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.


Up to 30,000 Daesh members in Iraq, Syria, says UN report

30,000 members of the group in Iraq and Syria pose a rising threat. (AFP)
Updated 15 August 2018
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Up to 30,000 Daesh members in Iraq, Syria, says UN report

  • The experts said Al-Qaeda’s global network also “continues to show resilience”
  • The report to the Security Council by experts monitoring sanctions against Daesh and Al-Qaeda said the estimate of the current total Daesh membership in Iraq and Syria came from governments it did not identify

NEW YORK: Daesh has up to 30,000 members roughly equally distributed between Syria and Iraq and its global network poses a rising threat — as does Al-Qaeda, which is much stronger in places, a UN report says.

The report by UN experts circulated on Monday said that despite the defeat of Daesh in Iraq and most of Syria, it is likely that a reduced “covert version” of the terrorist group’s “core” will survive in both countries, with significant affiliated supporters in Afghanistan, Libya, Southeast Asia and West Africa.

The experts said Al-Qaeda’s global network also “continues to show resilience,” with its affiliates and allies much stronger than Daesh in some spots, including Somalia, Yemen, South Asia and Africa’s Sahel region.

Al-Qaeda’s leaders in Iran “have grown more prominent” and have been working with the extremist group’s top leader, Ayman Al-Zawahri, “projecting his authority more effectively than he could previously” including on events in Syria, the experts said.

The report to the Security Council by experts monitoring sanctions against Daesh and Al-Qaeda said the estimate of the current total Daesh membership in Iraq and Syria came from governments it did not identify. The estimate of between 20,000 and 30,000 members includes “a significant component of the many thousands of active foreign terrorist fighters,” it said.

While many Daesh men have been killed in fighting, and many other fighters and supporters have left the immediate conflict zone, the experts said many still remain in the two countries — some engaged militarily “and others hiding out in sympathetic communities and urban areas.”

With its physical caliphate largely destroyed, Daesh is transforming from a “proto-state” to a covert “terrorist” network, “a process that is most advanced in Iraq” because it still controls pockets in Syria, the report said.

The experts said the discipline imposed by Daesh remains intact and its leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi “remains in authority” despite reports that he was injured. 

“It is just more delegated than before, by necessity, to the wider network outside the conflict zone,” the experts said.

The flow of foreign fighters to Daesh in Syria and Iraq has come to a halt, they said, but “the reverse flow, although slower than expected, remains a serious challenge.”