White House accuses Russia of killing civilians in Syria

A wounded Syrian child receives treatment at a make-shift hospital in Douma following Syrian government bombardments on the besieged rebel-held enclave of Eastern Ghouta on March 4, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 05 March 2018
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White House accuses Russia of killing civilians in Syria

WASHINGTON: The United States on Sunday made its strongest accusation to date of Moscow’s complicity in civilian deaths in Syria, saying Russian aircraft flew bombing missions over the besieged eastern Ghouta region in defiance of a United Nations cease-fire.
The White House said Russian military aircraft took off from Humaymim Airfield in Syria and carried out at least 20 daily bombing missions in Damascus and eastern Ghouta between Feb. 24 and Feb. 28.
It did not say whether the jets dropped ordnance, which could be harder to determine than tracking the flight paths of Russian aircraft on US radar. But the United States directly accused Russia of killing civilians.
“Russia has gone on to ignore (a UN cease-fire’s) terms and to kill innocent civilians under the false auspices of counter-terrorism operations,” the White House said in a statement.
Syrian President Bashar Assad vowed on Sunday to continue the offensive in eastern Ghouta, one of the deadliest in the war. A local insurgent group called it a “scorched earth” campaign.
With the war entering its eighth year, capturing eastern Ghouta would be a major victory for Assad, who has steadily regained control of rebel areas with Russian and Iranian support.
Government shelling and air strikes have killed 659 people in eastern Ghouta since Feb. 18, while rebel shelling of Damascus has killed 27, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights said on Friday that Syrian government air strikes on eastern Ghouta and shelling from the rebel-held zone into Damascus probably constitute war crimes.
The White House called on pro-Assad forces to “immediately cease targeting medical infrastructure and civilians.”
In a separate statement later on Sunday, the White House said President Donald Trump and Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi “discussed Russia and Iran’s irresponsible support of the Assad regime’s brutal attacks against innocent civilians.”
“President Trump and President El-Sisi agreed to work together on ending the humanitarian crisis in Syria and achieving Arab unity and security in the region,” the White House statement said.
Russia and Damascus have accused rebels of preventing civilians from leaving eastern Ghouta during daily cease-fires. Rebels have consistently denied the accusation and say people will not leave because they fear the government.
The multi-sided war has killed hundreds of thousands of people since 2011.


21 Daesh militants escape Iraqi jail, most recaptured

Updated 13 December 2018
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21 Daesh militants escape Iraqi jail, most recaptured

  • Kurdish security officials launched manhunt operations after the break-out late on Wednesday and 15 of the 21 were recaptured
  • The group has resorted to guerrilla tactics since it abandoned its goal of holding territory and creating a self-sufficient caliphate that straddles Iraq and Syria

BAGHDAD: Twenty one prisoners, most of them members of Daesh jailed on terrorism charges, broke out of a prison in northern Iraq but 15 of them have been recaptured, Kurdish security officials said on Thursday.
The fortified jail of Sosa is located near the Iraqi Kurdish city of Sulaimaniya and include mainly militants of the hard-line group who were captured during the fight against Daesh which started in 2014.
Kurdish security officials launched manhunt operations after the break-out late on Wednesday and 15 of the 21 were recaptured, two security officials said. The whereabouts of the other six remains unknown.
Although Sosa jail is located in the semi-autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq, the federal government has full control over the prison.
“Almost all of the convicted inmates who escaped are from Daesh,” said one Kurdish security source.
It was not clear how the inmates managed to escape the highly secured prison.
Daesh, which once occupied a third of Iraq’s territory, has been largely defeated in the country but still poses a threat along the border with Syria.
The group has resorted to guerrilla tactics since it abandoned its goal of holding territory and creating a self-sufficient caliphate that straddles Iraq and Syria.