U.S. 'Outraged' by Attack on Aid Convoy in Syria's Aleppo

Despite setback, Kerry says prepared to extend cease-fire so U.S. and Russia could then turn to planned military cooperation against ISIS and al-Qaida-linked groups in Syria.

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A general view shows destroyed buildings in the government-held Jouret al-Shiah neighbourhood of the central Syrian city of Homs, Syria, September 19, 2016.
A general view shows destroyed buildings in the government-held Jouret al-Shiah neighbourhood of the central Syrian city of Homs, Syria, September 19, 2016.Credit: Louai Beshara, AFP

The United States is "outraged" by reports that a humanitarian aid convoy was bombed near Aleppo, Syria, killing 12 on Monday and Washington will reassess future cooperation with Russia, a U.S. State Department spokesman said.

An official with the Syrian Red Crescent said aid trucks operated by the group and destined for a rebel-held area in Aleppo province had been hit by an airstrike, as warplanes resumed their bombings in Aleppo province.

"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," State Department spokesman John Kirby said in a statement.

Russian President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry at the G20 summit in China, on Sept. 5, 2016. Credit: Alexei Druzhinin/AP

At least 18 of 31 trucks in a UN and Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) convoy were hit along with an SARC warehouse, said UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric. The convoy was delivering aid for 78,000 people in the hard-to-reach town of Urm al-Kubra in Aleppo Governorate, he said.

"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," Kirby said.

Secretary of State John Kerry scrambled Monday to try to salvage Syria's fractured week-old truce after the Syrian military announced it was over amid numerous violations, including an attack on an aid convoy, and apparent Russian unwillingness to press Damascus on the point.

The latest developments placed added importance on a meeting Tuesday of the International Syria Support Group, or ISSG, which is comprised of countries with a stake in the conflict and endorsed the truce, to be led by Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

Despite the setback, the State Department said it was prepared to extend the cease-fire window in the hopes that if it held, the U.S. and Russia could then turn to their planned military cooperation against the Islamic State militants and al-Qaida-linked groups in Syria.

"Well, the Syrians didn't make the deal," Kerry told reporters in New York.

"The Russians made the agreement. So we need to see what the Russians say; but the point, the important thing is the Russians need to control (Syrian President Bashar) Assad, who evidently is indiscriminately bombing, including of humanitarian convoys. So let's wait and see, collect the facts. We need to see where we are, and then we'll make a judgment. But we don't have all the facts at this point."

Kirby said the U.S. is ready to work with Russia to strengthen the terms of the cease-fire agreement and expand deliveries of humanitarian aid. But he added that Russia must clarify its position on the status of the truce.

Russia took the side of the Syrian government, blaming the rebels for violating the truce. Russia's Foreign Ministry said the failure of Syrian rebels to adhere to the truce "threatens the cease-fire and U.S.-Russian agreements."

The ministry statement came after the Russian military said that continuing rebel violations made it "meaningless" for the Syrian army to respect the deal. The Syrian military said earlier Monday that the cease-fire had expired.

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