Airstrike in Hama, Syria kills 8 White Helmets rescuers

Members of the Syrian civil defense volunteers, also known as the White Helmets, dig through the rubble of a makeshift hospital set up in a cave, in Abdeen, in the northern Syrian province of Idlib, on April 23, 2017, which was targeted in an airstrike the day before. In Hama, eight White Helmets rescuers were killed in an airstrike on Sunday. (AFP / Omar haj Kadour)
Updated 01 May 2017
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Airstrike in Hama, Syria kills 8 White Helmets rescuers

BEIRUT: Airstrikes struck a center of Syria’s rescuers known as the White Helmets in a rebel-held area in the country’s center, killing eight volunteers, opposition activists said Saturday.
The airstrike was one of the deadliest against the rescuers who operate in opposition-held areas and who have garnered world attention for operating in extreme conditions, pulling survivors out of recently struck areas. The volunteers have often been targeted by government airstrikes, in what are known as ‘double tap’ attacks, as they work to rescue others.
The local White Helmets in the central Hama province said an air raid on one of their centers in Kfar Zeita killed eight members of the team. The group said five bodies were lifted from the rubble and the rescuers continued to look for the others.
The Britain-based opposition monitoring group, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said the number of those killed is likely to rise as the search mission continues.
It was not clear who carried out the airstrikes, as Syrian government and Russia aircraft have targeted opposition-held areas. The central Hama province have been scene to intense violence in recent weeks, as the government attempts to push back a rebel offensive.
Separately Saturday, Syria’s military said its troops and allied fighters repelled an attack by the Daesh group on a strategic area held by the government in southern Aleppo province.
The attack took place in Khanaser, southeast Aleppo — a strategic region that links Aleppo with central and western Syria. The area has changed hands many times during the conflict. But last year, government troops and allied fighters wrested control of Khanaser from Daesh.
The military media arm said Daesh attacked Um Mayyal village near a mountain range in Khanaser and other areas.
The Observatory said Daesh fighters launched the attack on military posts in the area, triggering intense clashes and leaving many casualties.
Daesh-affiliated Aamaq news agency claimed Daesh fighters killed 30 government soldiers in the attack.
Near the capital, hundreds of Syrians from the rebel-held suburbs of eastern Ghouta near Damascus protested against infighting between the insurgent groups that began Friday and left dozens killed in the area.
The infighting came amid an intensified government offensive in the area near Damascus, which the rebels have controlled for years but has been increasingly squeezed by government advances.
“God rid us of all leaders,” the protesters chanted, criticizing the head of the insurgent groups for diverting their weapons from the front line with the government.
The infighting is pitting the powerful Army of Islam group against Al-Rahman Corps and Al-Qaeda-linked group the Levant Liberation Committee, or Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham. Each side blames the other for triggering the fighting in the power struggle over control of eastern Ghouta. Some activists have called on Army of Islam to rid eastern Ghouta of the powerful Al-Qaeda-linked group.
The Observatory said shots were fired at the protesters in one area, leaving five injured.
In 24 hours of fighting, the Observatory said at least 38 insurgents from the warring sides were killed. Damascus-based Shaam News Network put the number at 60, in addition to six civilians killed because of the clashes.
For the past three years, the government has been unable to regain control of the eastern suburbs of Damascus. But in recent weeks, an intensified offensive points to a new determination to retake the area.
On Saturday, activists reported a heavy air campaign against the area’s Qaboun neighborhood.


Syria Kurds urge world to take back foreign militants

Updated 24 March 2019
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Syria Kurds urge world to take back foreign militants

  • The Kurdish administration’s top foreign affairs official Abdel Karim Omar warned that its foreign captives still pose a threat
  • Many of the suspected militants’ countries of origin are reluctant to take them back due to potential security risks

OMAR OIL FIELD, Syria: Syria’s Kurds warned Sunday that the thousands of foreign militants they have detained in their fight against the Daesh group are a time-bomb the international community urgently needs to defuse.
Speaking a day after Kurdish-led forces announced the final demise of the militants’ physical “caliphate,” the Kurdish administration’s top foreign affairs official Abdel Karim Omar warned that its foreign captives still pose a threat.
“There are thousands of fighters, children and women and from 54 countries, not including Iraqis and Syrians, who are a serious burden and danger for us and for the international community,” Omar said.
“Numbers increased massively during the last 20 days of the Baghouz operation,” he said, referring to the village by the Euphrates where diehard militants made a bloody last stand.
The fate of foreign Daesh fighters has become a major issue as the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces closed in on the once-sprawling proto-state the militants declared in 2014.
After a months-long assault by the US-backed SDF to flush out the last Daesh strongholds in the Euphrates Valley, militants and their families gradually gathered in Baghouz as the last rump of the “caliphate” shrank around them.
While some managed to escape, many of the foreigners stayed behind, either surrendering to the SDF or fighting to the death.
According to the SDF, 66,000 people left the last Daesh pocket since January, including 5,000 militants and 24,000 of their relatives.
The assault was paused multiple times as the SDF opened humanitarian corridors for people evacuating the besieged enclave.
The droves of people scrambling out of Baghouz in recent weeks were screened by the SDF and dispatched to camps further north, where most are still held.
The de facto autonomous Kurdish administration is northeastern Syria has warned it does not have capacity to detain so many people, let alone put them on trial.
But many of the suspected militants’ countries of origin are reluctant to take them back due to potential security risks and a likely public backlash.
Some have even withdrawn citizenship from their nationals detained in Syria.
“There has to be coordination between us and the international community to address this danger,” Abdel Karim Omar said.
“There are thousands of children who have been raised according to IS ideology,” he added.
“If these children are not reeducated and reintegrated in their societies of origin, they are potential future terrorists.”