A United Nations convoy of 31 aid trucks carrying humanitarian supplies for up to 78,000 victims of the Syrian civil war was hit by an airstrike Monday, killing 12 people including Omar Baraka, the head of the Red Crescent aid organization in Syria, a man described by colleagues as a “martyr” who “sacrificed his money, time and effort to ease suffering of all the needy in Aleppo province.”
The aerial attack was reported by numerous news outlets including The New York Times and the BBC, and reportedly destroyed 18 of the aid trucks completely, killing both truck drivers and Red Crescent workers.
A Russian video taken by a drone aircraft shows the convoy shortly before the airstrike, according to The Interpreter, an online magazine covering Russian affairs. The lengthy video is below. The drone camera begins following the U.N. trucks at around the 57 minute mark.
The video was released Monday by the Russian Ministry of Defense, and posted on the YouTube channel of the Russian state-owned English-language cable and online news channel RT. But according to rescue workers on the ground, it was Russian warplanes, as well as Syrian government helicopters, that carried out the deadly airstrikes on the humanitarian convoy.
The Syrian Civil Defense, a neutral, non-military rescue organization also known as “The White Helmets” — a group reportedly responsible for rescuing nearly 60,000 people from the violence of the Syrian civil war — blamed the regime of Syria President Bashar al-Assad for carrying out the initial helicopter airstrike, and said that Russian warplanes followed with a bombing raid aimed at the SCD rescue workers from reaching the victims.
The “double tap” airstrike method has been used frequently by the combined Russian and Syrian government forces, according to the New York Times report.
The following is the text of a statement issued late Monday Eastern European Summer Time (Syrian Time), which is seven hours ahead of United States Eastern Daylight Time, by the White Helmets, as quoted by The Interpreter.
“Today, at 7:12 PM, regime helicopters targeted a Syrian Red Crescent warehouse in the town of Urem in the western countryside of Aleppo
“A total of four regime helicopters targeted it with 8 barrel bombs.
“Russian aircraft then stuck the location with cluster bombs, preventing the civil defense from reaching the location of the attack, giving first aid to those requiring it and removing the dead bodies.
“Over 25 vehicles have been burnt and the fire has not yet been put out.
“The head of the Syrian Red Crescent, Omar Barakat, was killed along with eight of his staff.
“More than ten drivers have been burned to death.”
The White Helmets also posted a graphic and disturbing video, which the group said shows the wreckage of an automobile driven by Baraka. The video showed the body of a victim, possibly the Syrian Red Crescent chief. But YouTube quickly removed the video for violating the service’s policy on “violent or graphic content.”
The airstrike occurred after the Syrian military declared a seven-day ceasefire agreement to be over, according to the New York Times account of the incident.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a group which monitors casualties in the Syrian conflict, said that 12 people were killed in the airstrikes on the aid trucks, which were parked at the time of the attack.
Jan Egeland, a top aide to the U.N. envoy for Syria, said that the helicopters and warplanes “bombarded” the aid trucks, and called the airstrike “outrageous,” according to an Associated Press report.