SYRIA AID CONVOY ATTACKED.jpg
A handout picture made available on the website of Syrian Red Crescent showing an aid convoy of 31 trucks preparing to set off to deliver aid to the western rural side of Aleppo, Syria, 19 September 2016.
Photograph: EPA/SYRIAN RED CRESENT / HANDOUT

A UN humanitarian aid convoy was attacked near Aleppo on Monday as a week-long ceasefire in Syria brokered by Russia and the United States collapsed.

The United Nations said 18 of 31 trucks taking part in an aid mission near Urum al-Kubra, north-west of Aleppo city in northern Syria, were hit.

At least 36 people were killed, including 12 in the aid convoy, according to activists and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitoring group.

While the UN said the source and type of attack is under investigation, a senior Obama administration official, who spoke to reporters on a conference call, said that "from all indications, it was an airstrike, and it wasn't one from the coalition."

The official said that it wasn't clear at this point if Russian or Syrian jets were involved. "In either case, the Russians have the responsibility certainly to ... refrain from taking such action themselves, but they also have the responsibility to keep the regime [of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad] from doing it."

Another US administration official said that the attack "has dealt a serious blow to our efforts to bring peace to Syria and that it is up to the Russians to demonstrate seriousness of purpose – not just through words, but through actions that demonstrate that this process remains viable."

UN humanitarian chief Stephen O'Brien said he was "disgusted and horrified" by the "sickening" attack, adding that a warehouse of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) was also hit and an SARC health clinic severely damaged.

"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 statement.

The convoy planned to reach aid to 78,000 people.

Rebel-held eastern Aleppo city, with hundreds of thousands of residents, has been cut off from aid deliveries since July, despite the recent truce.

The airstrikes in the city and its vicinity began shortly after nightfall, following a declaration by the Syrian army that the ceasefire had ended.

Rebels and the government traded blame for the collapse of the deal, each claiming the other had breached the agreement hundreds of times since it went into effect a week back.

US Secretary of State John Kerry said he was awaiting information from Russia on the steps going forward. He was speaking in New York, where world leaders are gathering for the annual UN General Assembly.

"The important thing is the Russians need to control Assad, who evidently is indiscriminately bombing, including humanitarian convoys," Kerry said. 

"Let me be clear: if this callous attack is found to be a deliberatetargeting of humanitarians, it would amount to a war crime," O'Brien said, and called for an independent investigation into the attack.

"We are deeply shocked that humanitarian workers and missions have yet again suffered from the brutality of this conflict," said Ingy Sedky, a spokeswoman for the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Ibrahim al Hajj, a member of the White Helmets, a rescue group operating in rebel-held areas, told dpa there had been a large number of airstrikes.

"Our hospitals are lacking essential first aid supplies. Simple things like bandages are lacking," he said by telephone from eastern Aleppo. "The situation inside the hospital is miserable."

The parties to the conflict had forecast the collapse of this most recent ceasefire as tensions mounted.

An airstrike on a Syrian army post in the east of the country on Saturday by the US-led anti-Islamic State coalition killed more than 60 Syrian soldiers.

The US and its allies expressed regret for the incident, with Washington saying Islamic State was the target.

The army statement said the ceasefire "was a real chance to stop the bloodshed, but the armed terrorist groups flouted this agreement and failed to comply with the application of any provision of its clauses," alleging 300 violations by rebels.

Mohammed Alloush, a former top negotiator and a member of the Islam Army (Jaish al-Islam) rebel group, blamed the government, claiming "this regime has violated the ceasefire more than 250 times."

Ahead of the Syrian army announcement, Russian General Sergei Rudskoi accused the rebels of violating the deal, rendering it "meaningless."

Some aid was delivered to both rebel-held areas and government-controlled territories shortly before the army declared the ceasefire over.

More on this story

UN: 18 aid trucks in convoy hit in strike near Aleppo, northern Syria

A strike on a humanitarian aid convoy in Aleppo, Syria, has hit 18 of the 31 trucks taking part in the mission, a UN spokesman said.

Related stories

Latest news

Bomb explodes outside police officer's home in Northern Ireland

A bomb exploded outside a police officer's home in Northern Ireland on Wednesday but there were no immediate reports of casualties.

Denmark to charge man with blasphemy over burning Koran

Danish prosecutors said Wednesday they have opened a rare blasphemy case against a man who videotaped himself burning a copy of the Koran.

South Africa to raise taxes for the wealthiest

South Africa will raise the income tax rate for the country's wealthiest to 45 per cent from 41 per cent, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan announced Wednesday.

French centrist leader offers conditional support to Macron

The leader of France's centrist Democratic Movement party, Francois Bayrou, said Wednesday he was willing to support reformist former economy minister Emmanuel Macron in the country's upcoming presidential election.

Amnesty International warns of nationalist rhetoric and hate speech in Croatia

Croatia continues to have problems with discrimination against ethnic minorities and with freedom of the media, while heightened nationalist rhetoric and hate speech during election time contributed to growing ethnic intolerance and insecurity in the country, global human rights watchdog Amnesty International said in its annual report on the state of human rights in the world in 2016/2017.

Official assigned to Wilders' security team held by Dutch police

A security official assigned to protect Dutch far-right politician Geert Wilders is being held by police on suspicion of passing along classified information about the lawmaker to a Dutch-Moroccan crime gang.

Italy's 'Red Thing' could make impact in election debut, polls show

Two polls conducted for RAI public broadcaster released Wednesday showed a new entity that split from Italy's ruling Democratic Party

Council: Nixing grants to "Novosti" would cause far-reaching implications

The Council for National Minorities, a state-level autonomous umbrella organisation for all ethnic minorities in Croatia, has stated that the cancellation of financial grants to the "Novosti", a newspaper of the ethnic Serb minority, would produce far-reaching implications and stir criticism for reduction of free speech and of freedom of expression of the most numerous ethnic minority.

Russia to build replica Reichstag for schoolchildren to storm

A military-themed park in a suburb of Moscow will soon install a replica of Berlin's Reichstag for Russian schoolchildren to storm, Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said Wednesday.

Alitalia strike set for Thursday, hundreds of flights cancelled

Employees of Italy's loss-making airline Alitalia will go on strike Thursday, air transport unions confirmed, after government talks with both sides failed to break the deadlock.

EU calls on Germany to reduce large current account surplus

The European Commission on Wednesday called on Germany, the bloc's biggest economy, to reduce its large current account surplus and focus on boosting domestic consumption.

Germans' demand for Croatian destinations on steady rise

Bookings for Croatia's destinations in some regions of Bavaria have been rising and some statistics show a 30% increase year-on-year, according to the preliminary information from the "f.re.e." fair for leisure and travel, which opened in Munich on Wednesday and runs through Sunday.