An airstrike that took place Monday night in Syria destroyed a United Nations relief aid convoy, killing 20 people. The food and medicine on the trucks was destined for opposition-held areas in Aleppo. Wednesday an unnamed U.S. government source indicated the United States had determined with a high degree of confidence that Russia was responsible for the attack. From the Associated Press:
The airstrike on a Syrian Arab Red Crescent convoy Monday night prompted international condemnation over attacks targeting humanitarian facilities and workers. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon described the convoy strike as a “sickening, savage and apparently deliberate attack.” The convoy was carrying U.N. aid.
The U.S. initially said it believed Russian or Syrian government jets were behind the attack on the aid convoy. But a senior U.S. official said Wednesday that Washington has determined with a very high degree of confidence that the attack was carried out by a Russian piloted aircraft.
Moscow denied that Russian or Syrian aircraft were behind the attack, saying there was a fire in the cargo. Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said a U.S. Predator drone was in the area of the convoy attack when it happened.
So Russia denies having anything to do with this and suggests a fire broke out spontaneously destroying the convoy. Take a look at this video of the convoy attack. Notice the explosions:
Despite this, Russia is now airing video on state TV claiming there were no Russian or Syrian planes in the area and offering the cargo fire excuse. You can see part of the Russian video in this clip from AFP:
Just yesterday, Secretary of State John Kerry was saying the cease-fire agreement with Russia was not dead but today the AP reports he was “visibly angry” when confronting Russia at the United Nations:
Kerry focused on its shifting explanation of what might have happened.
First, Kerry said, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s press secretary described the attack as a “necessary response” to an alleged offensive by al-Qaida-linked militants elsewhere in the country. Then, a Russian ambassador said forces were targeting another area.
Russia’s Defense Ministry followed by saying the aid convoy was accompanied by militants in a pickup truck with a mortar, Kerry said, adding that no such evidence exists. Then, the ministry denied any Russian or Syrian involvement as its spokesman suggested, in Kerry’s words, that “the food and the medicine just spontaneously combusted.”
“This is not a joke,” Kerry exclaimed, urging all to stop the “word games that duck responsibility or avoid the choices … with respect to war and peace, life and death.” His pleas crossed paths with another statement by Russia’s government, this time suggesting a U.S. coalition Predator drone was operating nearby when the convoy attack occurred.
It’s not hard to see what happened here. This cease fire was designed to allow relief aid to flow to areas being bombed by the Assad regime. Russia decided that aid to the enemies of the regime it is trying to prop up in Syria should not be allowed to reach its destination, so it destroyed the aid convoy. Now Russia is rather pathetically trying to avoid responsibility for a wanton war crime.
Here’s video of Kerry at the UN. He begins speaking around 18 minutes in. The portion of his statement mentioned above comes at about 28:00 minutes. Kerry says, “The trucks and the food and the medicine just spontaneously combusted.” Kerry then turns to the room and adds, “Anybody here believe that?”