US-Russia Sponsored Ceasefire Crumbles

Members of the Syrian Civil Defence extinguish burning trucks carrying aid on the side of the road in the town of Orum al-Kubra on the western outskirts of the northern Syrian city of Aleppo on September 20, 2016, the morning after a convoy delivering aid was hit by a deadly air strike.
The UN said at least 18 trucks in the 31-vehicle convoy were destroyed en route to deliver humanitarian assistance to the hard-to-reach town.
 / AFP / Omar haj kadour        (Photo credit should read OMAR HAJ KADOUR/AFP/Getty Images)

The delicate ceasefire negotiated between the U.S. and Russia has faltered after aid agencies were bombed, killing 21 civilians.

The U.N. and other relief agencies suspended aid convoys into Syrian territory after the attack on a Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) warehouse and an aid convoy in rural Aleppo, according to a report released by the International Committee of the Red Cross.

The attack occurred on Sept. 19.

The attack was not from coalition forces, said a senior administration official. Whether it was the Russians or the Syrian regime is still unknown but the burden of responsibility lies on Russia to ensure regime compliance.

“The Russians have the responsibility certainly to restrain– refrain from taking such action themselves, but they also have the responsibility to keep the regime from doing it,” said the administration official.

The Syrian regime, through its state-run media, has refuted the claims that they were responsible for the attack. Russia also denied responsibility and said their Syrian allies did not carry out the attack either.

The convoy was clearly marked as humanitarian and notification of the convoy was sent out to all parties of the conflict.

“No airstrikes on the UN humanitarian convoy in the southwestern outskirts of Aleppo were carried out by the Russian or Syrian aviation,” said official spokesman for the Russian defense ministry Igor Konashenkov.

Humanitarian Response

The International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) said around 20 civilians and Omar Barakat, Director of SARC’s Urum al-Kubra branch, were killed as they unloaded aid supplies from trucks.

“From what we know of yesterday’s attack, there has been a flagrant violation of International Humanitarian Law (IHL), which is totally unacceptable,” said ICRC President Peter Maurer in a press release.

“Failing to respect and protect humanitarian workers and structures might have serious repercussions on ongoing humanitarian operations in the country, hence depriving millions of people of aid essential to their survival,” Maurer added.

The convoy  was clearly marked as humanitarian and notification of the convoy was sent out to all parties of the conflict, according to a statement by U.N. Emergency Relief Coordinator, Stephen O’Brien.

“There can be no explanation or excuse, no reason or rationale for waging war on brave and selfless humanitarian workers trying to reach their fellow citizens in desperate need of assistance,” O’Brien said in a U.N. report.

The convoy planned to provide relief to approximately 78,000 people, according to O’Brien.


The U.S. and Russia negotiated the ceasefire for months. The objective was to halt combat operations for seven continuous days to allow humanitarian agencies to provide relief to besieged cities. If the ceasefire held, it would have lead to joint US-Russian military cooperation to target ISIS and Jabhat Fateh al-Sham.

“The ceasefire didn’t go very well,” said Max Abrahms, professor of political science at Northeastern University.

The rebels didn’t disassociate themselves from al Qaeda, the Syrian government failed to provide access to humanitarian agencies and the U.S. was also involved in an inadvertent attack against Syrian Army soldiers, according to Abrahms.

The Syrian government declared an end to the week-old ceasefire on Sunday and fighting has renewed in many war ravaged parts of the country, including Aleppo.

Although the Syrian regime declared the ceasefire to be over, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and the State Department claim the ceasefire is still viable.

Just when we think it cannot get any worse, the bar of depravity sinks lower.

— Ban Ki Moon, Secretary-General, United Nations

Some experts disagree. “In all reality the ceasefire is dead and combatants are returning to levels of fighting we saw before,” said Stratfor military analyst Sim Tack.

The ceasefire proved difficult mainly because the powers behind the deal, the U.S. and Russia, were unable to force compliance on their respective parties.

“Just because the U.S. and Russia reached a deal and installed a ceasefire doesn’t mean actors on the ground will follow it,” Tack added.

The breakdown of the ceasefire casts doubt on the future of U.S. and Russian military cooperation against terrorist groups like ISIS and stymies hope that a peace process could lead to a political transition and bring an end to the civil war.

UN Response

Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon expressed outrage over the crumbling ceasefire and the attack on innocent people during his final opening address to the U.N. General Assembly’s 71st annual debate.

“Just when we think it cannot get any worse, the bar of depravity sinks lower. Yesterday’s sickening, savage, and apparently deliberate attack on a UN-Syrian Arab Red Crescent aid convoy is the latest example,” Ban said.

Ban pulled no punches in his final address as he lambasted all sides in the conflict for fueling a war that has caused such great destruction.

“Present in this hall today are representatives of governments that have ignored, facilitated, funded, participated in or even planned and carried out atrocities inflicted by all sides of the Syria conflict against Syrian civilians.”

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