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Air strike in Syria killed medical staff in mobile aid unit and not health facility, says relief group

Damaged trucks carrying aid in Aleppo, Syria, on Tuesday. A UN humanitarian aid convoy in Syria was hit by airstrikes Monday as the Syrian military declared that a US-Russian brokered ceasefire had failed, and UN officials reported many dead and seriously wounded. Picture by Aleppo 24 news via Associated Press
Philip Issa

AN AIR strike in northern Syria that killed five members of medical staff hit a mobile emergency unit and not a medical facility, a relief organisation said.

The mobile medical team was hit while responding to an earlier air strike targeting militants from the al Qaida-linked Fatah al-Sham Front, Dr Oubaida Al Moufti, vice president of the International Union of Medical Care and Relief Organisations said.

The organisation, known by its French initials UOSSM, had initially said that the Tuesday night strike leveled a medical triage point it operates in rebel-held territory outside the contested city of Aleppo.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said at least 13 people were killed in the attack, including nine militants, some of them belonging to the Fatah al-Sham Front.

Three nurses and two ambulance drivers died of their injuries, UOSSM said.

There were no reports on who was behind the strike.

The strike follows a Monday night air strike on a Syrian Arab Red Crescent aid convoy that prompted international condemnation and recrimination over attacks targeting humanitarian facilities and workers.

UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon described the convoy strike as a "sickening, savage and apparently deliberate attack". The convoy was carrying aid materials from the UN.

The incident exposed rising tensions between the two architects of Syria's ceasefire deal, Russia and the US.

The US said it believed Russian or Syrian government jets were behind the attack that killed 20 civilians, and that either way it held Russia responsible because under the truce deal Moscow was charged with preventing air strikes on humanitarian deliveries. Syria's rebels do not operate an air force.

In New York on Tuesday, Russian and US. diplomats insisted that the Syrian ceasefire, which went into effect nine days ago, was not dead, despite indications of soaring violence.

The Syrian military declared Monday night the truce had expired, shortly before presumed Russian or Syrian government jets launched a sustained aerial attack on Aleppo's opposition-held neighbourhoods.

The ceasefire was intended in part to allow humanitarian convoys to reach besieged and hard-to-reach areas throughout Syria. Yet following the convoy attack, the UN suspended overland aid operations to hard-to-reach areas in Syria.

Syrians living in opposition areas will be disproportionately affected because the UN's major warehouses are located in government-held areas.

The UN estimates six million Syrians live in besieged and hard-to-reach areas.

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