400,000 trapped in Assad’s ‘monstrous campaign of annihilation’ in Eastern Ghouta

UN human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al-Hussein described the assault by the Syrian regime forces as a ‘monstrous campaign of annihilation.’ (AP)
Updated 22 February 2018
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400,000 trapped in Assad’s ‘monstrous campaign of annihilation’ in Eastern Ghouta

BEIRUT: Desperate residents trapped in Eastern Ghouta waited for their “turn to die” on Wednesday beneath one of the most intense bombardments of the Syrian war.
UN human rights chief Zeid Ra'ad Al-Hussein described the assault by Syrian regime forces as a “monstrous campaign of annihilation” against the opposition-held territory on the edge of Damascus.
At least 310 people have been killed in the district since Sunday night and more than 1,550 injured, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. At least 38 people died on Wednesday.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for an immediate halt to the fighting to allow aid to reach those in need and for the injured to be evacuated.
The bombing meant the 400,000 people trapped in the area “live in hell on Earth,” Guterres told the Security Council.
“We are waiting our turn to die. This is the only thing I can say,” said Bilal Abu Salah, 22, whose wife is five months pregnant in the biggest Eastern Ghouta town Douma.
“Nearly all people living here live in shelters now. There are five or six families in one home. There is no food, no markets,” he told Reuters.
Images from inside the area showed men searching through the rubble of smashed buildings, carrying blood-smeared people to hospital and cowering in debris-strewn streets.
A doctor working in the area told the BBC that the situation is “catastrophic.” “We don't have anything — no food, no medicine, no shelter,” Dr. Bassam said.
“Maybe every minute we have 10 or 20 airstrikes ... I will treat someone — and after a day or two they come again, injured again.”
He said the international community had abandoned the people living there.
Eastern Ghouta, a densely populated agricultural district, is the last major area near the capital still under rebel control. It has been besieged by regime forces for years.
The bombardment of rocket fire, shelling, airstrikes and helicopter-dropped barrel bombs escalated rapidly on Sunday. The assault has devastated the area, indiscriminately ending lives of men, women and children and inflicting horrific injuries. After one airstrike on Wednesday, rescuers pulled four children from the building, but their father was killed, leaving them as orphans, Reuters reported.
Guterres expressed support for a Swedish and Kuwaiti push for the Security Council to demand a 30-day cease-fire in Syria.
Diplomats said the council could vote on a draft resolution in the coming days.
Russia, an ally of President Bashar Assad has called the proposal “not realistic,” but called for a meeting of the council on Thursday to discuss the situation.
A commander in the coalition fighting on behalf of Assad's government told Reuters the bombing aims to prevent the rebels from targeting the eastern neighborhoods of Damascus with mortars.
“The offensive has not started yet. This is preliminary bombing,” the commander said.
Eastern Ghouta is one of a group of “de-escalation zones” under a diplomatic cease-fire initiative agreed by Assad's allies Russia and Iran with Turkey which has backed the rebels.
Mohammad Alloush, the political chief of Jaish Al-Islam, one of the main rebel factions in Eastern Ghouta, said: “There are attempts from some international and local sides for a truce process in Eastern Ghouta and they have not succeeded so far.”


Banners of love and marriage in the streets of Egypt

Updated 12 min 1 sec ago
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Banners of love and marriage in the streets of Egypt

  • Apologetic messages to loved ones, expression of love and even marriage proposals have been seen hanging in the streets

CAIRO: In an era of social media even the most personal of messages are conveyed in digital form, or posted on Instagram or Facebook. 

But in a recent phenomenon, Egyptians have taken to hanging old fashioned banners in streets to declare their most personal feelings. 

Apologetic messages to loved ones, expression of love and even marriage proposals have been seen hanging in the streets of Cairo and other cities. 

While the banners have received mixed reactions from the community, ranging from admiration to criticism, experts say that it is in fact social media that is driving the phenomenon.

In one example, on Oct. 15, passers-by were surprised to see a sign hanging by the signatory’s bridge in Zagazig city.

“I’m sorry, Nahla, I swear to God, I love you .. Ahmed,” the sign said in what read like an apology to a lover.

Some members of the community said the signs are just a cheap search for fame rather than a genuine message of love or respect.

Similar signs have been hung in several governorates, including a banner on the main street in Berket El-Sabe’a with the words “Jalal loves Heba, I love you Heba.”

In the province of Beni Suef, a young man wrote on a banner: “The words ‘I love you’ are beautiful. When I hear your voice I am comforted. When I say your name I don't know what happens to me. I love you and I love your mother.”

“This phenomenon has appeared in lots of films, most notably the film ‘Peace and the Snake,’ in 2001,” the community expert Magda Mustafa, said. “Young men want to prove that they are able to do anything and are not ashamed to express their love.”

“In the past, young people were competing face to face, but now the theatrical method is the way to go. 

“We find many men proposing to their loved ones in front of a large crowd, often with a desire to be famous themselves

Media expert Dr. Yasser Thabet said that while the signs appear traditional, they are in fact fueled by social networking sites.

“Social networking sites have a big role in spreading this phenomenon, because the person who does this act wants fame through these sites, which is achieved by multiple people sharing the pictures.”

“Unfortunately, it is false fame. They're just looking to make themselves appear heroic and famous in front of their loved ones.”