Syrian regime kills 200 civilians; 100 pro-Assad men die in strikes

Children in Eastern Ghouta have been hit hard. (AFP)
Updated 09 February 2018
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Syrian regime kills 200 civilians; 100 pro-Assad men die in strikes

JEDDAH: Four days of Syrian regime raids on Eastern Ghouta have killed more than 200 civilians, a war monitor said on Thursday, as the Syrian opposition denounced the “atrocities.”
Regime troops have since Monday waged an intense air campaign against Eastern Ghouta, the only significant opposition pocket near the capital Damascus.
Bombardment on Thursday alone killed 58 civilians, including 15 children, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The deadliest strikes hit a market in the town of Erbin, killing 21 civilians, including nine children.
“These are the worst four days that Eastern Ghouta has ever gone through,” said Hamza, a doctor at the local Erbin clinic who was treating wounded patients.
“From 2011 until now, there has never been the level of bombardment we’ve seen in the last 96 hours.”
The opposition condemned the air raids. “As long as Iranian militias and Hezbollah are there, Syria won’t see peace,” opposition spokesman Yahya Al-Aridi told Arab News.
Hezbollah has killed Syrians and worked “brutally” to keep the regime in power, he said.
Also on Thursday, the US-led coalition said it killed at least 100 pro-regime fighters to fend off an attack on its allies in eastern Syria, in one of its deadliest confrontations yet with forces backing Damascus.
The initial attack was carried out by pro-regime forces on key oil and gas installations in parts of Deir Ezzor province controlled by US-backed Kurdish forces.
Russia’s Defense Ministry said the ultimate US goal in Syria was not to fight Daesh but to seize economic assets, the Interfax news agency reported.
Al-Aridi said: “The Russians are working on finding all sorts of excuses to cover up the failure of the political process and their efforts to sideline any political process.”
The Russians are also trying to mask the savagery being inflicted in Eastern Ghouta, he added.
Turkish presidential sources on Thursday said Ankara, Moscow and Tehran will meet in Istanbul to discuss the Syrian crisis. Though the date is not fixed yet, the meeting is expected to take place this month. 
In parallel, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu met on Wednesday in Tehran with his Iranian counterpart Mohammed Javad Zarif and President Hassan Rouhani.


UN warns of worsening hunger crisis in Yemen

Updated 16 min 4 sec ago
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UN warns of worsening hunger crisis in Yemen

  • The World Food Programme is in the process of scaling up its activities in Yemen to provide emergency food assistance
  • Eight million people in Yemen are already considered to be in the brink of famine

GENEVA: Some 12 million Yemenis could soon be on the brink of famine if the security and economic situation in the war-ravaged country does not improve, the UN warned Tuesday.
“Yemen is currently facing the world’s worst hunger crisis, with almost 18 million people throughout the country not knowing where their next meal is coming from,” World Food Programme (WFP) spokesman Herve Verhoosel told reporters in Geneva.
Over eight million people are already considered to be on the brink of famine in Yemen, he said, adding that the situation was being exacerbated by sky-rocketing food prices, which have soared by a third in the past year alone.
“If the situation persists, we could see an additional 3.5 million severely food insecure Yemenis, or nearly 12 million in total, who urgently require regular food assistance to prevent them from slipping into famine-like conditions,” he warned.
This means the UN agency will need more funding, Verhoosel told AFP, pointing out that “the more people (who need help), the more money is needed.”
WFP is in the process of scaling up its activities in Yemen to provide emergency food assistance to some eight million of the country’s hungriest people each month, Verhoosel said.
But he lamented that due to the dire security situation in the port city of Hodeida, the UN agency still did not have access to some 51,000 tons of wheat stocks at its Red Sea Mills facility there, which would be enough to feed 3.7 million people for a month.
“We are doing everything we can to ensure access to these wheat stocks,” Verhoosel said.
Yemen’s air, land and sea ports are currently functioning, so WFP had several ships filled with aid headed toward Yemen, and is working to reposition stocks in case routes are cut off, he said.
The agency has also begun using the port of Salalah in Oman as a supplementary route, he said.
WFP currently has enough grains in Yemen to help 6.4 million people for two months.
But Verhoosel warned that distribution across the country was difficult at best, insisting that aid workers need access and guarantees that their neutrality will be respected.
“We need an end to the fighting,” he said.
Yemen’s brutal conflict has since 2015 left some 10,000 people dead and has created what the UN has dubbed the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.