Russia, US clash at UN as strikes pound Aleppo

Agence France-Presse . United Nations

Members of the Syrian Red Crescent help the families of opposition fighters carry their belongings into a bus at a Syrian army checkpoint on the edge of the rebel-held Waer neighbourhood in the central city of Homs during an evacuation operation on on Thursday. Under a deal with the Syrian government, an estimated 150 rebels and their families are being evacuated from Waer to northern parts of Homs province. — AFP photo

Russia and the United States clashed at the United Nations over the carnage in Syria on Wednesday, as air strikes pounded Aleppo following the collapse of a ceasefire.
The UN Security Council met for tense crisis talks to try to revive the truce and chart a course toward ending the five-year war in Syria that has killed 300,000 people.
‘We are at a make or break moment,’ UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon told the council, urging world powers to use their influence to help restart political talks so Syrians can ‘negotiate a way out of the hell in which they are trapped.’
Russia and the United States negotiated the latest ceasefire plan, but Syria ended the truce on Monday following a US-led coalition strike on Syrian soldiers.
Shortly after the truce ended, a UN aid convoy was hit in an air strike that US officials have blamed on Russia.
On Wednesday, heavy bombardment pummelled Aleppo city and the wider province, key battlegrounds in Syria’s conflict, and a raid hit a medical team late Tuesday.
Addressing the council, US secretary of state John Kerry demanded that Russia force Syrian president Bashar al-Assad to ground its air force, blamed for targeting hospitals and barrel-bombing civilians.
Kerry said ‘we must move forward to try to immediately ground all aircraft flying in those key areas in order to de-escalate the situation and to give a chance for humanitarian assistance to flow unimpeded.’
Moscow denies that Russian or Syrian planes carried out the strike on Monday on the aid convoy that killed 20 people and destroyed 18 trucks delivering food and other supplies to 78,000 people.
A Russian military spokesman said a coalition drone was in the area when the aid trucks were destroyed, a claim the Pentagon denied.
Ban told the council he was looking at ‘options for vigorously investigating’ the attack that the United Nations has said could amount to a war crime.
Meanwhile, more than 120 rebels and dozens of their relatives on Thursday left the last rebel-held district of Syria’s Homs city under a deal with the regime, the governor said.
The group was the second wave of fighters to leave the Waer neighbourhood under an agreement reached between opposition and government forces in December.
The United Nations oversaw the original deal but was not present during Thursday’s operation, and its decision to stay away delayed the evacuation, which had been due to start Monday.

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