Syria rebels, government confirm poison gas attack

Updated 16 April 2014
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Syria rebels, government confirm poison gas attack

BEIRUT: The Syrian government and rebel forces say poison gas has been used in a central village, injuring scores of people, while blaming each other for the attack.
Syrian state television and medical sources in central Hama province swapped accusations Saturday over the attack that reportedly caused “suffocation and poisoning” of residents.
The main Western-backed opposition group, the Syrian National Coalition, says dozens of people were hurt in a poison gas attack Friday in the village of Kfar Zeita.
State-run Syrian television on Saturday blamed members of the Nusra Front for using chlorine gas at Kfar Zeita, killing two people and injuring more than 100.
In August, a chemical attack near the capital, Damascus, killed hundreds of people. The US and its allies blamed the Syrian government for that attack, which nearly sparked Western airstrikes against President Bashar Assad’s forces. Damascus denied the charges and accused rebels of staging the incident.
Medics quoted by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights NGO said people choking from poisoning had been hospitalized after air raids with barrel bombs Friday on the town of Kafr Zita.
“Regime planes bombed Kafr Zita with explosive barrels that produced thick smoke and odours and led to cases of suffocation and poisoning,” Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said.
But state television reported that Al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Nusra Front had released chlorine gas in a deadly attack on the town.
“There is information that the terrorist Al-Nusra Front released toxic chorine... leading to the death of two people and causing more than 100 people to suffer from suffocation,” it said.
“There is information that Al-Nusra Front is preparing to hit Wadi Deif in Idlib province and Morek in Hama province with toxic chorine or sarin,” the state broadcaster added.
There was no independent verification of either of the claims, which come after a chemical weapons attack outside Damascus last year.
The opposition and much of the international community blamed that attack, which reportedly killed as many as 1,400 people, on the Syrian regime.
The regime denied responsibility, in turn blaming rebels, but agreed under threat of US military action to turn over its chemical weapons stockpile for destruction.


Palestine, Egypt offer air support as Israel battles wildfires

A firefighting aircraft flies over a forest near Kibbutz Harel, which was damaged by wildfires during a record heatwave, in Israel May 24, 2019. (REUTERS)
Updated 25 May 2019
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Palestine, Egypt offer air support as Israel battles wildfires

  • Thousands of people were evacuated from their homes on Thursday as fires raged
  • The fires were fueled by high temperatures and dry condition

JERUSALEM: Egypt and four European countries sent aircraft to help Israel battle wildfires that have forced the evacuation of some small towns, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Friday, as a record heatwave looked set to worsen conditions.
At an emergency briefing, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel had appealed for international help to combat the fires, and that firefighting planes were coming in from Greece, Croatia, Italy and Cyprus.
Egypt, on the orders of President Abdel-Fatah El-Sisi, had also sent two helicopters to assist Israel, Netanyahu told reporters.
The Palestinian Authority and Russia had also offered help, Netanyahu said.
Israel braced for wildfires on Friday amid a major heat wave that shows no signs of abating.
Israel “really appreciates” the help, Netanyahu said, singling out El-Sisi for sending aid.
“I am deeply thankful for the readiness of neighbors to help us in a time of crisis, just as we help them,” Netanyahu said.
Israel’s Fire and Rescue Service said blazes in a key corridor between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv were mostly under control but difficult weather remained a conflagration risk.
“As of this moment, this (containment) is being done in the best possible way, but the challenge is yet ahead of us given the weather conditions, the winds and the extreme heat,” Netanyahu said.
Some 3,500 residents of small towns in the path of the fires were evacuated on Thursday, officials said. Dozens of homes have burned down.

Evacuations
Thousands of people were evacuated from towns and dozens of homes were burned on Thursday as fires raged, fueled by high temperatures and dry conditions. Over 500 acres of woodland have burned, said Nitai Zecharya, an Israeli official from the Jewish National Fund, known for planting forests in the country.
Zecharya said that while firefighters had brought most of the blaze under control, officials remained “very stressed” about strong winds fanning flames and “spreading fires to other fronts.”
The cause of the fires remains unclear, but they erupted following the Jewish festival of Lag Ba’Omer, which observers mark with bonfires.
A sweltering heat wave is pushing temperatures in parts of the country up to 110 degrees Fahrenheit, or 43 Celsius.