Russian strikes kill 14 civilians in eastern Syria: monitor

Smoke rises from buildings following a reported strike on a rebel-held area of the Jobar district, east of the Syrian capital on October 6, 2017. (AFP)
Updated 06 October 2017
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Russian strikes kill 14 civilians in eastern Syria: monitor

BEIRUT: Russian air strikes killed 14 people fleeing across a river on rafts in eastern Syria as renewed fighting across the country took an ever mounting toll on civilians, a monitor said Friday.
The strikes, the latest in a string of such incidents this week, targeted a group crossing the Euphrates near the jihadist-held town of Mayadeen, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
“They were crossing the river on makeshift rafts in a village south of Mayadeen,” Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said, adding that three children were among those killed overnight.
Russia has in recent days intensified its air raids in support of Syrian regime forces battling jihadists across the country.
Abdel Rahman said the civilians were fleeing the village of Mahkan, south of Mayadeen, which lies about 420 kilometers (260 miles) east of Damascus and is one of the Daesh group’s main remaining bastions.
Mayadeen has been under Daesh control since 2014 when the group swept across swathes of Iraq and Syria and proclaimed a “caliphate,” but regime forces have tightened the noose around the town.
The state news agency SANA said government forces advancing from desert areas northwest of Mayadeen had moved to within five kilometers (three miles) of the town.
In Deir Ezzor province, Daesh still controls Mayadeen, eastern neighborhoods of the city of Deir Ezzor further up the Euphrates Valley, the town of Albu Kamal downstream on the Iraqi border, and several other smaller towns.
Moscow has been carrying out relentless air strikes in support of its ally Damascus targeting both Daesh in Deir Ezzor province and rival jihadists led by Al-Qaeda’s former Syria affiliate in Idlib province in the northwest.
The Daesh group, which once controlled a territory roughly the size of Britain, has seen its “caliphate” shrink steadily over the past two years and has lost all but a few of its main hubs in both Iraq and Syria.
A Kurdish-led alliance is currently fighting Daesh in Raqqa, the group’s biggest bastion since the recapture by Iraqi forces of Mosul in July.
The city, further up the Euphrates, was the de facto Syrian capital of Daesh’s now collapsing “state.”
On Wednesday, a Russian air strike killed 38 civilians trying to flee the fighting in Deir Ezzor province, according to the Observatory.
The Observatory relies on a network of sources inside Syria and says it determines whose planes carry out raids according to type, location, flight patterns and munitions used.
The group has reported hundreds of civilians killed in operations against Daesh in Deir Ezzor and neighboring Raqqa province. On Tuesday, it said a US-led coalition strike in Raqqa killed at least 18 civilians.
Russia has not acknowledged any civilian deaths from its strikes since it intervened in Syria in 2015 and dismisses the Observatory’s reporting as biased.
On Thursday, the Red Cross said Syria was experiencing its worst levels of violence since the battle for second city Aleppo late last year.
“For the past two weeks, we have seen an increasingly worrying spike in military operations that correlates with high levels of civilian casualties,” Marianne Gasser, the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross delegation in Syria, said.


Fresh protests in Iraq as medics raise death toll to 11

Updated 22 July 2018
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Fresh protests in Iraq as medics raise death toll to 11

  • Security forces remained deployed around the capital Baghdad
  • Overall medical sources put the death toll in the unrest at 11 people

BAGHDAD: Fresh protests hit southern Iraq Sunday as medical sources put at 11 the number of demonstrators killed in two weeks of unrest sparked by ire over corruption and lack of public services.
Security forces remained deployed around the capital Baghdad after struggling Friday to disperse crowds of angry protesters who took to the streets.
Demonstrations have roiled swathes of southern and central Iraq since erupting in the oil-rich port city of Basra on July 8, when security forces opened fire killing one person.
Overall medical sources put the death toll in the unrest at 11 people, three in each of the cities Basra, Samawah and Najaf, and one in both the cities of Diwaniyah and Karbala.
Most of them were killed by gunfire from unidentified assailants, while one person suffocated to death on tear gas used to disperse the demonstrators.
Protesters on Sunday took to the streets in the cities of Samawah and Nasiriyah, chanting “no to corruption,” a scourge Iraqis say has long blighted their country.
Since the start of the demonstrations those involved have focused their anger on the political establishment, with government buildings and party offices being sacked or set ablaze.
The Iraqi authorities have scrambled to halt the unrest and have blocked social media sites online to try to prevent the spread of protests.
Iraq is in a state of political limbo with Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi overseeing a caretaker government as wrangling to form a new government drags on after elections in May.
A coalition headed by populist cleric Moqtada Sadr topped the polls, campaigning on an anti-graft ticket to claim the most seats in parliament.