Up to 50,000 civilians trapped in Raqqa: UN

Displaced Syrians who fled Daesh-controlled areas in Raqqa, Deir Ezzor and Mayadeen gather at Aleppo’s bus station of Ramussa recently. (AFP)
Updated 11 July 2017
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Up to 50,000 civilians trapped in Raqqa: UN

GENEVA: Up to 50,000 civilians remain trapped in the Syrian rebel stronghold of Raqqa, the UN said Tuesday, warning that supplies of water and other essentials were fast running out.
US-backed forces have been closing in on the last redoubt in Syria of Daesh after penetrating its Old City last week, but an estimated 2,500 militants are still defending the center.
“The UN estimates that between 30,000 and 50,000 people remain trapped in Raqqa city,” UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) spokesman Andrej Mahecic said in Geneva, down from some 100,000 people at the end of June.
Mahecic stressed it was hard to be sure about the numbers given the lack of access to Raqqa for UN agencies.
But he said: “Availability of food, water, medicine, electricity and other essentials has been dwindling, with the situation rapidly deteriorating.
“It is imperative that trapped civilians are able to secure safe passage out — to reach safety, shelter and protection.”
Daesh overran Raqqa in early 2014, turning the northern city into the de facto Syrian capital of their so-called “caliphate.”
With help from a US-led coalition, an alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters called the Syrian Democratic Forces is waging a fierce assault to oust Daesh from the city.
Raqqa has been without steady running water for several weeks after damage to pipelines by heavy bombardment, including suspected strikes by the US-led coalition.
Civilians dehydrated by the blistering summer heat have been venturing out to the Euphrates River and makeshift wells around the city, risking their lives as the fighting intensifies.
Activists say they have documented symptoms of water-borne diseases among those who are drinking the river water, including fever and loss of consciousness that it is feared could indicate cholera.
The UNHCR spokesman said the agency had managed to complete a first series of humanitarian convoys by road from the province around Raqqa to Qamishli in Syria’s northeast.
The road had been shut by fighting for nearly two years, forcing UN agencies to use costly airlifts to reach some of the 430,000 people displaced by fighting around Raqqa.
Four convoys, totaling 22 trucks, have over the past fortnight transported tents, blankets, jerry cans and other essentials to refugees who have reached Qamishli from Raqqa, Mahecic said.


Qatar says invited to emergency Arab summits in Makkah by Saudi King

Updated 2 min 10 sec ago
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Qatar says invited to emergency Arab summits in Makkah by Saudi King

  • Last week Qatar said it had not been invited to the two summits Saudi is planning in Islam’s holiest site

CAIRO: Qatar has been invited by Saudi Arabia to attend two emergency Arab summits being convened in the Saudi city of Makkah on May 30, Qatar’s foreign ministry said on Sunday, after previously saying it had not been.

Last week Qatar said it had not been invited to the two summits Saudi is planning in Islam’s holiest site to discuss the implications of drone strikes on oil installations in the kingdom and attacks on four vessels, including two Saudi oil tankers, off the UAE coast earlier this month.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt have imposed an economic and diplomatic boycott on Qatar since June 2017 over allegations that Doha supports terrorism and is cosying up to regional foe Iran. Qatar denies the charges.

Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani received an invitation from Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud to attend the summit of Gulf Arab rulers and a wider meeting of Arab leaders, the Qatari Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

The invitation and a letter was passed to Qatar by the head of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), the statement said, without saying whether Qatar would accept it.