UN says satellite imagery confirms that deadly attack on aid convoy in Syria was an air strike

A Syrian civil defence volunteer stands on the rubble of destroyed buildings during a rescue operation following a government forces air strike on Bustan al-Basha in Aleppo, on Oct 4, 2016.
A Syrian civil defence volunteer stands on the rubble of destroyed buildings during a rescue operation following a government forces air strike on Bustan al-Basha in Aleppo, on Oct 4, 2016.PHOTO: AFP

GENEVA (REUTERS) - Analysis of satellite imagery of a deadly attack on an aid convoy in Syria last month showed that it was an air strike, a UN expert said on Wednesday (Oct 5).

Some 20 people were killed in the attack on the UN and Syrian Arab Red Crescent convoy at Urem Al-Kubra, near the northern city of Aleppo, which destroyed 18 of 31 trucks, a warehouse and a clinic.

The United States blamed two Russian warplanes which it said were in the skies above the area at the time of the incident. Moscow denies the charge and says the convoy caught fire. "With our analysis, we determined it was an air strike and I think multiple other sources have said that as well," Mr Lars Bromley, research adviser at UNOSAT, told a news briefing. "For air strikes, what you are usually looking out for is the size of the crater that is visible and the type of crater,"he said.

A giant crater on the ground was caused "almost certainly (by) air-dropped munitions" as opposed to artillery or mortars, he said.

UNOSAT is the designated name of the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) Operational Satellite Applications Programme.

The United Nations thus far has referred only to an "attack", which led to a brief suspension of its land convoys in Syria, while the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies initially referred to "air strikes" in a statement.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon announced last Friday (Oct 30) that he would establish an internal UN board of inquiry to investigate the attack and urged all parties to fully cooperate.

UNOSAT, which reviews only commercially-available satellite images, has not been asked to share its analysis with the UN inquiry, but is prepared to do so, UNOSAT manager Einar Bjorgo said.

"Our images are from time to time used in order to brief Security Council members," he told the briefing.