Syria tanks, warplanes pound Damascus region

Updated 30 January 2013
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Syria tanks, warplanes pound Damascus region

BEIRUT: Syrian warplanes and tanks pounded rebel strongholds in Damascus province yesterday, a watchdog said, as a pro-regime daily reported clashes in a camp housing Palestinian refugees.
Fighter jets launched strikes on the town of Douma, northeast of Damascus, and overflew parts of Eastern Ghuta region, home to some of the rebel Free Syrian Army’s fiercest and best-organized groups, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The army, as part of its campaign to suppress the insurgency near Damascus once and for all, used tanks to pound the towns of Daraya and Moadamiyat Al-Sham, southwest of the capital, and Yalda and Beit Sahem, just to the city’s south.
Meanwhile, a pro-regime newspaper made a rare, open admission of the air force’s use of strikes in Damascus province.
“The Syrian army has continued to chase armed men from their lairs, in battles using all kinds of weapons, including artillery and air power,” said Al-Watan.
It also reported that tension prevailed in the Yarmuk camp housing Palestinian refugees in the capital.
“The situation in the Yarmuk camp, where armed men have flocked, is still tense, and clashes between Palestinian (pro-regime) popular committees and armed groups have continued,” Al-Watan reported, citing fleeing residents.
Yarmuk witnessed fierce clashes in December when warplanes staged two air strikes on the densely populated camp, leading thousands of people to flee.
Despite bids to demilitarise the area, clashes pitting rebels fighting the regime of President Bashar Assad against the army and pro-regime Palestinian militia have been reported.
Elsewhere, at least 56 fighters were killed in six days of fighting in the majority Kurdish city of Ras Al-Ain, on the Turkish border, said the Observatory which relies on a network of doctors, medics and lawyers on the ground for its information.
Tuesday’s violence came a day after at least 189 people were killed in violence across Syria, said the Observatory, including 42 people who died in a suicide attack in Salamiyeh, a town in the central province of Hama.
“Medical sources and residents in Salamiyeh have confirmed... that the number of people killed in a suicide attack targeting a pro-regime militia headquarters has risen to 42,” said the Observatory, updating its earlier tolls.
Among the dead were “a large number of civilians, including women and children,” it added.


Israeli restraint urged after killing of Gaza teenager

Updated 1 min 30 sec ago
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Israeli restraint urged after killing of Gaza teenager

  • Nikolay Mladenov: “It is outrageous to shoot at children... #Children must be protected from #violence, not exposed to it.”
  • Avigdor Lieberman reiterated that he held leaders of Hamas, which rules Gaza, responsible for the violence and the death of the Palestinian teenager.
GAZA CITY: The death of a 15-year-old Palestinian boy during protests along Gaza’s border with Israel has sparked condemnation and international calls for restraint.
High-ranking Palestinian official Saeb Erekat called on the International Criminal Court to open a “serious judicial inquiry into the crimes committed against the Palestinian people.”
Rescue services and relatives said Mohammed Ayoub was killed by Israeli gunfire on Friday.
The Israeli army claimed that it was opening an investigation into the death of the young Palestinian, who was killed during demonstrations that have brought thousands of Palestinians to the border for four consecutive Fridays.
A spokesperson for the EU has called for a “full investigation” into the circumstances of the death.
“As we once again mourn the loss of lives, the EU calls on the Israel Defense Forces to refrain from using lethal force against unarmed protesters,” a statement said.
“As stated repeatedly, the priority now must be to avoid any further escalation of violence and loss of life,” the spokesperson said.
On Friday night, UN special coordinator for the Middle East peace process Nikolay Mladenov wrote on Twitter: “It is outrageous to shoot at children... #Children must be protected from #violence, not exposed to it.”
The teenager’s father Ibrahim Ayoub said his son “was standing far from the soldiers and not armed.”
“Why are our children killed and Israeli children living a quiet life?“
Three other Palestinians were killed on Friday, bringing to 38 the death toll from Israeli gunfire since the start of “March of Return” protests on March 30.
US envoy for the Middle East Jason Greenblatt called for moderation.
“As we mourn the tragic loss of a young life, we must all commit ourselves to avoid further suffering by responses to this death,” he said.
Israeli forces have responded to demonstrations along its border by firing live ammunition, injuring hundreds in addition to the deaths.
But Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman reiterated that he held leaders of Hamas, which rules Gaza, responsible for the violence and the death of the Palestinian teenager.
“Those cowardly leaders who are hiding behind women and children and send them forward as a human shield, so that they can continue to dig tunnels and carry out terrorist actions against the state of Israel,” he wrote on Twitter.
“I will again tell the habitants of Gaza... Do not approach the fence.”
On Sunday, the Israeli military said it had arrested 15 Hamas operatives in a West Bank raid on Saturday night.
The military claimed those captured are suspected of collaborating with a well-known Hamas operative from Gaza to spread its activities to the West Bank.
Meanwhile, more than 100 members of the 700-seat Palestinian National Council (PNC) want to delay a rare session of the Palestinians’ top decision-making body, saying on Sunday they were concerned some factions would be shut out.
The PNC is due to convene in Ramallah on April 30 to discuss US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, a policy change that has outraged the Palestinians.
In a letter obtained by Reuters to PNC speaker Saleem Al-Zanoun, 109 legislators, including independents and delegates from Hamas and the mainstream Fatah faction, urged the session’s postponement.
They said that going ahead with the meeting, with only narrow factional representation due to Israeli travel restrictions on delegates from Gaza and outside the Palestinian territories, would deepen internal divisions.
“In order to spare our Palestinian cause imminent dangers and out of our eagerness to achieve unity and end splits and division, we urge you to delay the PNC session,” said the letter.
There was no immediate word from Al-Zanoun whether he would agree to the request, which followed word from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine on Thursday that it would boycott the session because it wanted more factions to attend.
In Ramallah, Mohammad Sbeih, the PNC’s secretary, declined to comment directly on the letter but told Reuters there will no delays.