Assistance for nearly 80,000 people in the Syrian town of Uram al-Kubra was on its way in a 31-truck convoy last week when the endeavor was blown to bits by airstrikes, killing nearly two dozen people and decimating 18 of the convoy's vehicles, per the New York Times. The unexpected attack sealed the doom of the tenuous ceasefire between rebels and the Syrian government, the end of which had been announced just hours earlier. And the Times notes that the bombardment—called an "attack on humanity" by the Red Cross, per NBC News—set a "new, awful precedent" in the Syrian war, now endangering workers trying to bring help those in need and catching off-guard the people who least suspect being targets. "We went from paradise to hell" in just a few minutes, rescue worker Ammar al-Salmo tells the Times about the moments before the convoy was attacked and the devastation that took place soon after.
"There was nothing in the sky. And then the circle of madness began," he adds. The US has blamed Syria and its Russian allies for the attack on the UN/Red Crescent convoy, with the Times finding evidence of a "sustained, coordinated attack," backed by interviews, photos, videos, and other data (Russia and Syria deny this, with Russia claiming the convoy may have simply caught fire, per CBS News). A Russian drone tracked the convoy beforehand, and there were about 30 explosions over several hours once the assault began, per the Times. "We saw fire, injured people, human parts, some people burning in their vehicles," Salmo says. A local paramedic tells the Chicago Tribune the attack "erased the convoy from the face of the Earth." "If this had been a military position, it wouldn't have been targeted with such intensity," he notes. (Read the Times' timeline for the awful events of that day.)