A little over a week ago, the United States and Russia brokered a cease-fire agreement in Syria that had some humanitarian workers and analysts optimistic that some small degree of reprieve could be given to beleaguered Syrians in Aleppo.
That hope has gone up in smoke.
For days, a 20 truck convoy organized by the UN filled with food stuffs and other relief materials was stuck in Turkey, unable to make its way to Aleppo. Upon finally making its way into Syrian territory, the convoy was struck by an airstrike, presumably belonging to Syrian government forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad.
Under al-Assad’s brutal regime, Syrians have been victim to relentless bombing, extrajudicial killings, and – in perhaps the most flagrant shattering of human rights norms – chemical warfare attacks.
Just this morning, representatives for the UN and relief agencies have moved to suspend convoy movements in the region. An understandable move considering the threats faced by hostile government forces, but a huge blow to starving and embattled Syrians.
Jens Laerke – a spokesperson for the UN – discussed the decision:
“As an immediate security measure, other convoy movements in Syria have been suspended for the time being, pending further assessment of the security situation.”
Laerke confirmed that the convoy attacked on Monday was only given permission to enter by government authorities on the same day. This makes the government’s argument that the bombing was justified as the cease-fire had expired a breath-taking display of menace and ill-intention.
The attack on the convoy claimed the lives of 20 civilians. Among the dead was Omar Barakat, director for the Red Crescent in Aleppo.
The UN emergency relief coordinator Stephen O’Brien offered uncharacteristically bold and threatening words for a UN official:
Let me be clear: if this callous attack is found to be a deliberate targeting of humanitarians, it would amount to a war crime. I call for an immediate, impartial and independent investigation into this deadly incident. The perpetrators should know that they will one day be held accountable for violations of international humanitarian and human rights law.
When and how the murderous perpetrators of these heinous acts are brought to justice remains to be seen. The intractable conflict – now going on six years – has helped contribute to the greatest displacement of people since World War II. The effect on global affairs has been tremendous, and will only grow in magnitude and severity, all while special interests and tyrants continue to cling to power at the extreme detriment to the social good.