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.


British-Iranian aid worker moved back to jail from hospital ward — husband

In this undated photo provided by the Free Nazanin Campaign, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe hugs her daughter Gabriella, in Iran. (AP)
Updated 6 min 23 sec ago
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British-Iranian aid worker moved back to jail from hospital ward — husband

  • British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt told parliament the fact she had been moved back to prison was “a positive sign”

LONDON: British-Iranian aid worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been transferred back to an Iranian prison from a hospital psychiatric ward, her husband said on Monday.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a project manager with the Thomson Reuters Foundation, was moved to the psychiatric ward of Imam Khomeini hospital in the capital on July 15, the “Free Nazanin” campaign group run by her husband said last week.
“Nazanin has been returned from psychiatric hospital, and is now back in Evin prison,” her husband, Richard, said in a statement. She was discharged at her request and the request of the hospital doctor, the campaign group said.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe was told she had been admitted to hospital for a 10-day period of assessment. She received psychotherapy sessions, had physical checks and was prescribed some medicines, the campaign group seeking her release said.
In its release, the group quoted Zaghari-Ratcliffe saying that she was kept in a private room measuring 2 meters by 3 meters (6.5 feet by 9.8 feet) and was handcuffed and chained to the bed day and night.
The Iranian embassy in London declined immediate comment on the case.
“They did all they could to me – handcuffs, ankle cuffs, in a private room 2x3m, with thick curtains, and the door closed all the time,” she was quoted as saying. “I wasn’t allowed to leave the room, as I was chained to the bed.”
British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt told parliament the fact she had been moved back to prison was “a positive sign.”
“The way that she was detained for a week without being able to have any access to her family was totally unacceptable and I am afraid all too predictable from the Iranian regime,” he said.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe was arrested in April 2016 at a Tehran airport as she headed back to Britain with her daughter after a family visit, and was sentenced to five years in jail after being convicted of plotting to overthrow Iran’s clerical establishment.
Her family and the Foundation, a charity organization that operates independently of Thomson Reuters and Reuters News, deny the charge.