US, Russia seek to save crumbling Syrian truce

Abdalrhman Ismail  Reuters
People walk near Castello road in Aleppo Syria

A deadly air strike on a United Nations aid convoy by Syrian or Russian planes calls into question global efforts to salvage a ceasefire, senior USA officials said.

There are conflicting reports about casualties as the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights claimed 12 people, including air workers and truck drivers, were killed in the attack.

US officials said Syria and its ally, Russia, both knew where the convoy started and where it was going, and said the Obama administration considers Russia responsible for the Assad regime's actions. Initial estimates indicated that at least 18 of the 31 trucks in the convoy were hit.

Earlier, the Russian military denied it was behind the strikes. The White Helmets first responder group posted images of a number of vehicles on fire and a video of the attack showed huge balls of fire in a pitch black area, as ambulances arrive on the scene.

"The Russians have the responsibility to refrain from taking such actions themselves but they also have the responsibility to keep the regime from doing it", one said.

After sporadic violations in recent days, the deal suffered a grievous blow over the weekend when US -led coalition planes struck a Syrian army base, killing 62 soldiers and wounding more than 100.

However, regardless of who was responsible, the United States blamed Moscow for the attack saying, it was responsible under the ceasefire agreement for reining in Bashar al-Assad's government forces. "All information on the whereabouts of the convoy was available only to the militants controlling these areas", a spokesman said.

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Kerry blamed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government Sunday for blocking aid deliveries and said Russian Federation must do more to put pressure on him. He said that some of the trucks were already emptied when the attack occurred and that in all, 20 trucks were destroyed or damaged.

Assad said US -led coalition airstrikes which hit Syrian army positions near Deir al-Zor Saturday were a "flagrant aggression", according to Syrian state media.

United Nations expressed frustration at the bombing of a humanitarian convoys that were delivering much needed life-saving assistance for more than 70,000 people in a hard-to-reach town in Aleppo Governorate.

The US state department said it was outraged by the attack, which it would raise "directly with Russia", and said it would reassess "the prospect of future coooperation" with Moscow in Syria.

Another 20 U.N. trucks carrying enough flour and other food for 185,000 people are still stopped at the Turkey-Syria border, waiting for entry permits from the Assad government, according to a statement by U.N. Emergency Relief Coordinator Stephen O'Brien.

But Assad's forces continued to block shipments of aid to rebel-held areas, and on Monday declared an end to the truce, accusing the opposition of breaking it in turn.