Syrian air raids ‘wreak disaster’ on Aleppo

Updated 27 December 2013
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Syrian air raids ‘wreak disaster’ on Aleppo

DAMASCUS: Syrian forces are “wreaking disaster” on Aleppo, killing hundreds in air strikes on the city, Human Rights Watch said Saturday, as peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi held talks with Iran’s foreign minister.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), meanwhile, said the body of Abbas Khan, a British doctor who died in a Syrian jail, was to be transported to Beirut.
“Government forces have really been wreaking disaster on Aleppo in the last month, killing men, women, and children alike,” said Ole Solvang, senior emergencies researcher at Human Rights Watch (HRW).
“The Syrian air force is either criminally incompetent, doesn’t care whether it kills scores of civilians — or deliberately targets civilian areas,” Solvang added.
The HRW statement comes six days after the launch of a massive aerial campaign against opposition-held areas of Aleppo, once Syria’s commercial capital, involving dozens of warplane strikes and helicopter attacks using TNT-packed barrels.
The New York-based organization cited the Syrian Network for Human Rights as saying 232 civilians were killed from Dec. 15 to 18 in and around the northern city.
HRW concluded that the attacks, which targeted both Aleppo city and its province, showed “government forces had used means and methods of warfare that... could not distinguish between civilians and combatants, making attacks indiscriminate and therefore unlawful.”
It also lashed out against rebels for firing rockets and mortar rounds into civilian areas in government-controlled parts of Aleppo.
The city has been split into rebel and regime-controlled areas since mid-summer 2012 when rebels launched a massive offensive to try to take Syria’s second city.
On Saturday, a day after rebels made a fresh advance in the city, overrunning the Kindi hospital, regime troops pounded the area, which loyalists had for months been using as a base, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The Aleppo Media Center, a network of activists on the ground, also said the army had launched a new attack against the opposition-held Qadi Askar neighborhood.
The loyalists, according to the AMC, used highly destructive TNT-packed barrel bombs, whose use has been condemned widely by rights groups.
The violence comes despite preparatory discussions for peace talks due for Jan. 22 in Switzerland, which should bring together opposition and regime representatives.
There has been no agreement yet on whether key Damascus backer Iran will participate in the talks.
On Saturday, peace envoy Brahimi talked by phone with Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif about the latest on the Geneva 2 conference,” the ministry said.
Zarif, it said, “insisted on a political solution” that includes talks between the parties to the conflict which has claimed some 126,000 lives since it erupted nearly three years ago.
On Friday, Brahimi had said negotiators failed to reach agreement on whether Iran should be invited to the peace talks, but that Tehran was not yet “off the list” of participants.
“It’s no secret that we in the United Nations welcome the participation of Iran, but our partners in the United States are still not convinced that Iran’s participation would be the right thing,” said Brahimi.
While Iran backs President Bashar Assad’s regime, the United States has insisted he should be excluded from a future transition.
Meanwhile, the ICRC announced the body of Abbas Khan, a British doctor who died in a regime jail, will arrive in Beirut on Saturday.
In the Lebanese capital, his remains will be handed over to the British Embassy.
London and a Syrian rights group has held Damascus responsible for Dr. Khan’s death.
But Syrian authorities said on Wednesday the doctor was found “hanging” in his cell, where he was being held for “unauthorized activities,” and that he had committed suicide.
Khan, a volunteer with London-based charity Human Aid UK, had traveled to Aleppo in northern Syria last year to help civilians when he was arrested by the regime.
The developments come a day after the opposition condemned the arrest by the security forces in the northern city of Qamishli of a prominent Assyrian Christian dissident, Gabriel Mushi Gowriyeh.
“The Syrian National Coalition condemns the detention in the city of Qamishli on Dec. 19 of Gabriel Mushi Gowriyeh, head of the Assyrian Democratic Organization’s political bureau,” the group said.


Is a spate of terror incidents in Egypt a ‘last dance’ for militants or a failure in security operations

Updated 9 min 35 sec ago
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Is a spate of terror incidents in Egypt a ‘last dance’ for militants or a failure in security operations

  • Some have speculated that the sudden spate of incidents is the militants lashing out to spoil the image that Egypt is returning to stability

CAIRO: Three terrorist attacks in the space of as many days have raised questions over whether the Egyptian security forces have brought extremist militancy in the country under control.

The attacks between Friday and Monday came after a period of relative calm. The Egyptian military has been involved in an extensive operation against terrorist groups in their stronghold in the Sinai Peninsula for more than a year. Police forces have also been carrying out operations against cells in a large number of governorates.

The first of the three incidents was a failed attempt to plant a bomb near security forces in Cairo on Friday. On Saturday, however, a massive blast killed 14 members of the military on a security mission near El-Arish in Sinai.
The third bombing on Monday could have been just as deadly. A suicide bomber blew himself up after he was chased by police in the densely populated Al-Hussein district of Cairo near Al-Azhar Mosque. In the end three officers were killed.
The attacks came after months of relative calm in an insurgency that began after the Muslim Brotherhood president Muhammad Mursi was removed from power in 2012.
Since then, militants have targeted the Egyptian security forces, churches, coptic Christians, tourists and ordinary Egyptians, killing hundreds.
In November 2017, gunmen carried out the deadliest terror attack in Egyptian history — killing more than 300 people at a Sufi mosque in northern Sinai.

In response, the military launched a vast operation in February last year to “eliminate terrorism in Egypt.” The operation is ongoing.

Some have speculated that the sudden spate of incidents is the militants lashing out to spoil the image that Egypt is returning to stability.

“[Terrorists] want to give Egypt a bad image to foreigners living abroad, on order to make a point. They want to abort the democratic reform process that Egypt’s been implementing in the past period,” MP Mohamed Maher Hamed told Arab News.

Author and political analyst Walid Qutb said Egypt is keen to host more important regional and international events and forums, including the African Nations football tournament, and a drop in terror-related incidents is key to this.

He said the return of terrorist operations at this time is an attempt to send a clear message that Egypt is not a safe country. What the extremists have done recently is a final dance and lost, Qutb said.
But political analyst Nabil Omar told Arab News that the elimination of terrorism requires more than just maintaining security forces.
There needs to be improved education and the spreading of correct information to improve the mentality of Egyptians, he said.
“I don’t think that the return of terrorist operations happening currently is linked to changes in politics in Egypt,” Omar said. “It has nothing to do with how well security is either. “Terrorist attacks are happening because the terrorists in question have decided to do so.”
The recent incidents in Cairo are both strange, Omar said. They targeted police forces in locations packed with civilians.
This could mean that terrorists want their attacks to be even bigger and deadlier, even if that comes at the cost of the innocent or unarmed.
“The positive thing here is that these recent terrorist attacks came after a long period of silence. During that period of time, the Egyptian military had the upper hand in relation to the terrorists – who used to be more in control before,” Omar said.
The attacks came after Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi described to the Munich Security Summit this week the Egyptian experience in regards to terrorism.