A U.S.-Russian brokered ceasefire in the Syrian civil war, which began last week, was teetering on the brink of collapse Saturday night, as the two world powers pointed fingers at one another following a U.S.-led airstrike that inadvertently killed upwards of 60 Syrian soldiers.
According to the Washington Post, the strike was carried out in Deir al-Zour, an eastern Syrian city that doubles as a frontline between the Syrian army and ISIS. The region has changed hands many times. A U.S. Defense official told the paper that the strike was an “intelligence failure.”
The U.S. Central Command said that the coalition’s intended targets were ISIS fighters, and that the strike was “halted immediately” once U.S. forces were informed by Russia “that it was possible the personnel and vehicles targeted were part of the Syrian military.”
Russian and Syrian officials have reported that 62 were killed and about 100 more were injured. The airstrike “marked the first time the United States has engaged the Syrian military since it began targeting the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq two years ago,” according to the Post. Though it is unclear which other countries were involved in the deadly airstrike, the Australian Defense Ministry acknowledged on Sunday that its warplanes had participated in the attack.
On Sunday, the Russian Foreign Ministry accused the pilots who carried out the airstrike of acting “on the boundary between criminal negligence and connivance with Islamic State terrorists.” The day before, foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova charged the United States of acting in defense of ISIS. “We are reaching a really terrifying conclusion for the whole world: that the White House is defending Islamic State,” she said Saturday during an appearance on state television. “Now there can be no doubts about that.”
At an emergency United Nations Security Council meeting summoned by Russia Saturday night, the U.S. and Russian ambassadors reportedly walked out of one another’s speeches to the council in order to criticize their counterpart to the press.
Though the airstrike was a dramatic development, the ceasefire in Syria was already off to a wobbly start. On the sixth day of the peace agreement, food aid trucks intended for Aleppo still have not been granted permission by the Syrian government to enter the country. At the same time, warplanes belonging to either Syrian or Russian forces dropped bombs on residential neighborhoods in Aleppo and Dara’a.
On Monday, the annual United Nations General Assembly will begin in New York City, so we can expect some lively discussions about the Syrian ceasefire.
(Via Washington Post)