13m Syrians need aid despite violence drop: UN

Syrian refugees carry belongings as they return to Syria after crossing the Jordanian border near the town of Nasib, in the southern province of Daraa, in this August 29, 2017 photo. (AFP)
Updated 22 November 2017
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13m Syrians need aid despite violence drop: UN

BEIRUT: More than 13 million Syrians are in need of aid despite a relative drop in violence in their war-torn country in recent months, the UN said on Tuesday.
Upwards of 330,000 people have been killed since Syria’s conflict erupted in March 2011 with anti-government protests, and the violence has displaced over half the population, both internally and abroad, as refugees.
“Entering the seventh year of the crisis, the scale, severity and complexity of needs across Syria remain overwhelming,” the report by the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said.
“Some 13.1 million people in Syria require humanitarian assistance. Of these, 5.6 million people are in acute need,” OCHA added.
The figure represents a slight drop, from 13.5 million people in need in 2016, according to the UN.
Earlier this year, government allies Russia and Iran and rebel backer Turkey signed a deal to set up four so-called “de-escalation zones” in Syria.
The zones have brought a relative drop in violence across the country, though there has been an uptick in clashes and strikes in recent weeks in the Eastern Ghouta region near Damascus.
The implementation of the zones has also done little to increase humanitarian access, despite repeated calls from UN officials and others for sustained access to people in need.
The UN said 40 percent of the needy were children, adding that people in besieged or so-called “hard-to-reach” areas were particularly vulnerable.
While the report noted there “has been a reduction in violence in some areas,” it added that the impact of the truce zones “has been mixed” for civilians.
It also warned that up to 1.5 million Syrians could be newly displaced over the course of the coming year, though it also expected to see up to a million existing internally displaced Syrians return home.
The report predicted ongoing fighting in certain areas, including Idlib province in northwest Syria where a de-escalation zone is currently in place.
Idlib province is dominated by a former Al-Qaeda affiliate, and observers expect the area to eventually be attacked by either Syria’s government or outside forces.
The UN also saw little respite in sight for Eastern Ghouta, another truce zone, where violence has escalated despite the “de-escalation” deal.
The fighter-held area has been under government siege since 2013, with food and medical shortages leading to a malnutrition crisis and deaths.
“Civilians in UN-declared besieged areas, particularly in East Ghouta, are likely to remain deprived of sustained humanitarian assistance and have limited access to basic commodities and services,” the report warned.


Israel reopens people, goods crossings to Gaza

Updated 24 min 15 sec ago
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Israel reopens people, goods crossings to Gaza

  • Hamas disavowed the launch and said it was investigating the incident, as fears of a new war rose
  • Near daily protests along the border since March 30 against Israel’s crippling 11-year blockade of the impoverished enclave have sparked repeated clashes with the army

JERUSALEM: Israel ordered the country’s goods and people border crossings with Gaza to be opened on Sunday, just four days after shuttering them following a Palestinian rocket attack that sparked retaliatory strikes.
“The decision comes after a decrease in the violent events in Gaza over the weekend and efforts (militant Islamist Gaza rulers) Hamas made to restrain” demonstrators, a statement from Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman office read.
On Wednesday, Lieberman had ordered the closure of the Kerem Shalom goods crossing and the Erez crossing for people, after a rocket from the Palestinian territory hit a home in southern Israel, prompting the Jewish state to strike 20 Hamas targets in Gaza.
Hamas disavowed the launch and said it was investigating the incident, as fears of a new war rose.
Near daily protests along the border since March 30 against Israel’s crippling 11-year blockade of the impoverished enclave have sparked repeated clashes with the army.
On Friday, thousands again gathered for protests in northern Gaza, but demonstrators largely remained at least 100 meters (yards) from the border.
Hamas officials were seen discouraging protesters from nearing the fence.
Israel had on Wednesday also suspended the delivery of fuel for the Palestinian territory’s power plant that had been trucked daily into Gaza under a deal brokered by the United Nations.
“The decision on the renewal of the fuel from Qatar has been put off as for the time being, and will be examined in a number of days based on the events,” the Sunday statement from Lieberman said.