On Tuesday, an air strike on a medical facility near the Syrian city of Aleppo killed five international aid workers and nine rebel fighters. The attack comes only a day after a United Nations aid convoy in northeastern Syria was targeted in a deadly airstrike that killed 20 people and forced the U.N. to suspend aid to the region. U.S. officials believe Russia was responsible for the convoy attack — which has been described as a possible war crime — but Russia has denied any involvement.
The Paris-based Union of Medical Care and Relief Organizations (UOSSM) told the BBC that attacks on their facility on Tuesday appeared to be targeted. The two consecutive air strikes were “not a coincidence,” said UOSSM’s Dr. Zaydoun al-Zoubi. “Somebody is trying to tell us humanitarian workers are not welcome in Syria, that we are a target, that we will be killed.”
It is unclear who carried out the attacks on the medical facility, which is located in the rebel-held town of Khan Touman, though the Syrian Observatory believes either Syrian or Russian warplanes were responsible. According to a UOSSM statement, translated from French by the BBC, “The strike hit a medical triage point and killed two ambulance drivers and two nurses who had arrived to transport wounded patients to a more advanced medical facility.” A fifth medic died later of wounds incurred during the attack. Aid workers fear that more victims may be buried in the debris of the destroyed facility.
On Wednesday, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu announced that Russia will be sending its sole aircraft carrier — armed with dozens of military planes — to waters off the Syrian coast. This move has been interpreted as a “contingency plan” to the U.S.-Russian brokered ceasefire, which began last week and ended seven days later. Though the ceasefire was already teetering on the brink after a U.S.-led coalition airstrike on Deir al-Zour mistakenly killed 62 Syrian soldiers, the final straw was Tuesday’s strike against aid trucks.