Daesh fighters move to Syria’s Idlib, clash with factions — sources

A phoo taken on February 9, 2018 in the countryside of Idlib, where Syrian government forces are conducting a major offensive. (AFP)
Updated 10 February 2018
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Daesh fighters move to Syria’s Idlib, clash with factions — sources

BEIRUT: Daesh fighters clashed with Syrian insurgents in the northwestern province of Idlib on Friday, a monitoring group and a rebel commander said, accusing pro-government forces of opening a corridor for the extremists to reach the region.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said government forces had allowed Daesh fighters to leave a besieged pocket of territory at the intersection of Aleppo, Idlib and Hama provinces, and then go to southern Idlib.
A military news outlet run by Lebanon’s Hezbollah, which is fighting on the Syrian government side, reported gains for the army and its allies against Daesh in that pocket, but made no mention of the militants being allowed to leave.
A commander in the alliance fighting alongside Syria’s army said the Daesh militants left the enclave. “The pocket is finished. A crossing was opened till they exited, and then it was closed,” the commander said.
The Syrian military could not be reached for comment.
“The regime started the operation against this pocket seven days ago, suddenly they were able to take 80 villages and towns after giving them a corridor,” said Rami Abdulrahman, director of the Observatory, a Britain-based war monitoring group.
Hasan Hajj Ali, commander of the Free Idlib Army rebel group, confirmed the report. Ali said his fighters were taking part in clashes against some 200 Islamic State fighters who had arrived in southern Idlib early on Friday.
“This morning at dawn we were surprised by the joint treachery by the regime and Daesh,” he told Reuters. Clashes were under way in the village of Lweibdeh, he said. “They have six armored vehicles with them.”
A source in the Ahrar Al-Sham faction said Daesh fighters had pushed into south Idlib from government territory.
“The rebel factions are repelling Daesh attempts to advance,” the source said. “The regime’s militias opened a gap helping the besieged Daesh forces pass.”
Idlib is the largest chunk of Syrian territory held by insuirgent factions opposed to President Bashar Assad’s government. Extremist factions including Al-Qaeda’s former affiliate in the Syrian war dominate the province.


Philippine government to strengthen pre-departure program for Kuwait-bound OFWs

Updated 41 min 53 sec ago
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Philippine government to strengthen pre-departure program for Kuwait-bound OFWs

DUBAI: The Philippine government is strengthening its pre-departure information and education program for Filipino workers bound for Kuwait, a senior labor official said on Thursday.
“[The latest government effort] should ensure that Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) [bound to Kuwait] know their rights and responsibilities,” Hans Leo J. Cacdac, administrator of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) told Arab News.
An estimated 262,000 Filipinos are currently deployed in Kuwait, most of them employed as household service workers. There are about 10 million OFWs spread in 170 countries, with one million in Saudi Arabia alone, followed by the United Arab Emirates, Singapore, Hong Kong and Qatar, among others.
“We are also boosting our personnel complement in POLO (Philippine Overseas Labor Office) Kuwait, through augmentation personnel and more regular plantilla personnel,” Cacdac said.
Labor and migration expert Emmanuel Geslani earlier commented that the labor situation in Kuwait, where there was high incidence of abuse and deaths specially among household workers, was partly to due a lack of welfare officers to monitor OFWs’ situation.
President Rodrigo Duterte in February imposed a ban on the deployment of workers to Kuwait, after being angered with the reports of abuse including the death of Joanna Demafelis, whose body was dumped in a freezer in an abandoned apartment.
“There were many complaints that abuse cases lodged before labor officials in Kuwait were not being acted upon. This may have eventually led to the unfortunate ‘rescue videos’ incident,” Geslani. “But generally, employers are willing to give up their employees especially if there is coordination with Kuwait police.”
Philippine-Kuwaiti diplomatic and labor relations hit their lowest last month, with the Filipino ambassador expelled and some embassy officials arrested, when videos of supposed rescue of distressed OFWs went viral and angered the Gulf nation for affronting its sovereignty.
Both countries, however, earlier this month signed an agreement that will further protect Filipino workers in the Gulf nation particularly household services workers, who can now keep their passports – or by embassy personnel – and also own mobiles phones aside from having a day off once a week. The Philippine government lifted the deployment ban to Kuwait last week.
“We will be part of the POLO team that will monitor compliance with the MOA, particularly in the area of welfare and protection of OFWs,” Cacdac said.