More violence in Syria as 23 killed

A woman carries a container of water as she walks past a burned pick-up truck in the rebel held area of Old Aleppo, Syria, on Monday. (Reuters)
Updated 15 November 2016
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More violence in Syria as 23 killed

BEIRUT: At least 11 children were among 23 people killed Sunday in northern Syria as pro-government forces kept up their campaign against opposition areas in the country’s north, while rebels shelled a government-held district in Aleppo city.
In related developments, the European Union has sanctioned Syrian ministers and a central bank governor, while Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that it would discuss Syria with US President Barack Obama.
Eight more people were killed in a suspected airstrike on a crossing point connecting Kurdish-held areas with rebel areas in northern Aleppo province, the Kurdish security force said.
The violence comes a day after government troops repelled a rebel offensive on western parts of Aleppo city launched in late October. State news agency SANA said the shelling of a western Aleppo district killed four people, including two women and a child. The government siege has left an estimated 275,000 people trapped with no aid allowed in since July, amid a punishing bombing campaign.

Airstrikes destroy hospital
Airstrikes destroyed the only hospital in the rebel-held town of Atareb in the countryside west of Aleppo on Monday, wounding several members of the medical staff, a war monitor said. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based war monitor, said warplanes pounded the town during the night and into Monday, knocking the hospital out of service permanently.
Western countries and human rights activists in rebel-held areas have accused the Syrian and Russian air forces of deliberately targeting hospitals, bread lines and other civilian infrastructure in territory controlled by the rebels.

Turkish warplanes strike 15 targets
Turkish warplanes struck 15 targets in the Al-Bab area of northern Syria on Sunday in an operation with Syrian rebels to drive ISIS militants out of the border region, the Turkish military said on Monday. President Tayyip Erdogan has said seizing control of Al-Bab, around 30km south of the border, is a goal of the operation before targeting Manbij, from which Kurdish-led forces recently drove ISIS, and the ISIS stronghold of Raqqa. Ten ISIS defensive positions, command centers and an ammunition store were destroyed in the strikes, the army said in a statement.

Aleppo rebels used chemical weapons
The Russian Defense Ministry said on Monday that rebels in eastern Aleppo had used chemical weapons against the Syrian army and that around 30 soldiers had been caught up in the attack, the TASS news agency reported. The ministry was cited as saying that the attack had occurred on Sunday evening and that most of the Syrian soldiers affected had to be taken to hospital in Aleppo. Russia has been helping President Bashar Assad try to seize back full control of Aleppo, but has suspended air strikes on rebel targets inside the shattered city for now.

Putin to discuss with Obama
President Putin and his US counterpart Barack Obama may discuss developments around Syria when both leaders come to Peru later this week, state TASS agency quoted Kremlin’s spokesman as saying on Monday. Dmitry Peskov said the two presidents may meet on the sidelines of an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit that Peru should host on Nov. 19-20.

EU sanctions Syria ministers
Meanwhile, the European Union on Monday placed 17 Syrian ministers plus the central bank governor on a sanctions blacklist targeting the regime of President Assad over attacks on civilians.
They face travel bans and asset freezes for “being responsible for the violent repression against the civilian population in Syria, benefiting from or supporting the regime, and/or being associated with such persons,” an EU statement said.
EU leaders agreed at a summit in October to increase sanctions against the Assad regime, citing devastating attacks on Syria’s second city of Aleppo, and added 10 top military and government officials to the list.
But suggestions they might also sanction Russia, which has backed long-time ally Assad’s offensives against rebel forces.


Lebanon to form body to probe civil war disappearances

Updated 16 min 47 sec ago
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Lebanon to form body to probe civil war disappearances

  • The long-awaited law would empower an independent national commission to gather information about the missing
  • Families and rights groups have been campaigning for the law since 2012, when it first went to parliament

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s parliament on Monday approved the formation of an independent commission to help determine the fate of thousands of people who went missing during the country’s civil war, which ended nearly three decades ago.
The long-awaited law would empower an independent national commission to gather information about the missing, collect DNA samples and exhume mass graves from the 1975-1990 conflict.
Families and rights groups have been campaigning for the law since 2012, when it first went to parliament.
“This is the first step toward giving closure to families of the missing hopefully,” said Rona Halabi, spokeswoman for the International Committee for the Red Cross. “This represents a milestone for the families who have waited for years to have answers.”
The Hague-based International Commission on Missing Persons says more than 17,000 people are estimated to have gone missing during the Lebanese civil war.
Lebanon’s National News Agency said lawmakers approved the law after voting on each of its 38 articles.
LBC TV said lawmakers initially protested, saying calls for accountability may affect current officials. The broadcaster said they were reassured the 1991 amnesty for abuses committed by militias during the war remains in place.
Many of Lebanon’s political parties are led by former warlords implicated in some of the civil war’s worst fighting.
“For the first time after the war, Lebanon enters a genuine reconciliation phase, to heal the wounds and give families the right to know,” Gebran Bassil, the country’s foreign minister tweeted.
The ICRC began compiling DNA samples from relatives of the disappeared in 2016 and has interviewed more than 2,000 families to help a future national commission.
DNA samples have been stored with the Lebanese Internal Security Forces and the ICRC. The law would allow Lebanese security forces to take part in the sample collection.