U.N. condemns air strike that cut water supplies to Syria's Aleppo

A Syrian girl who fled recent fighting in Aleppo stands next to her tent in the south of Aleppo Province, Syria October 19, 2015. REUTERS/Ammar Abdullah (Reuters)

GENEVA (Reuters) - An air strike on a water treatment plant in Syria last Thursday cut water supplies for 3.5 million people and while pumping has been partly restored, 1.4 million still have reduced supply, the United Nations said on Tuesday. “In Syria, the rules of war, including those meant to protect vital civilian infrastructure, continue to be broken on a daily basis," UNICEF's representative in Syria, Hanaa Singer, said in a statement. "The air-strike which reportedly hit al-Khafseh water treatment plant in the northern city of Aleppo last Thursday is a particularly alarming example." Singer did not say who was responsible for the air strike. In addition to fighting between Syrian government forces and rebel groups, the United States, France and Russia have been carrying out air attacks on targets in Syria. The Syrian state news agency SANA reported that the U.S.-led coalition had bombed the water plant, while the Syrian Network for Human Rights blamed Syrian government warplanes. Neither gave any evidence for their assertions. A daily report by the U.S. military for last Thursday did not mention any air strikes within Syria. Residents and rebels say warplanes believed to be Russian have stepped up raids on residential areas in several rebel-held cities close to the Turkish border, including several in western Aleppo governorate. Aleppo city is divided between a government-controlled west and rebel-held east, and both sides have been able to deprive the other of water, which the United Nations and Red Cross say amounts to using it as a "weapon of war" against civilians. The water supply is particularly vulnerable because at various stages of its journey it passes through areas controlled by Islamic State militants, rival insurgent forces and the Syrian government. In a separate incident, the medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) said seven people died and 47 were wounded when helicopters dropped four barrel bombs on the rebel-held town of Al Zafarana, northeast of the city of Homs, on Saturday. It said the attack was a "double tap", when an initial strike is followed by a second, deliberately timed to hit paramedics and hospital personnel. The first bomb struck a populated area of the town and the next three landed next to the MSF-supported hospital where the casualties were taken, partially destroying the complex. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has denied that his forces use barrel bombs. Their use has been widely documented by monitors of the Syrian conflict. (Reporting by Tom Miles; Editing by Mark Heinrich)