Syrian pulled from rubble mourns ‘martyred’ son

Abu Abdallah is being pulled out from under the rubble following an airstrike in Saqba, Eastern Ghouta, Syria. (Reuters)
Updated 13 January 2018
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Syrian pulled from rubble mourns ‘martyred’ son

EASTERN GHOUTA, Syria: His brow dripping with blood and his skin caked with brick dust, Abu Abdallah was pulled out from under the rubble of his house near Damascus after it was blown up in an air raid.
He was lucky to survive the bomb that fell while he was having breakfast, dropped by one of the countless warplanes that emergency workers say have pounded the opposition-held Syrian enclave of Eastern Ghouta in recent days.
His three-year-old son was not so fortunate.
“We were sitting around, eating,” said Abu Abdallah — a sobriquet meaning ‘Abdallah’s father’ — as he recalled Tuesday’s strike. “My son wanted to use the toilet, so his mother took him. Then the missile came down.”
“In less than a minute, the entire house fell on top of us.”
Relatives in the living room were also trapped in the debris. Everyone was screaming.
“I was under the rubble... and my head was bent down, I couldn’t raise it,” said Abu Abdallah, who refused to give his full name. “I said that’s it, this will be the end of me.”
Syrian troops and their allies have blockaded Eastern Ghouta, a densely populated pocket of satellite towns and farms, since 2013. It is the only remaining major opposition enclave near the Syrian capital.
Rescue workers arrived within minutes and then pulled his wife out, he recalled. “She told them there is a boy... and they got him out,” he added. “Everybody in the house got out safely except the boy. He was martyred.
“Honestly, I keep remembering the boy when they pulled him out... and the pressure with everything on top of me.”
Abu Abdallah, 26, comes from the eastern Ghouta village of Marj Al-Sultan, which the Syrian army recaptured from insurgents in late 2015. He had moved deeper into the enclave to the town of Saqba with his family to try to escape the bombing.
“Now it’s still not clear what we will do,” he said. His family is staying with relatives while he recovers from a head injury and a back strain.
Home to around 400,000 civilians, the Eastern Ghouta enclave faces a humanitarian catastrophe, the UN human rights chief said this week.
Syrian regime forces and their allies have killed at least 85 civilians there since the end of December, including 21 women and 30 children, Zeid Ra’ad Al-Hussein also said.
“The (world) should have mercy on these children and women because they have nothing to do with the fighting,” Abu Abdallah said. “If they want to fight, let them go fight on the frontlines. But why are they bombing us?”


Daesh destruction of rural Iraq hinders residents’ return: Amnesty

Updated 11 min 37 sec ago
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Daesh destruction of rural Iraq hinders residents’ return: Amnesty

  • Amnesty reported Daesh fighters burnt or chopped down orchards, sabotaged wells and stole or destroyed vital farming equipment
  • The extremists seized control of much of northern Iraq in the summer of 2014

BAGHDAD: The Daesh group’s deliberate destruction of agriculture in northern Iraq has hindered the return of hundreds of thousands of residents, Amnesty International said in a report released Thursday.
The New York-based rights group said Daesh fighters burnt or chopped down orchards and sabotaged wells by filling them with rubble, oil or other materials. The militants also stole or destroyed pumps, cables, generators, transformers and vital electricity lines.
Amnesty called on the Iraqi government to repair rural infrastructure and compensate the displaced so they can return to their homes.
Daesh seized control of much of northern Iraq in the summer of 2014. US-backed Iraqi forces gradually drove the militants from all the territory under their control, declaring victory a year ago after a costly campaign that destroyed entire neighborhoods and towns.
“The damage to Iraq’s countryside is as far-reaching as the urban destruction, but the consequences of the conflict on Iraq’s rural residents are being largely forgotten,” said Richard Pearshouse, senior crisis adviser at Amnesty.
He said the report focuses on the “deliberate, wanton destruction” around the area of Sinjar, where the extremists massacred and enslaved thousands of members of the Yazidi religious minority. About half of Sinjar’s residents have returned, with many others saying they have nothing to go back to.
Beyond Sinjar, Amnesty’s report gave sobering figures for all of Iraq.
“The conflict against IS eviscerated Iraq’s agricultural production, now an estimated 40 percent lower than 2014 levels,” it said. “Before IS, around two-thirds of Iraq’s farmers had access to irrigation — only three years later, this had fallen to 20 percent. Around 75 percent of livestock was lost, spiking to 95 percent in some areas.”
Syrian and Iraqi forces have gradually driven Daesh out of nearly all the territory it once held. But the group still maintains a presence in the Syrian desert and remote areas along the border. Many have warned it could stage a comeback if economic grievances are not addressed.
“Unless there is urgent government assistance, the long-term damage inflicted on Iraq’s rural environment will reverberate for years to come,” Pearshouse said. “When IS tore through Iraq in 2014, it thrived off rural poverty and resentments, so Iraq’s government should be concerned that something similar could happen again.”