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Thu Sep 29 08:43:12 SAST 2016

Aid convoy tracked from skies before deadly strikes

Reuters | 21 September, 2016 07:36
Damaged Red Cross and Red Crescent medical supplies lie inside a warehouse after an airstrike on the rebel held Urm al-Kubra town, western Aleppo city, Syria September 20, 2016.
Image by: AMMAR ABDULLAH / REUTERS

Surveillance aircraft circled the Syrian town of Urem al-Kubra hours before a UN aid convoy was struck by warplanes on Monday, killing relief workers and destroying 18 trucks carrying humanitarian supplies, witnesses said.

Rebels and local rescue workers say the surveillance shows the strikes, which have drawn outrage from the UN and Western countries, were deliberate, giving a lie to Russian and Syrian government denials that they were involved.

"We thought at first something was going to happen because there were four or five planes in the air, but they didn't strike at first," said Abu Shahoud, an opposition activist.

Hussein Badawi, head of the Urem al-Kubra rescue service, who was 100m from the aid depot when the attack took place and was injured by shrapnel, described sustained air attacks that struck workers unloading aid trucks.

"There were fires, martyrs, wounded people. We were able to pull out four survivors and five dead bodies at first."

"The bombardment was continuous, continuous. Those who arrived in ambulances couldn't come in," he said.

Several truck drivers and volunteers offloading the aid were killed, Badawi said.

"This is an area that wasn't supposed to be bombed, belonging to an international humanitarian organisation ... This area is full of civilians."

Damascus and Moscow both say their aircraft were not responsible for the attack.

Russia said only rebel fighters knew the convoy's location.

But the UN says all sides were informed of the convoy's whereabouts and the trucks were clearly marked.

Abu Shahoud, the opposition activist, said workers had been worried enough by the presence of the aircraft to evacuate the area, a Syrian Arab Red Crescent aid depot 14km west of Aleppo, where 31 trucks carrying food and winter clothes were unloading.

The Syrian Red Crescent says the head of its office in the town was killed, along with 20 civilians.

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