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Israeli paper accuses UN of covering up ‘killing of aid workers’ by Syrian regime

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JERUSALEM: One of the world’s recognized Israeli newspapers has alleged the United Nations for covering up the death of two aid workers in military strikes by Syria regime in 2016.

According to Turkish media, an exclusive report by The Jerusalem Post alleged that UN officials did not publicise an  “internal UN message saying that Assad’s military had killed” the two aid workers, who were part of a humanitarian convoy between Aleppo and Homs.

The report has been jointly published by The Jerusalem Post and the US government Arabic-language news organisation.

The report quoted a UN source in the Middle East as saying that “the reluctance to investigate and report the alleged murder can be explained by the global organization’s fears it would be banned from conducting future relief missions in the Syrian Arab Republic.”

It cited a press conference in Geneva on April 28, 2016, in which “an Arabic translator noted the death of one person during an aid mission”. The report said the UN removed this video from its website.

Jan Egeland, humanitarian adviser to the UN special envoy for Syria who delivered English-language remarks at the Geneva event, did not mention the Arabic-language translation about the death of the staffer, according to the report.

The transcript of the 2016 conference shows Egeland spoke of mortars and air raids impacting the movement of two UN convoys.

The report said “Egeland’s statement ostensibly corresponds with what a UN local official for Syria said – as a whistleblower – that Assad’s regime carried out military strikes against two humanitarian convoys”.

This person told The Jerusalem Post that a review of internal UN messages revealed that a report was sent about the killing of the two aid workers on April 25, 2016.

Vanessa Huguenin, a Geneva-based spokeswoman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), said all reports regarding security incidents were on public domain, according to the report.

“Security incidents involving humanitarian convoys and humanitarian workers in Syria for the requested period… all our reports are available in the public domain,” said Huguenin.

Huguenin wrote in an email that “since the beginning of the conflict, hundreds of humanitarian workers have reportedly been killed”.

The war in Syria is estimated to have killed nearly half a million people and displaced millions more since it began with a brutal crackdown on anti-government protests in 2011. The major fighting has subsided since 2020.

Meanwhile, the opposition forces have seen their influence wane in recent years, with many of their foreign backers now moving towards normalising ties with Assad’s regime.

Others have criticised the United Nations for advocating a “step for step” approach to resolving the grinding conflict, saying it would further embolden an intransigent regime.

Several rounds of United Nations-brokered negotiations in Geneva between the ruling side and opposition groups aimed at forging a new constitution have failed.

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