13.5m Syrians need aid, protection: UN

Updated 27 October 2015
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13.5m Syrians need aid, protection: UN

NEW YORK: The UN is estimating that 13.5 million people in Syria are now in need of humanitarian assistance and some form of protection, including more than six million children.

UN humanitarian chief Stephen O’Brien told the UN Security Council on Tuesday that this represents an increase of some 1.2 million people in just 10 months.
He said violence in Syria has created “one of the largest displacement crises of modern times.”
O’Brien said there are now some 6.5 million people who have fled their homes and are displaced inside Syria, while 4.2 million have fled the country.
Meanwhile, France will host a meeting on the Syria crisis with Western and Arab allies later on Tuesday, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said.
The “working dinner” at the French foreign office will include “the main partners engaged with France in dealing with the Syrian crisis: Saudi Arabia, UAE, Jordan, Qatar, Turkey, Germany, the US, Italy and Britain,” said Fabius in a statement.
A French opposition lawmaker visiting the war-torn country said on Tuesday that finding a solution to the conflict in Syria will require talking to President Bashar Assad.
“The settlement of the Syrian political situation necessarily requires a dialogue with the Syrian president who is in place and is elected by the Syrian people,” said Jean-Frederic Poisson, of France’s right-wing Christian Democratic Party. Poisson is visiting Syria with two other French lawmakers, and the delegation is due to meet Assad on Wednesday.
Washington, meanwhile, believes there are fewer than 2,000 Iranian troops in Syria helping Assad forces and more than 1,000 in Iraq supporting the Baghdad government, the top US military officer said.
Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the number of Iranian forces in Iraq had fluctuated over time.
“I think there’s more than 1,000 that are on the ground in Iraq,” Dunford said. “In Syria, we think the numbers are probably something less than 2,000.”


Amnesty to expand probe of US-led campaign in Syria’s Raqqa

Updated 32 min 48 sec ago
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Amnesty to expand probe of US-led campaign in Syria’s Raqqa

  • UN estimates that more than 10,000 buildings were destroyed – or 80 percent of the city
  • Raqqa was the capital of the Daesh group’s self-styled caliphate

BEIRUT: Amnesty International said Wednesday it is enlisting the help of thousands of online activists to speed up its investigation into the US-led campaign that drove Daesh militants from their self-styled capital of Raqqa but left the Syrian city in ruins.
The London-based rights group said the new phase of its investigation enables thousands of online activists, using satellite imagery of the city, to map out the destruction over the four-month campaign, which ended in October 2017.
The UN estimates that more than 10,000 buildings were destroyed – or 80 percent of the city. Amnesty’s Strike Tracker campaign, in partnership with Airwars, would help narrow down when and where coalition air and artillery strikes destroyed buildings.
Amnesty hopes to compel the US-led coalition to accept greater responsibility for the destruction and conduct its own investigation into the deaths of hundreds of civilians.
The coalition says it worked to avoid civilian casualties in Raqqa. Col. Sean Ryan, a spokesman for the coalition, said it is “always willing to review if new evidence is reported.”
In an earlier phase of Amnesty’s investigation inside Raqqa, the group provided new evidence that compelled the coalition to acknowledge 77 civilian deaths. In total, the coalition has acknowledged 104 civilian deaths from the hard-fought campaign.
“With bodies still being recovered from the wreckage and mass graves more than a year later, this is just the tip of the iceberg,” said Milena Marin, senior adviser on Amnesty’s Crisis Response team.
“There is a mountain of evidence left to sift through, and the scale of the civilian devastation is simply too large for us to do this alone.”
Some 2,500 bodies have been pulled from the rubble and uncovered in mass graves, and searches are still underway. Amnesty suspects hundreds of civilians died in the campaign.
Raqqa was the capital of the Daesh group’s self-styled caliphate, which once encompassed a third of Syria and Iraq. In recent years the group has been driven from virtually all the territory it once controlled, and holds just a few small, remote pockets in Syria.