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World

United Nations Halts Aid Convoys After Deadly Attack In Syria

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

More now on the humanitarian convoy that came under attack yesterday in Syria. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon denounced the attack in his remarks today.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BAN KI-MOON: Just when we think it cannot get any worse, the bar of depravity sinks lower. The humanitarians delivering lifesaving aid were heroes. Those who bombed them were coward.

SHAPIRO: The aid was headed to opposition neighborhoods around the city of Aleppo, and a volunteer rescue group responding to the attack blamed Syrian or Russian aircraft. Both Syria and Russia deny committing the strike, but it came shortly after Syria called off a cease-fire and began bombing rebel areas. At least 18 trucks were destroyed, and the International Committee of the Red Cross says about 20 people were killed.

Ingy Sedky is a spokesperson for the International Committee of the Red Cross based in Damascus. She spoke with me earlier today via Skype about the attack.

INGY SEDKY: Well, we are totally in shock and devastated by the incident yesterday. According to our sources, at least dead is around 20 civilians. Some of them were truck drivers. Other were just employees who were helping offload the humanitarian aid from the trucks which had been damaged as well during the attack.

SHAPIRO: Can you tell us what was in this convoy that was being sent to these rebel-held areas?

SEDKY: Basically there were a wheat-flour truck, some additional medical supplies, food items, winter clothes and blankets. It should have been delivered in the coming days to around 78,000 people.

SHAPIRO: And is it true that the Syrian government knew this convoy was coming and gave permission for it to pass through?

SEDKY: What we know so far is that from the side of the Syrian (unintelligible) they had all the permission and all the green light in order to access the area.

SHAPIRO: You know, the last time we spoke to you, you described conditions that were so dire. People were without water. They were trying to dig wells themselves. What are conditions like now?

SEDKY: Well, in Aleppo, maybe things has slightly improved. However, when it comes to access of food and essential items for the survival of the population, it's becoming very tricky. The situation is very precarious and very volatile. It's changing from one hour to another. And unfortunately there are 2 million people at least who are suffering inside Aleppo and not only in Aleppo but other areas in Syria as well.

We need to act as soon as possible, and we need all the parties who are fighting in Syria to respect in the national humanitarian goal to guarantee the security of the humanitarian aid worker and support us in order to be able to reach this population.

SHAPIRO: It sounds like your organization's job which was already very dangerous to begin with became a lot more dangerous after what happened yesterday.

SEDKY: Well, of course. I mean we are not working in an easy conflict, but this is how conflict are, and we have to do all the thing that we can in order to respond to people's need.

SHAPIRO: Ingy Sedky is a spokesperson for the International Committee of the Red Cross in Damascus, Syria. Thank you once again.

SEDKY: Thank you so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.