Aid group warns of crisis in Syrian opposition enclave

A photo taken on February 8, 2018 shows smoke plumes rising following a reported regime air strike in the rebel-held enclave of Jisreen in the Eastern Ghouta near Damascus. (AFP)
Updated 10 February 2018
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Aid group warns of crisis in Syrian opposition enclave

BEIRUT: Relentless bombardment by the Syrian military of the opposition enclave of Eastern Ghouta is hampering vital relief operations, an international aid group warned on Friday.
The intensity of the airstrikes, which have killed more than 220 civilians in just four days, has made it extremely difficult for relief workers to assist the estimated 400,000 people who live in the enclave under siege, CARE International said. “Our partners are having a hard time moving around, so how can they reach vulnerable people?” the group’s communications director for Syria, Joelle Bassoul, asked.
A CARE-supported community center in the town of Douma was among the buildings hit, forcing those using it into underground shelters.
More than 4,000 families in Eastern Ghouta are living in basements and bunkers, according to Save the Children.
The enclave, just east of the capital, is supposed to be one of four “de-escalation zones” declared last year in a bid to reduce the bloodshed.
But Damascus has intensified its bombing of the district’s towns and is also conducting a major offensive in another of the zones — Idlib in the northwest.
UN aid officials appealed for a month-long humanitarian truce to allow aid to be delivered and the sick and wounded brought out for treatment. But on Thursday the Security Council failed to back the proposal which regime ally Moscow described as “not realistic.”
Bassoul warned that without a truce, the consequences for civilians would be disastrous. “If there is no cease-fire, if this is all left unheard, we cannot imagine the scale of the humanitarian disaster,” she said.


Qatar defies Trump, bails out Turkey with $15bn investment pledge

Updated 58 min 13 sec ago
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Qatar defies Trump, bails out Turkey with $15bn investment pledge

  • Emir's support for Erdogan comes amid trade, diplomatic spat with US
  • The Turkish currency has lost nearly 40 percent against the dollar this year

JEDDAH: Qatar defied US President Donald Trump on Wednesday and promised to plough $15 billion into Turkish financial markets and banks, amid a collapse in the value of the lira and a looming trade war between Turkey and the United States.

The bail-out followed talks in Ankara between the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, and Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. 

The lira has lost nearly 40 percent of its value against the dollar this year, driven by worries over Erdogan’s growing influence on the economy and his refusal to raise interest rates despite high inflation.

Last week the US doubled tariffs on aluminium and steel imports from Turkey, during a dispute over Turkey’s detention of an American pastor on security charges that the US views as baseless.

In response, Erdogan launched a boycott of US electrical products and sharply raised tariffs on other US imports.

Turkey and Qatar have become close economic and political partners. Doha has $20 billion worth of investments in Turkey, and Ankara is one of the top exporters to the emirate. Sheikh Tamim was the first foreign leader to call Erdogan after the aborted coup in Turkey in 2016, and Turkey — along with Iran — is one of the few countries to support Qatar against the boycott by the Saudi-led Anti-Terror Quartet over Doha’s financing of terrorism. 

Dr. Hamdan Al-Shehri, a Saudi political analyst and international relations scholar, said Qatar was now facing a “big, big” problem.

“This is what happens when you choose to run with the hare and hunt with the hounds,” he told Arab News, and Doha would have to choose either Washington or Ankara.

“The Americans have their base at Al-Udeid in Qatar and so naturally they will expect Qatar to toe their line in the current spat.

“Qatar has gravitated toward Turkey because of the Muslim Brotherhood link and the Iranian connection so now it finds itself in an unenviable situation. If they side with Turkey, they run the risk of antagonizing US President Donald Trump. If they back the American position on Turkey tariff penalties, then they lose Turkey.”

Al-Shehri said Ankara appeared to have blackmailed Qatar into supporting it. “They said they came to Qatar’s support during Doha’s row with its Arab neighbors, and now it was Qatar’s turn to pay back the favor.”