Syrian Dictator Bashar al-Assad has said neither Syria nor its ally Russia launched the bombs that destroyed a United Nations aid convoy carrying food supplies to a rural area west of the besieged Syrian city of Aleppo that killed at least 20 people, including the local director of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent.
The denial came during an interview with the Associated Press (AP). Assad said the attack was carried out by terrorists. He also denied that the convoy was destroyed from the air despite eyewitnesses telling AP that nearly 20 missiles were launched against the vehicles.
Russia has also denied its military or that of its ally, the Assad regime, were involved in the incident, in which 18 trucks from a 31-vehicle convoy were destroyed by alleged airstrikes Monday in direct violation of Syria’s fragile ceasefire.
Two anonymous American officials, citing U.S. intelligence, told Reuters earlier this week that two Russian Sukhoi SU-24 warplanes carried out the airstrike on the UN aid convoy.
The White House and U.S. State Department have acknowledged they could not confirm the allegations, reports the Guardian, noting that “previously, US officials had said that they would hold Moscow responsible for the attack, even if it was carried out by Syrian aircraft, as Russia had taken responsibility for the regime’s compliance with the ceasefire as part of the 9 September agreement.”
When the AP asked if Syria or Russia had carried out the attack on the aid convoy, Assad responded:
No, first of all, there have been tens, maybe, of convoys from different organizations around the world, coming to different areas in Syria for the last few years. It has never happened before, so why to happen now, either by the Russians or the Syrians? No, it’s a claim. And regarding the claim of the White House yesterday, accusing either the Syrians or the Russians. In that regard, I would say whatever the American officials said about the conflicts in Syria in general has no credibility. Whatever they say, it’s just lies…
Actually, we don’t have any interest in doing so for one reason: because if we attack any convoy that’s going to the civilians, we are working for the interest of the terrorists, that will play into their hands directly, in that regard we are pushing the civilians toward the terrorists, we put them in their laps, and we are providing the terrorists with a good incubator, something we wouldn’t do. This is first. Second, we are, as a government, as officials, we are committed morally toward the Syrian people, morally, constitutionally, and legally, to help them in every aspect to have the basic needs for their livelihood.
Without naming a specific group, Assad accused terrorists of carrying out the airstrikes.
Those convoys were in the area of the militants, the area under the control of the terrorists. That’s what they should accuse first: the people or the militants, the terrorists who are responsible for the security of this convoy. So, we don’t have any idea about what happened…
At the same time of that event, the terrorists were attacking the Syrian troops by missiles. They launched missile attacks, we didn’t respond.
The United States and AP have noted that only the Syrians and the Russians have air power in the area where the attack took place.
“There are only two countries that have planes that are flying during the night or flying in that particular area at all,” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Wednesday at a UN Security Council meeting in New York about the five-year Syrian conflict. “They are Russia and Syria.”
Highlighting the bombing of the UN aid convoy, Kerry blasted Russia for its actions in Syria.
“The trucks and the food and the medicine just spontaneously combusted,” Kerry said. “Anybody here believe that?”