11 killed in government raids on northwest Syria: monitor

Syrian civil defense volunteers, known as the White Helmets, carry a body retrieved from the rubble following reported government airstrike on the Syrian town of Ariha, in the northwestern province of Idlib, on Monday. (AFP / Omar Haj Kadour)
Updated 27 February 2017
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11 killed in government raids on northwest Syria: monitor

BEIRUT, Lebanon: Government air strikes on northwest Syria killed at least 11 people overnight, most of them civilians, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Monday.
“Government warplanes carried out air strikes after midnight on several areas in the town of Ariha” in Idlib province, said the monitoring group’s head Rami Abdel Rahman.
“The preliminary toll is 11 killed, including at least seven civilians,” three of them children, he said.
Others were still missing and rescue teams were searching for anyone trapped under the rubble, Abdel Rahman added.
Leith Fares, a rescue worker in Ariha, told AFP his team had pulled at least 20 wounded people out of the rubble.
“We’ve been working since 3:00 am (0100 GMT) to rescue victims still under the rubble of two four-story buildings that totally collapsed on the residents inside,” he said.
“We’re still looking for two families, estimated at eight to 10 members each, that are still trapped,” Fares said.
The deaths come two days after 10 civilians were killed in government air strikes on Ariha, held since spring 2015 by an anti-regime coalition dominated by jihadists.
Idlib province has been battered by heavy air strikes in recent weeks, with intensifying bombing raids by regime warplanes in particular, according to the Observatory.
It has also been rocked by infighting between rebel and jihadist factions, including Al-Qaeda’s former Syrian affiliate, Fateh Al-Sham Front.


Iraq offers to mediate in crisis between US and Iran

Updated 18 min 19 sec ago
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Iraq offers to mediate in crisis between US and Iran

  • ‘We are trying to help and to be mediators’
  • The crisis takes root in President Donald Trump’s withdrawal last year of the US from the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers

BAGHDAD: Iraq offered to mediate in the crisis between its two key allies, the United States and Iran, amid escalating Middle East tensions and as Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers steadily unravels.
Iraqi foreign minister, Mohammed Al-Hakim, made the offer Sunday during a joint news conference in Baghdad with visiting Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif.
“We are trying to help and to be mediators,” said Al-Hakim, adding that Baghdad “will work to reach a satisfactory solution” while stressing that Iraq stands against unilateral steps taken by Washington.
In recent weeks, tensions between Washington and Tehran soared over America deploying an aircraft carrier and B-52 bombers to the Arabian Gulf over a still-unexplained threat it perceives from Tehran.
The crisis takes root in President Donald Trump’s withdrawal last year of the US from the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers that capped Iran’s uranium enrichment activities in return to lifting sanctions. Washington subsequently re-imposed sanctions on Iran, sending its economy into freefall.
Trump has argued that the deal failed to sufficiently curb Iran’s ability to develop nuclear weapons or halt its support for militias throughout the Middle East that the US says destabilize the region, as well as address the issue of Tehran’s missiles, which can reach both US regional bases and Israel.
Zarif, who was been on a whirlwind diplomatic offensive to preserve the rest of the accord, insisted that Iran “did not violate the nuclear deal” and urged European nations to exert efforts to preserve the deal following the US pullout.
Speaking about the rising tensions with the US, Zarif said Iran will be able to “face the war, whether it is economic or military through steadfastness and its forces.” He also urged for a non-aggression agreement between Iran and Arab countries in the Gulf.
The mediation offer by Al-Hakim, Iraq’s foreign minister, echoed one made Saturday by Mohamad Al-Halbousi, the Iraqi parliament speaker. Al-Hakim also expressed concern for Iran’s spiraling economy.
“The sanctions against sisterly Iran are ineffective and we stand by its side,” Al-Hakim said.