Donors pledge $ 1 bn Syrian aid

Updated 31 January 2013
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Donors pledge $ 1 bn Syrian aid

KUWAIT CITY: International donors at a Kuwait conference yesterday pledged almost $ 1 billion in aid for stricken Syrians, as UN chief Ban Ki-moon warned of a “catastrophic” situation in their war-torn country.
“Total pledges so far are around $ 1 billion,” a Gulf official said requesting anonymity after Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates each pledged a similar amount.
Addressing the so-named International Humanitarian Pledging Conference for Syria in Kuwait City, Ban called for urgent financial aid, warning that if funds were not forthcoming “more Syrians will die”.
“The situation in Syria is catastrophic,” the UN chief said as he urged all parties to the conflict to “stop the killings”.
Ban said that based on UN reports half of Syria’s hospitals and a quarter of its schools had been destroyed while other vital infrastructure had been badly affected.
He stressed that humanitarian assistance would not resolve the crisis, which he said required a political solution.
Host Kuwait was first to make a pledge, offering $ 300 million, followed soon after by the UAE, another oil-rich Gulf country, which according to the official WAM news agency pledged a further $ 300 million.
“Due to the great sufferings of the Syrian people and to help ensure the success of the conference, I announce the Kuwaiti donation of $ 300 million for the Syrian people,” Kuwait Emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah said as he opened the one-day conference.
Sheikh Sabah said that “horrifying reports” from Syria are a “cause for concern over the security of Syria, its future ... and over the security and future of the region.”
He held the Syrian regime responsible for the tragic situation which he said resulted from its “rejection of the just popular demands and of Arab and international initiatives.”
Bahrain’s Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al-Khalifa said the tiny Gulf kingdom would offer $ 20 million while the German Foreign Ministry pledged in a statement around 10 million euros ($ 13.5 million).
UN humanitarian aid chief Valerie Amos said that three million Syrians have fled their homes inside the country and that at least 2.3 million need basic help.
She said that $ 519 million of the funds to be raised are needed to assist those most affected by the conflict.
King Abdallah II of Jordan and Lebanese President Michel Sleiman both called at the conference for more aid to cope with increasing numbers of Syrian refugees in their respective countries.
The United States on Tuesday promised another $ 155 million to aid refugees fleeing the deadly conflict.
Non-governmental charity organizations, meeting in Kuwait Tuesday ahead of the conference, pledged $ 182 million for Syrian civilians affected by the deadly conflict.
The UN refugee agency said on Tuesday that there has been a steep rise in the number of Syrian refugees during the past few weeks and their number has surpassed 700,000.
UN humanitarian operations director John Ging warned ahead of the conference that the United Nations will be forced to cut already reduced food rations to hundreds of thousands of Syrians unless a huge cash injection is found.


Israeli planes hit 25 targets in response to Gaza rocket fire

Updated 20 June 2018
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Israeli planes hit 25 targets in response to Gaza rocket fire

JERUSALEM: Israeli jets struck 25 Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip in the early hours of Wednesday after militants launched rockets and mortar shells at Israeli territory, the military said.
Two Hamas security men were lightly hurt in one air strike in the southern Gaza Strip, residents said. No casualties were reported in Israel after one of the most intense recent barrages of militant rocket launches and Israeli air strikes.
Air raid sirens and Israeli phone warning applications sounded throughout the pre-dawn hours.
The military counted 30 rockets and mortar shells fired at Israeli territory and said its Iron Dome anti-missile shield intercepted seven rockets.
Since its last war with Gaza’s dominant Hamas in 2014, Israel has stepped up efforts to prevent cross-border attacks, improving rocket interceptors and investing in technologies for detecting and destroying guerrilla tunnels.
In recent weeks, Palestinians have sent kites dangling coal embers or burning rags across the Gaza border to set fire to arid farmland and forests, others have carried small explosive devices in a new tactic that has caused extensive damage.
At least 127 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli troops during mass demonstrations along the Gaza border since March 30 and the men sending the kites over the fence believe they have found an effective new weapon.
Israel’s deadly tactics in confronting the weekly Friday protests have drawn international condemnation.
Palestinians say the protests are an outpouring of rage by people demanding the right to return to homes their families fled or were driven from following the founding of Israel 70 years ago.
Israel says the demonstrations are organized by the Islamist group Hamas that controls the Gaza Strip and denies Israel’s right to exist. Israel says Hamas has intentionally provoked the violence, a charge Hamas denies.
Around two million people live in Gaza, most of them the stateless descendants of refugees from what is now Israel. The territory has been controlled by Hamas for more than a decade, during which it has fought three wars against Israel.
Israel and Egypt maintain a blockade of the strip, citing security reasons, which has caused an economic crisis and collapse in living standards there over the past decade.