Syrian Observatory: bombing kills 94 in eastern Ghouta in a day

1 / 2
Smoke rises from buildings following bombardment on the village of Mesraba in the rebel-held besieged Eastern Ghouta region on the outskirts of the capital Damascus, on Monday. (AFP)
2 / 2
A Syrian family is seen fleeing from reported regime air strikes in the besieged Eastern Ghouta region on the outskirts of the capital Damascus. (File Photo: AFP)
Updated 20 February 2018
0

Syrian Observatory: bombing kills 94 in eastern Ghouta in a day

BEIRUT: A surge in attacks by the Syrian government and its allies killed 94 people in the rebel pocket of eastern Ghouta in the space of 24 hours, a war monitoring group said on Monday.
Air strikes, rocket fire and shelling on the besieged suburbs of Damascus also wounded another 325 people, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
There was no comment from the Syrian military. The Damascus government says it only targets militants.
Factions in Ghouta fired mortars at districts of Damascus, killing a child and wounding eight others, Syrian state media said. Troops and allied forces struck militant targets there in response, the state news agency SANA said.
The United Nations says nearly 400,000 people live in eastern Ghouta, a pocket of satellite towns and farms under government siege since 2013.
Panos Moumtzis, UN regional coordinator for the Syria crisis, said an “extreme escalation in hostilities” had killed at least 40 civilians and injured more than 150 on Monday.
“The humanitarian situation of civilians in East Ghouta is spiraling out of control,” he said in a statement. “Many residents have little choice but to take shelter in basements and underground bunkers with their children.”
The British-based Observatory said the latest escalation started on Sunday, and the dead included 18 children.
The local civil defense group said warplanes and artillery had pounded Saqba, Jisreen, and other towns. The rescue service, which operates in rebel territory, said strikes killed 20 people and wounded dozens in the town of Hammouriyeh alone on Monday.
Syrian President Bashar Assad’s military gained momentum in the war after Russian war planes entered on his side in 2015, pushing rebels out of major cities, and retaking much of central and eastern Syria from Islamic State.

NO RELIEF
Wael Olwan, spokesman for the Failaq Al-Rahman rebel group in eastern Ghouta, said there had been heavy bombing throughout the day.
“There are no ground invasions in the field and clashes, but there is very big shelling and preparatory fire,” he said.
The United Nations said last week Syria was seeing some of the worst fighting of the war, which is entering its eighth year. The multi-sided conflict has killed hundreds of thousands of people and driven millions from their homes.
Malnutrition has increased sharply in eastern Ghouta with hardly any food aid reaching the residents, the UN office for humanitarian affairs (OCHA) says.
Rising violence reportedly pushed some 15,000 civilians to flee their homes last month, taking refuge in makeshift shelters or basements in the enclave, OCHA said.
Eastern Ghouta falls under cease-fire plans for rebel territory that Russia has brokered with the help of Turkey and Iran.
Residents and aid workers say the “de-escalation” deals have brought no relief. Food, fuel, and medicine have dwindled.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Monday that Moscow and its allies could “deploy our experience of freeing Aleppo ... in the eastern Ghouta situation.”
With support from Russia and Iran, Damascus regained full control of the city of Aleppo in late 2016, after years of fighting and months of siege ended with an insurgent retreat.
Lavrov blamed “armed provocations” by Nusra militants, formerly linked to Al-Qaeda, for current conditions in eastern Ghouta.
The two main factions in Ghouta, which include Failaq Al-Rahman, accuse Moscow and the Syrian army of breaching the de-escalation agreements. They say they have used the presence of a few hundred fighters from Al-Qaeda’s former Syria branch as a pretext to attack the enclave. 


Turkey’s jailed pro-Kurdish candidate in first TV appearance for 20 months

Updated 17 June 2018
0

Turkey’s jailed pro-Kurdish candidate in first TV appearance for 20 months

  • Selahattin Demirtas, who has been in detention for close to 20 months on security charges and faces a sentence of up to 142 years if convicted
  • One of Turkey’s best-known politicians, he has had to run his campaign mostly through social media

ANKARA: The jailed presidential candidate for Turkey’s pro-Kurdish opposition made his first television appearance in over a year and a half on Sunday, giving a campaign speech ahead of next week’s elections.
Selahattin Demirtas, who has been in detention for close to 20 months on security charges and faces a sentence of up to 142 years if convicted, was nominated by his Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) as a candidate last month.
One of Turkey’s best-known politicians, he has had to run his campaign mostly through social media from his prison cell in the northwestern city of Edirne, while Turkish media have been saturated with coverage of President Tayyip Erdogan and his ministers.
Speaking on state broadcaster TRT in a scheduled 10-minute address, to which he is entitled under election law, Demirtas said voting for Erdogan and his ruling AK Party would mean putting the fate of the country “between one man’s two lips.”
“The only reason I am still here is that the AKP is scared of me. They think tying my hands here and going from square to square spreading accusations about me is being courageous,” a visibly thinner Demirtas said.
“They are openly violating the constitution by declaring me guilty even though there is no conviction ruling against me, and are trying to direct the public by misinforming them,” he said.
The snap parliamentary and presidential elections on Sunday will herald the switch to the new powerful executive presidency narrowly approved in a referendum last year.
In previous elections, Demirtas won votes beyond his core Kurdish constituency, and is likely to draw significant backing in the first round of the presidential vote, while boosting the prospects of his party entering parliament.
Demirtas’s HDP arranged a viewing of his speech in Istanbul’s Bakirkoy Square, where hundreds of supporters gathered to watch.
“You should have no doubt that I will be acquitted in front of the law as soon as possible. So long as the judicial authorities follow the superiority of the law and not the government’s expectations,” Demirtas said, as supporters cheered and waved flags.