Assad ramps up bombing as UN aid begins to rot

  • 23/09/2016
Assad ramps up bombing as UN aid begins to rot

The United Nations is appealing to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and rebel groups to allow aid convoys to enter eastern Aleppo as UN relief operations in Syria resumed after a 48-hour suspension due to a deadly attack.

UN trucks loaded with food, medical and other supplies for 35,000 people arrived in the rebel-held besieged Damascus suburb of Mouadamiya, UN spokesman Jens Laerke said.

The UN hopes to send others to besieged areas in Idlib and near the Lebanese border in coming days.

The world body suspended land deliveries after a 31-truck convoy was attacked on Monday night at Urem al-Kubra in western Aleppo. The Syrian Arab Red Crescent says a staff member and around 20 civilians were killed and a warehouse destroyed.

"Forty trucks are sitting at the Turkish-Syrian border, the food will be expiring on Monday. The drivers are sleeping at the border, and they have done that now for a week," UN humanitarian adviser Jan Egeland told reporters.

"So please, President Assad, do your bit to enable us get to eastern Aleppo and also the other besieged areas."

US officials believe Russian aircraft were responsible for the strike, but Moscow has denied involvement and the Russian Defence Ministry said on Wednesday a US Predator drone was in the area when the convoy was attacked.

Victoria University Professor of Strategic Studies Robert Ayson told Paul Henry on Friday the "strutting contest" between the US and Russia is partly to blame for the lack of progress in ending the war, which has raged on for six years now.

He also said New Zealand's recent criticism of the UN's inability to broker a peace deal was perhaps a bit unfair.

"It's hard to blame the UN for a situation when this is about great power politics, and about actors on the ground who can't agree," he said.

"The Security Council very much depends on the five permanent members, particularly America and Russia. You need those countries involved - you can't exclude them - but their competition for international influence is partly what this is about."

Meanwhile the Syrian army has announced the start of a new military offensive in the rebel-held east of the city of Aleppo, urging civilians to get out while they can before it starts bombing "terrorists".

Prof Ayson says Mr al-Assad probably doesn't care for the civilians.

"The priority for Assad is to stay in charge, and that comes well before any concerns about citizens. In fact, Assad is terrifying citizens deliberately in order to... stay in power."

Rebels say Russian and Syrian jets have escalated strikes in the past 24 hours.

A seven-day-old ceasefire brokered by Washington and Moscow collapsed last week. Prof Ayson says all attempts at peace deals will fail until one or more sides realise they can't win in battle.

"There were very few signs that the key actors in this had come to a consensus that violence no longer paid. There is still a desire amongst a number of the parties to try to use force to seek their objectives."

Reuters / Newshub.