of the UN humanitarian task force for Syria, tweeted that there were “many killed and injured” in the strike on the convoy on Monday.

    It was bombed despite aid agencies coordinating their movements with all sides on the ground, he added.

    A Syrian Arab Red Crescent warehouse was also hit, a UN spokesman said.

    Pointless’ ceasefire

    Inside Aleppo, residents in rebel-held areas hunkered down Monday night after the end of ceasefire which had brought only temporary relief to the population of up to 275,000 people trapped there.

    Sirens wailed as ambulances zipped through the eastern half of the divided city, an AFP correspondent reported.

    The Observatory said that military planes had carried out more than 40 strikes since the Syrian army announced the end of the truce.

    Secretary of State Kerry refused to abandon hope for the ceasefire on Monday, even as statements from Syrian and Russian military officials on the ground appeared to bury the deal.

    “Considering that the conditions of the ceasefire are not being respected by the rebels, we consider it pointless for the Syrian government forces to respect it unilaterally,” said Russian Lieutenant General Sergei Rudskoy.

    The ceasefire deal had three key components: fighting between government and rebel forces across Syria would halt, although strikes on Islamic State and other jihadists could continue.

    Humanitarian aid would reach desperate civilians, particularly in devastated eastern Aleppo.

    And if the ceasefire held, the US was to have set up a joint military cell with Russia to target jihadists.

    It came under massive strain on Saturday when a US-led coalition strike hit a Syrian army post near the eastern city of Deir Ezzor, where government forces are battling the Islamic State jihadist group.

    Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Monday blasted the air strikes, which he said showed world powers supported “terrorist organisations” like IS.

    “The latest example of this is the flagrant American aggression on one of the Syrian army’s positions in Deir Ezzor,” said Assad.

    His adviser Buthaina Shaaban went further, telling AFP that Damascus believed the raid which killed at least 62 Syrian soldiers had been intentional.

    The bloodiest day for civilians was Sunday, when a barrel bomb attack killed 10 in a southern rebel-held town and one woman died in the first raids on Aleppo since the truce started. AFP

    AFP/CC

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