GENEVA (20 September 2016) – The Commission condemns in the strongest possible terms an aerial attack in western Aleppo yesterday evening which struck a United Nations/Syrian Arab Red Crescent humanitarian aid convoy. The airstrikes reportedly destroyed 18 trucks carrying food, medicine and winter clothing. The attack also damaged a Red Crescent warehouse and health clinic. A senior Red Crescent official was among at least 20 civilians killed according to the latest reports.
The convoy had been scheduled to deliver aid to some 78,000 civilians in opposition-held areas of western Aleppo, and all parties in the area had reportedly been notified of its route and destination.
This attack comes at a critical time in which the unhindered and rapid delivery of aid to besieged areas had been agreed as a vital part of the cessation of hostilities agreement brokered between the United States and Russian Federation early last week. At a time when warring parties were meant to support the delivery of humanitarian assistance, aid deliveries have been deliberately obstructed or attacked.
“This is a particularly cruel blow to deliver to the people of Syria at a time when the priority was supposed to be on improving the humanitarian situation of besieged civilians,” said Commission Chair, Paulo Pinheiro. “Humanitarian aid workers are not a party to this conflict and they should never be targeted or their assistance politicized.”
Under international humanitarian law, humanitarian aid workers enjoy special protected status and should never be targeted or attacked. Deliberate attacks of this sort amount to war crimes within the international legal framework. Through its resolutions 2165 (2014), 2191 (2014), and 2258 (2015), the UN Security Council has authorised the unconditional delivery of humanitarian assistance, including medical assistance, to besieged and hard-to-reach communities countrywide.
The Commission calls on all parties to the conflict to respect international humanitarian law, especially the special protections afforded to humanitarian and medical personnel.
“Attacks against humanitarian personnel should be discussed urgently as part of the high-level meeting of the Security Council scheduled for tomorrow in New York,” urged Mr. Pinheiro. “Action is needed to ensure the protection of such workers and accountability for those who harm them.”
The Commission expresses its deepest condolences to the victims and families of victims of this attack.