Iraq forces launch anti-Daesh push in western desert

An elderly woman and a child are pulled on a cart as civilians flee heavy fighting between Daesh militants and Iraqi special forces in western Mosul, Iraq. (AP)
Updated 12 May 2017
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Iraq forces launch anti-Daesh push in western desert

HABBANIYAH, Iraq: Iraqi forces have launched a broad operation to root out Daesh fighters who have been harassing security forces in remote border areas, officers said Thursday.
The army, backed by aircraft from the US-led coalition and local tribal fighters, launched their sweep at dawn in desert areas of Anbar province where the terrorists have hideouts, an army lieutenant colonel said.
“The security forces are advancing from an area called Kilometer 160, west of Ramadi, toward Nukhaib,” said the officer stationed in Rutba, an outpost that is the last town on the road to Jordan.
Maj. Gen. Mahmud Al-Falahi, the head of Anbar Operations Command, said the goal of the operation is to flush out Daesh fighters in the desert and secure Rutba.
About 30 members of the security forces have been killed in attacks and ambushes by the terrorists in the Rutba area over the past three weeks.
Anbar is a sprawling desert province traversed by the Euphrates River and borders Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.
It has long been an insurgent stronghold, and Daesh already controlled parts of it when it swept through Iraq in 2014 to take over around a third of the country.
Pro-government forces have since retaken most towns and cities in Anbar, but the terrorists still control areas near the Syrian border and have desert hideouts from which they harass federal forces.
Iraqi forces are also conducting a major operation further north in Anbar aimed at retaking the last towns along the Euphrates still controlled by Daesh near the Syrian border.
A major offensive launched in October to retake Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, has also made steady gains.


UN, Palestinians launch humanitarian appeal after funding cuts

Updated 17 December 2018
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UN, Palestinians launch humanitarian appeal after funding cuts

  • The 2019 Humanitarian Response Plan outlined 203 projects to be carried out by 88 different groups
  • The plan prioritized 1.4 million Palestinians most in need of food, health care, shelter, water and sanitation

JERUSALEM: The United Nations and the Palestinian Authority on Monday appealed for $350 million in humanitarian relief for Palestinians next year, saying that they needed more but had to be realistic in the face of “record-low” funding.
The 2019 Humanitarian Response Plan outlined 203 projects to be carried out by 88 different groups, including UN agencies and non-governmental organizations.
The plan prioritized 1.4 million Palestinians most in need of food, health care, shelter, water and sanitation, said Jamie McGoldrick, the UN humanitarian coordinator in the Gaza Strip, West Bank and East Jerusalem.
“Humanitarian actors are facing unprecedented challenges, including record-low funding and a rise in attacks to delegitimize humanitarian action,” he said in a joint statement issued on Monday, ahead of the appeal’s launch in Ramallah in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
Although “much more assistance is needed,” McGoldrick said, the plan was “reflecting what we can realistically accomplish in this highly constrained context.”
Over the past year, the United States has slashed its funding to the Palestinians, including to the UN agency that provides services to 5 million Palestinian refugees.
The United States promised $365 million to the agency in 2018, but paid only a first instalment of $60 million before announcing in August that it would halt all future donations.
The move was widely seen as a means of pressuring the Palestinian leadership to enter peace negotiations with Israel.
The Palestinians want to establish a state in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem — territories that Israel captured and occupied in the 1967 Middle East war.
US-brokered peace talks between the sides collapsed in 2014 and a bid by US President Donald Trump to restart them has so far showed little progress.
Around 77 percent of the funds sought in the 2019 plan would go to Gaza, the appeal organizers said, because the densely populated coastal strip faced a “dire humanitarian situation” after years of an Israeli-led blockade, internal Palestinian political divisions and casualties from demonstrations and recurring hostilities.
“The humanitarian context in the oPt (Occupied Palestinian Territories) is still deteriorating due to the Israeli occupation violations in a time of lack of resources and declining funds because of the politicization of the humanitarian aid,” Palestinian Social Development Minister Ibrahim Al-Shaer said in the statement.