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.


At least 29 killed, 53 wounded in attack on military parade in southwest Iran

Updated 22 September 2018
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At least 29 killed, 53 wounded in attack on military parade in southwest Iran

  • Paramedics could be seen helping someone in military fatigues laying on the ground
  • Saturday's attack comes after a coordinated June 7, 2017 Daesh assault on parliament and the shrine of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in Tehran

TEHRAN: Gunmen attacked an annual Iranian military parade Saturday in the country's oil-rich southwest, killing at least 29, including 12 members of the country's elite Revolutionary Guard, and wounding 53 others, state-run IRNA news agency reported.

Daesh claimed responsibility for the attack in southwestern Iran on Saturday, according to the group's Amaq news agency.

Amaq said Daesh’s fighters had carried out the attack in Ahvaz city. The group provided no evidence for the claim.

State television aired footage of the aftermath of the assault on Ahvaz's Quds, or Jerusalem, Boulevard, which like many other places around the country saw an annual parade marking the start of Iran's long 1980s war with Iraq. The images included paramedics trying to help one person in military fatigues as other armed security personnel shouted at each other. The semi-official ISNA news agency published photographs of the attack's aftermath, with bloodied troops in dress uniforms helping each other walk away.

A local news agency in Khuzestan province, of which Ahvaz is the capital, aired grainy mobile phone footage showing parade goers fleeing as soldiers lay flat on the ground. Gunfire rang out in the background.



"Security forces have restored security in the area but the parade has totally been disrupted," a reporter on the scene for Iranian state television said by phone in a live broadcast. "People have been killed but we have no figures yet."

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Twitter blamed regional countries and their "US masters" for the attack and warned that "Iran will respond swiftly and decisively in defense of Iranian lives." He said children and journalists were casualties in the attack.

Zarif added that the gunmen were "terrorists recruited, trained, armed & paid by a foreign regime." He did not immediately elaborate. However, Arab separatist groups in the region have launched attacks on oil pipelines there in the past.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani ordered the country's security forces to identify those reponsible for the attack on Saturday, the semi-official ISNA news agency said.

Reports of how the attack unfolded remained unclear immediately afterward. The state TV reporter said the gunfire came from a park behind a riser. The semi-official Fars news agency, which is close to the Guard, said two gunmen on a motorcycle wearing khaki uniforms carried out the attack.

Khuzestan Gov. Gholamreza Shariati told IRNA that two gunmen were killed and other two were arrested.

Who carried out the assault also remained in question. State television immediately described the assailants as "takfiri gunmen," a term previously used to describe Daesh. Iran has been deeply involved in the fight against Daesh in Iraq and has aided embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad in his country's long war.

Among those involved are members of the Revolutionary Guard, a paramilitary force answerable only to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The Guard also has vast holdings in Iran's economy.

Meanwhile, Guard spokesman Gen. Ramazan Sharif told ISNA that an Arab separatist group carried out the attack, without elaborating. However, those groups in the past previously have only attacked unguarded oil pipelines at night.

Saturday's attack comes after a coordinated June 7, 2017 Daesh assault on parliament and the shrine of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in Tehran. At least 18 people were killed and more than 50 wounded.

Khomeini led the 1979 Islamic Revolution that toppled the Western-backed shah to become Iran's first supreme leader until his death in 1989. The assault shocked Tehran, which largely has avoided militant attacks in the decades after the tumult surrounding the Islamic Revolution.