Militants’ offensive ‘prompts airstrikes in Syria safe zone’

People play chess on Tuesday in the southern town of Bosra Al-Sham, Deraa Governorate, Syria. (Reuters)
Updated 20 September 2017
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Militants’ offensive ‘prompts airstrikes in Syria safe zone’

BEIRUT: An opposition offensive in a region of northwestern Syria where a safe zone deal had brought months of calm prompted heavy regime and Russian airstrikes on Tuesday, including on a hospital, a monitor said.
Idlib province and some adjacent areas form one of four so-called de-escalation zones agreed in May by Turkey and government allies Russia and Iran.
Front lines across the province had been relatively quiet since then but intense fighting erupted on Tuesday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
Extremist factions led by a former Al-Qaeda affiliate, which are not included in the de-escalation deal, launched a fierce assault on a string of regime-held villages along the border between Idlib and Hama province.
“An hour later, the regime launched airstrikes on the operation’s supply lines. Raids are now ongoing across southern Idlib province and northern parts of Hama province,” said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman, adding that Russian warplanes later joined in.
Syrian raids hit a maternity hospital in the village of Al-Tah and a medical outpost in the town of Khan Sheikhun, as well as near two other hospitals in Idlib province, said Abdel Rahman.
“The raids on the maternity hospital in Al-Tah killed an elderly woman who was an employee of the hospital, in the first civilian death in airstrikes in Idlib province since May,” he added.
“The attack and airstrikes are the most intense in the area since the de-escalation zone was announced in May,” Abdel Rahman said.
According to the medical charity UOSSM, which has provided equipment to the maternity hospital, the woman killed was a cleaner in the facility and other medical staff were wounded.
In a statement distributed to journalists, the charity said two sets of strikes hit the maternity hospital, setting fuel storage tanks on fire and leaving its incubator room “totally destroyed.”
UOSSM slammed the strikes and warned that “systematic attacks on hospitals are back despite de-escalation deals.”


One dead in new protests in southern Iraq: medical source

Updated 33 min 46 sec ago
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One dead in new protests in southern Iraq: medical source

Diwaniyah, Iraq: A man was killed Friday during a protest outside the headquarters of an armed group in southern Iraq, a medical source said, as authorities push to contain social unrest.
"A civilian around 20 years old was shot dead," a medical source in the city of Diwaniyah told AFP, as fresh rallies were held across southern Iraq against social and economic woes.
Shots were fired by a guard from the local headquarters of the Badr organisation, a powerful Iranian-backed armed group, where hundreds of people were protesting, the source said.
The latest death brings to nine the number of people killed in the protests, according to multiple sources, while authorities earlier this week said more than 260 security personnel have been wounded.
The unrest erupted in Basra province on July 8 when security forces opened fire, killing one person as protesters demanded jobs and basic services including electricity.
Others killed during the protests were shot by unknown assailants.
The Iraqi government swiftly denounced "vandals" it accused of infiltrating the protests.
The latest demonstrations saw thousands of people gathering across the south and also in the capital Baghdad, where a heavy security presence saw demonstrators dispersed by water canon and tear gas.
The crowds were broken up as they headed towards the fortified Green Zone, a high-security area of Baghdad where the government is headquartered.
In oil-rich Basra, people shouted slogans against the authorities as thousands gathered peacefully outside government headquarters.
Shouting "no to corruption", hundreds of people rallied in Nasiriyah, 160 kilometres (100 miles) northwest of Basra, chanting the anti-graft message which has characterised nearly two weeks of protests.
Demonstrators also surrounded the home of Nasiriyah's governor where security forces responded with tear gas.