Russia accuses US-led coalition of ‘barbaric’ bombing of Syria’s Raqqa

A civilian prays after she was rescued by fighters of Syrian Democratic Forces from the stadium after Raqqa was liberated from the Daesh militants in Raqqa. (Reuters)
Updated 22 October 2017
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Russia accuses US-led coalition of ‘barbaric’ bombing of Syria’s Raqqa

MOSCOW: Russia accused the US-led coalition in Syria on Sunday of wiping the city of Raqqa “off the face of the earth” with carpet bombing in the same way the Americans and Britain had bombed Germany’s Dresden in 1945.
The Russian Defense Ministry, which has itself repeatedly been forced to deny accusations from activists and Western politicians of bombing Syrian civilians, said it looked like the West was now rushing to provide financial aid to Raqqa to cover up evidence of its own crimes.
Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov, a spokesman for the Defense Ministry, said in a statement that around 200,000 people had lived in Raqqa before the conflict in Syria, but that not more than 45,000 people remained.
US-backed militias in Syria declared victory over Daesh in Raqqa, the group’s capital, last week, raising flags over the last jihadist footholds after a four-month battle.
“Raqqa has inherited the fate of Dresden in 1945, wiped off the face of the earth by Anglo-American bombardments,” said Konashenkov.
Most of the German city was destroyed in Allied bombing raids just before the end of World War Two.
Though he said Russia welcomed Western promises of financial aid to rebuild Raqqa, Konashenkov complained that numerous Russian requests for the West to give humanitarian aid to Syrian civilians in other parts of the country had been rejected in previous years.
“What is behind the rush by Western capitals to provide targeted financial help only to Raqqa?” said Konashenkov.
“There’s only one explanation — the desire to cover up evidence of the barbaric bombardments by the US air force and the coalition as fast as possible and to bury the thousands of civilians ‘liberated’ from Islamic State in the ruins.”
The US-led coalition says it is careful to avoid civilian casualties in its bombing runs against Daesh in both Syria and Iraq, and investigates any allegations. It has previously denied killing civilians in air strikes on Raqqa, saying its goal is “zero civilian casualties.”


Gaza: Palestinian territory ravaged by war and poverty

Updated 2 min 45 sec ago
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Gaza: Palestinian territory ravaged by war and poverty

  • Gaza is one of the most densely populated territories on the planet with around two million Palestinians squeezed into 362 square kilometers
  • Israel imposed a blockade in 2006 restricting the cross-border movement of people and goods

GAZA CITY, Palestinian Territories: The Gaza Strip, run by Hamas, is a poverty-stricken and overcrowded Palestinian coastal enclave under a crippling blockade by Israel, with which it has fought several wars.
After Israel tightened the blockade on Tuesday by suspending fuel deliveries amid fears of a new all-out conflict, here is some background.
On the Mediterranean coast, Gaza is one of the most densely populated territories on the planet with around two million Palestinians squeezed into 362 square kilometers (140 square miles).
After the creation of the Jewish state of Israel in 1948 and the Arab-Israeli war of 1948-1949, Gaza came under the administration of neighboring Egypt.
It was seized by Israel during the Six-Day War in 1967.
In 2005 Israel withdrew its soldiers and settlers, ending 38 years of occupation.
But it imposed a blockade in 2006, restricting the cross-border movement of people and goods following the capture of a soldier by Hamas militants on Israeli territory.
The blockade was tightened a year later after the ousting of troops loyal to the rival Fatah faction of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas.
The only entrance to Gaza not controlled by Israel is at Rafah on the Egyptian border. This too has been almost completely closed since extremists launched an insurgency in the Sinai Peninsula after the military overthrew Egypt’s elected Islamist president Muhammad Mursi in 2013.
In May 2018 Israel began working on a “new and impenetrable” coastal barrier just north of Gaza to prevent the possibility of Palestinians entering by sea.
The Gaza Strip has almost no industry and suffers from a chronic lack of water and fuel. Its GDP losses caused by the blockade are estimated at more than 50 percent, the World Bank says.
Unemployment stands at 45 percent and more than two-thirds of the population depends on aid.
A reconciliation deal in 2017 between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority raised hopes of an improvement in the harsh conditions in the enclave, but talks have stalled.
In January 2018 UN Middle East peace envoy Nickolay Mladenov warned the Gaza Strip was on the verge of “full collapse.”
Donors in March greenlighted a project to build a desalination plant in Gaza, where more than 95 percent of water is unfit for drinking due to overpumping of groundwater.
Israel has carried out several military operations against Palestinian militants in Gaza, with thousands killed.
“Operation Hot Winter” in February-March 2008, in response to the killing of an Israeli by a rocket fired from Gaza, left more than 120 Palestinians dead in just days.
It led to weeks of unrest, with rocket fire from Gaza and attacks from Israel, in which hundreds of Palestinians were killed until a truce in June.
A vast air offensive, “Operation Cast Lead,” was launched in December 2008 to stop Palestinian rocket fire into Israel. It ended with a cease-fire in January 2009 and 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis dead.
In November 2012 “Operation Pillar of Defense” kicked off with a missile strike that killed top Hamas commander Ahmed Jaabari. In the ensuing eight-day flare-up, 177 Palestinians and six Israelis were killed.
In July 2014 Israel launched “Operation Protective Edge” to stop the rocket fire and destroy tunnels used for smuggling and the movement of militants.
It lead to a war that left 2,251 dead on the Palestinian side and 74 on the Israeli side.