US fearful of pause in Syria aid delivery after airport attack

The Aleppo airport was being used to deliver aid to victims of last month’s earthquake, but has been closed since a suspected Israeli attack.

The Aleppo International Airport in the aftermath of a deadly earthquake.
A view of Aleppo International Airport in the aftermath of February's earthquakes [File: Firas Makdesi/Reuters]

The United States has said it would be concerned if there is a prolonged disruption to humanitarian aid deliveries in Syria after Aleppo International Airport was knocked out of service by an alleged Israeli air attack.

The airport was being used to deliver aid to victims of last month’s earthquake that killed more than 50,000 people in Turkey and Syria.

Syria’s Ministry of Transport had diverted all flights with earthquake aid to Damascus or Latakia, the United Nations said on Wednesday.

US State Department spokesperson Ned Price said that, while he could not “speak to attribution” for Tuesday’s air attack, Washington would worry if there was any lengthy halt to the flow of humanitarian aid.

The closure of the airport could have “severe humanitarian implications for people in Aleppo – one of worst earthquake-impacted governorates in the country – and could also affect the wider vulnerable population who need humanitarian assistance,” deputy UN spokesman Farhan Haq said on Wednesday.

A man walks past collapsed buildings following a devastating earthquake in the town of Jinderis, Aleppo province, Syria, Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2023. The death toll from the earthquakes of Feb. 6, that struck Turkey and northern Syria is still climbing
A man walks past collapsed buildings following a devastating earthquake in the town of Jinderes, Aleppo province, Syria [File: Ghaith Alsayed/AP Photo]

Haq said all UN Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS) flights from Aleppo had been suspended, adding that those flights transport aid workers and life-saving supplies and must resume without delay.

“We call on all parties to abide by their obligations under international humanitarian law, including by taking all feasible precautions to spare civilians and civilian objects in the conduct of hostilities,” Haq said.

The Israeli military declined to comment on the Syrian state media accusation that it was behind the air attack.

Israel has for years been carrying out attacks against what it has described as Iran-linked targets in Syria, where Tehran’s influence has grown since it began supporting President Bashar al-Assad in the war that began in 2011.

On February 19, Israeli air attacks targeted residential areas in Damascus, killing at least five people and wounding 15, according to Syrian state news.

On January 2, the Syrian army said Israel’s military fired missiles towards the capital’s international airport, putting it out of service and killing two soldiers.

Foreign donors including the United Arab Emirates, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Algeria have flown aid into Aleppo airport since the February 6 earthquake, Syrian state media has reported.

According to UN figures, more than 8.8 million people have been affected by the earthquakes across Syria, and more than 105,000 people have been displaced.

Source: News Agencies