Air strike on aid convoy in Aleppo kills 12 Red Crescent volunteers

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Damaged aid trucks are pictured after an airstrike on the rebel held Urm al-Kubra town, western Aleppo city, Syria, on Tuesday. (REUTERS/Ammar Abdullah)
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Civil Defense firefighters and a man put out a fire after an airstrike on the rebel held Urm al-Kubra town, western Aleppo city, Syria, on Tuesday. (REUTERS/Ammar Abdullah)
Updated 20 September 2016
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Air strike on aid convoy in Aleppo kills 12 Red Crescent volunteers

ALEPPO, Syria: A convoy delivering aid to Syrians in Aleppo province was hit by a deadly air strike hours after the Syrian military declared an end to a week-long cease-fire, with an outraged UN warning it could amount to a war crime.
The UN said at least 18 trucks in the 31-vehicle convoy were destroyed late Monday en route to deliver humanitarian assistance to the hard-to-reach town of Orum Al-Kubra.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 12 Red Crescent volunteers and drivers had died in the strike while UN aid chief Stephen O’Brien said initial reports indicated “many people” were killed or seriously wounded.
“Let me be clear: if this callous attack is found to be a deliberate targeting of humanitarians, it would amount to a war crime,” O’Brien said.
The Observatory was unable to confirm if the planes responsible were Syrian or Russian.
The UN and Syrian Arab Red Crescent humanitarian mission had sought to take advantage of the cease-fire, which collapsed on Monday night as shells and bombs rained down on Aleppo city and the surrounding province.
The Observatory said a total of 36 people had died in the violence across the battleground region. An AFP correspondent inside Aleppo city reported almost non-stop bombardment and constant sirens.
Syria’s military announced the end to the truce earlier Monday, accusing rebels of more than 300 violations and failing to “commit to a single element” of the US-Russia deal.
The cease-fire, which came into force on September 12, saw an initial drop in fighting but violence began to escalate late last week and the deal came under severe strain over the weekend.
US Secretary of State John Kerry had warned that the truce could be the “last chance” to save the country.

'Enormous outrage'
The attack on the convoy is likely to provoke anger at the UN General Assembly in New York, with the delivery of aid to desperate Syrian civilians in rebel-held areas stressed as a key condition of the deal by Washington.
The US, Russia and other key players are set to gather there on Tuesday for talks aimed at ending the five-year conflict that has killed more than 300,000 people and displaced millions.
“Our outrage at this attack is enormous,” the UN envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, told reporters.
“The convoy was the outcome of a long process of permission and preparations to assist isolated civilians.”
The United States said it was outraged at the attack and stressed that the destination of the convoy was known to the Syrian regime and its ally, Russia.
Aid distribution to Syrian civilians caught up in the conflict had already faced severe difficulties.
The UN held back deliveries destined for Aleppo city because it was unable to obtain security guarantees.
Jan Egeland, head of the UN humanitarian task force for Syria, said the convoy was bombed despite aid agencies coordinating their movements with all sides on the ground.
A Syrian Arab Red Crescent warehouse was also hit, a UN spokesman said.

'Temporary relief'
Inside Aleppo, residents in rebel-held areas hunkered down after the end of the cease-fire which had brought only temporary relief to the population of up to 275,000 people trapped there.
Sirens wailed as ambulances zipped through the eastern half of the divided city, an AFP correspondent reported.
The Observatory said that military planes had carried out more than 40 strikes since the Syrian army announced the end of the truce.
Chief US diplomat Kerry will try to speak to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in New York before Tuesday’s meeting of the International Syria Support Group but statements from Syrian and Russian military officials on the ground appeared to bury the deal.
“Considering that the conditions of the cease-fire are not being respected by the rebels, we consider it pointless for the Syrian government forces to respect it unilaterally,” said Russian Lt. Gen. Sergei Rudskoy.
The cease-fire deal had three key components: fighting between government and rebel forces across Syria would halt, although strikes on Islamic State and other jihadists could continue.
Humanitarian aid would reach desperate civilians, particularly in devastated eastern Aleppo.
And if the cease-fire held, the US was to have set up a joint military cell with Russia to target jihadists.
It came under massive strain on Saturday when a US-led coalition strike hit a Syrian army post near the eastern city of Deir Ezzor, where government forces are battling the Islamic State jihadist group.
Syrian President Bashar Assad on Monday blasted the air strikes, which he said showed world powers supported “terrorist organizations” like IS.
His adviser Buthaina Shaaban went further, telling AFP that Damascus believed the raid which killed at least 62 Syrian soldiers had been intentional.
The bloodiest day for civilians was Sunday, when a barrel bomb attack killed 10 in a southern rebel-held town and one woman died in the first raids on Aleppo since the truce started.


Sabotage of oil tankers stirs concerns over Gulf shipping

Updated 22 May 2019
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Sabotage of oil tankers stirs concerns over Gulf shipping

  • The acts of sabotage near the UAE coast highlight new threat to maritime traffic and global oil supplies
  • Experts say increased threat to navigation and global oil supplies not limited regionally but has global dimension

DUBAI: Amid rising tensions between the US and Iran, sabotage attacks on four commercial vessels off the coast of the UAE’s Fujairah port have raised serious questions about maritime security in the Gulf.

The incidents, which included attacks on two Saudi oil tankers, were revealed by the UAE government on May 12, drawing strong condemnation from governments in the Middle East and around the world as well as the Arab League.

Now experts have warned that the sabotage attacks highlight a new threat to maritime traffic and global oil supplies.

A Saudi government source said: “This criminal act constitutes a serious threat to the security and safety of maritime navigation, and adversely affects regional and international peace and security.”

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) said the incidents threatened international maritime traffic.

While crimes on the high seas, including piracy, have tapered off in recent years, the attacks on the ships, three of which are registered to Saudi Arabia and the UAE, have called into question common assumptions about the Gulf’s stability.

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Theodore Karasik, a senior adviser at Gulf State Analytics in Washington D.C., said governments of the Gulf region are mandated to watch over oceans and waterways. “On top of this requirement is the need for a new regime of maritime coordination to prevent attacks on shipping because of the repercussions for logistical chains, corporate strategies and insurance rates,” he told Arab News.

The sabotage attacks took place east of Fujairah port, outside the Strait of Hormuz, a narrow waterway through which most Gulf oil exports pass and which Iran has threatened to block in the event of a military confrontation with the US.

Johan Obdola, president of the International Organization for Security and Intelligence, said the recent attacks underscore the need for closer intelligence-coordinated capabilities among the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, including satellite communication and maritime or vessel security technology.

“The threats to oil tankers are not limited to the Gulf, but have a global dimension,” he said.

According to Obdola: “A coordinated joint task force integrating oil, intelligence security and military forces should be (established) to project and prepare (for potential future attacks). This is a time to be as united as ever.”

GCC countries have intensified security in international waters, the US navy said. Additionally, two US guided-missile destroyers entered the Gulf on May 16 in response to what the US called signs of possible Iranian aggression.

“The attack has brought (the region) a bit closer to a possible military confrontation amid the escalation in tensions between the US and Iran,” Abdulkhaleq Abdulla, a former chairman of the Arab Council for Social Sciences, told Arab News.

He said Iran is purposely dragging Saudi Arabia, the UAE and possibly other Gulf countries into its fight with the US. “The credibility of the US is at stake and Trump has said he will meet any aggression with unrelenting force. If Iran continues on this path, we might see some kind of a military showdown on a limited scale.”

Given the importance of the region’s oil supplies to the US, Abdulla said “it’s not just the responsibility of Arab Gulf states but an international responsibility” to keep the shipping lanes safe.