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

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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)
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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
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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. 


Egypt court upholds corruption conviction of Mubarak, sons

Updated 22 September 2018
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Egypt court upholds corruption conviction of Mubarak, sons

  • Saturday’s ruling by the Court of Cessation dashed any hope that Gamal Mubarak could run for public office.
  • Mubarak’s two sons are currently on trial for insider trading.

CAIRO: Egypt's highest appeals court on Saturday rejected a motion by former president Hosni Mubarak and his two sons to overturn their conviction on corruption charges.
The ruling by the Court of Cessation, Egypt's final recourse for appeals in criminal cases, dashed any hope that Gamal, Mubarak's younger son and one-time heir apparent, could run for public office. A senior newspaper editor and confidant of Egypt's current president had recently suggested that banker-turned-politician Gamal may have been contemplating the move.
The Mubarak trio was sentenced to three years each for embezzling funds meant for maintenance of presidential palaces but which they spent on upgrading or building private residences. The sons were released in 2015 for time served, while their father was freed last year. They repaid the funds, a total of 125 million pounds (about $7 million).
Mubarak's sons are currently on trial for insider trading. They are free on bail after a judge on Thursday overturned a surprise Sept. 15 ruling to detain them. The case's next hearing is on Oct. 20.
The rejection of their appeal Saturday and Gamal Mubarak's subsequent ineligibility to run for office came in the wake of recent comments by the chief editor of state-run Al-Akhbar publications, Yasser Rizq, who suggested that frequent public appearances by the younger Mubarak could be a prelude to a future presidential run.
Rizq first warned Gamal Mubarak against harboring presidential ambitions in an article published in May. He repeated the warning in a television interview aired earlier this week.
"His real crime is insulting the dignity of the Egyptian people," Rizq said, alluding to Gamal's one-time intention to succeed his father. It violated the constitution and amounted to the toppling of republican rule, he explained. He said it was not improbable that he would strike a political deal with the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood to secure the group's return to politics in exchange for its support in a presidential bid in 2022, when President Abdel-Fattah El-Sissi's second term ends.
Preventing Gamal from succeeding his father was among the main drivers of a 2011 uprising that ended Mubarak's 29-year rule, as well as the military's support for it. The years that followed saw Mubarak regime heavyweights tried on corruption or abuse of power charges. Most have since walked free, while second-string regime loyalists found their way back to public life under El-Sissi.