Turkey-backed forces seize Syria's Al-Bab center from Daesh

Turkey-backed Syrian opposition fighters take position during their advance in the city of Al-Bab, 30 km from the Syrian city of Aleppo. (AFP)
Updated 24 February 2017
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Turkey-backed forces seize Syria's Al-Bab center from Daesh

ISTANBUL/BEIRUT: Turkish-backed fighters have seized the center of Al-Bab town from Daesh, Turkish state media and the opposition said on Thursday, dealing a blow to the terrorist group in northern Syria.
Turkey launched its “Operation Euphrates Shield” in August in an effort to push Daesh from its border and stop the advance of a Syrian Kurdish militia.
Taking control of Al-Bab would deepen Turkish influence in an area of Syria where it has effectively created a buffer zone and would allow the Ankara-backed forces to press on toward Raqqa, Daesh’s de facto capital in Syria.
The Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters, a loose coalition of Syrian Arabs and Turkmen, have been attacking Al-Bab since December, aided by Turkish warplanes, tanks and special forces.
Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency, citing its correspondent in Al-Bab, said the fighters had seized control of the town center and were now clearing mines and explosive devices laid by the terrorists. Some 1,900 square km in northern Syria has now been cleared of militant groups, it said.
A war monitor, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said later on Thursday that Euphrates Shield forces had taken full control of Al-Bab and of two neighboring towns, Qabasin and Al-Bezah.
“We had reached the city center yesterday but there was a suicide attack so we had to withdraw a little bit. And today we attacked again. I can say that 85-90 percent of the city is under control,” a fighter from the Sultan Murad Brigade who is in Al-Bab told Reuters by telephone.
“They have dug tunnels all under Bab and those who have remained are all suicide bombers. The whole of the city is mined. I can say that every meter is mined.”
Another fighter with an FSA group contacted via a social networking site said there was “complete calm” in Al-Bab. The fighter said he was speaking from the city center.
Turkish Defense Minister Fikri Isik told Anadolu the rebels had entered the town center and that most of the town itself was now under their control.
Meanwhile, the UN’s Syria envoy called on the country’s rival sides to accept the “historical” responsibility of seeking to end the six-year conflict, while accepting “miracles” were unlikely at peace talks starting Thursday in Geneva.
Staffan de Mistura said regime and opposition negotiators, gathered for a fourth round of UN-sponsored talks, had a duty to lead Syria out of its bloody “nightmare.”
“This is... our solemn responsibility... a historical responsibility not to condemn the future generations of Syrian children to long years of bitter and bloody conflict,” he said.
“The Syrian people desperately want an end to this conflict and you all know it... they are awaiting for a relief from... suffering and dream of a new road out of this nightmare,” he added.
De Mistura said he would hold bilateral meetings on Friday to work out the procedure of the round of talks and to create a work plan.
After the opening ceremony in which the Syrian delegations sat opposite each other, de Mistura told reporters that it would be his dream to bring two delegations together for direct talks, but there was still work to be done.


Thousands in Egypt attacked by stray dogs: Ministry

In this Feb. 3, 2015 file photo, stray dogs rest in front of the Pyramids of Giza on the outskirts of Cairo, Egypt. (AP)
Updated 17 June 2019
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Thousands in Egypt attacked by stray dogs: Ministry

  • Environment Minister Yasmine Fouad has said the ministry is ready to address the crisis of stray dogs

CAIRO: There have been 6,241 cases of people being hospitalized after being attacked by stray dogs in Egypt’s Menoufia governorate during the past four months, the Ministry of Health and Population said in a report.
Ahmed Kamel, one of those injured, said the dogs are everywhere, but no action has been taken by the authorities despite complaints from residents.
“We fear street dogs for our children. They’re attacking us ferociously. A dog attacked me after I left my house,” he added.
“I defended myself and tried to hit him with a stone, but he sank his teeth into my feet. I had to go to the health center and they gave me a vaccine.”
Environment Minister Yasmine Fouad has said the ministry is ready to address the crisis of stray dogs.
Meanwhile, a report by the Department of Preventive Medicine at the Directorate of Health Affairs in Menoufia revealed that 759 people have been hospitalized due to rat bites so far this year.
Dr. Hassan Shafiq, deputy head of the Egyptian Veterinary Service, said rat bites can transmit deadly diseases.
Rats “live next to ponds, marshes and plantations, and feed mainly on … grains, fruits and vegetables, so they are often responsible for crop damage,” he added.