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.


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.