Syrian activists say explosion near Turkish border kills 5

Syrian citizens and civil defense workers gathering next of burning car at the explosion scene, in Azaz town, north Syria, Wednesday, May 3, 2017. (Azaz Media Office via AP)
Updated 03 May 2017
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Syrian activists say explosion near Turkish border kills 5

BEIRUT: A large explosion shook a rebel-held Syrian town along the border with Turkey on Wednesday, killing at least five people and wounding others.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said a car bomb went off in the town of Azaz close to the offices of the Syrian interim government, which represents the opposition in rebel-held areas. The Observatory and the activist-run Azaz Media Center confirmed the toll, which was likely to rise.
The blast came as the Syrian government and the opposition resumed cease-fire talks in the Kazakh capital, Astana, that are sponsored by Russia, a close ally of President Bashar Assad.
The United States is sending a senior State Department official to the talks, and President Donald Trump and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin signaled greater cooperation on Syria in a phone call on Tuesday. The White House said the two discussed setting up safe zones in the country, where a civil war has been raging for more than six years.
Syrian TV said the Astana talks began with a meeting between delegations from Russia and Iran, another close ally of Assad.
Azaz is on a key opposition supply route, and is a hub for fighters and opposition activists. It also hosts people displaced from fighting elsewhere in the country. The town has been the scene of several attacks, some claimed by the Daesh group. A huge explosion in January killed at least 50 people in Azaz.
A video of the aftermath of Wednesday’s explosion posted online by the Azaz Media Center showed burnt-out cars and firefighters struggling to put out a blaze. Gunfire rang out as people gathered at the scene and ambulances arrived.
The Turkish Dogan news agency said some of the wounded were taken to the state hospital in the Turkish border town of Kilis for treatment.


Ports deal is chance for Yemen peace talks, says UN envoy

Updated 19 min 12 sec ago
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Ports deal is chance for Yemen peace talks, says UN envoy

  • Forces will initially be withdrawn from the smaller ports of Salif and Ras Issa
  • The second phase a withdrawal of 18 to 30 kilometers, depending on the location and fighters

NEW YORK: The expected pullout of forces from three key ports in Yemen provides an opportunity to move to the major goal of ending the four-year conflict that has created the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, the UN envoy for the war-battered country said on Tuesday.

Martin Griffiths told the UN Security Council that Yemen’s government and Houthi militias demonstrated that they are able to deliver on commitments they made in December in Stockholm by agreeing on the first phase of redeployment from the ports.

He said forces will initially be withdrawn from the smaller ports of Salif and Ras Issa, beginning “possibly” on Tuesday or Wednesday. This will be followed by a pullout from the major port of Hodeidah and critical parts of the city that will allow access to the Red Sea Mills, a major UN storage facility holding enough grain to feed 3.7 million people for a month, he said.

Griffiths called on the parties to fully implement the first phase and to agree on details of the second phase of the redeployment of forces, “which we hope will lead to the demilitarization” of Hodeidah, whose port handles about 70 percent of Yemen’s commercial and humanitarian imports.

A UN official said the first phase involves pulling back several kilometers, and the second phase a withdrawal of 18 to 30 kilometers, depending on the location and fighters. In some places in Hodeidah city, the opposing forces are facing each other about 100 meters apart, the official said.

The UN is appealing for more than $4 billion to assist 15 million Yemenis this year and UN Under-Secretary-General and Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock implored donors to pledge generously at a conference next week in Geneva.