Syrian Observatory: One third of Syria's Ghouta enclave taken by govt

A general view shows a Syrian air force Su-17 fighter plane flying over the besieged rebel-held town of Hamouria in the eastern Ghouta region on the outskirts of the capital Damascus on March 3, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 05 March 2018
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Syrian Observatory: One third of Syria's Ghouta enclave taken by govt

BEIRUT:The Syrian army and its allies have captured more than a third of the rebel enclave in eastern Ghouta near Damascus since starting a ground offensive there a week ago, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Monday.
The Britain-based war monitor said more than 700 people have been killed in eastern Ghouta in the past two weeks, since the government and its allies began a massive bombardment of the area on Feb. 18 in preparation for the attack. 
Fresh air raids by the Syrian regime on the besieged rebel-held enclave of Eastern Ghouta killed at least 14 civilians overnight, a monitor said Monday.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said barrel bombs -- crude, improvised munitions that cause indiscriminate damage -- were used, including on the town of Hammuriyeh, where 10 people were killed.
The latest deaths brought to 709 the number of civilians killed since regime and allied Russian forces intensified their campaign against Eastern Ghouta in February.
According to Rami Abdel Rahman, the head of the Britain-based Observatory, at least 166 of them were children.
The deadly raids, as well as other strikes and rocket fire elsewhere in Eastern Ghouta Monday, came as the battered enclave awaited a convoy of humanitarian aid from the United Nations.


Prince William on first official royal visit to Occupied Territories and Israel

On his first official visit to Israel and Palestine, Prince William is unlikely to talk about politics. Getty Images
Updated 23 June 2018
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Prince William on first official royal visit to Occupied Territories and Israel

  • The second-in-line to the British throne is due to meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
  • There is a pretty naked desire to build relationships and Israel is a warm target for an increase in trade

LONDON: Prince William will embark on the first official visit to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories by a member of the British royal family on Sunday.

But even with more than 120 Palestinians killed in protests in Gaza during recent weeks and controversy still surrounding the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem, the second-in-line to the throne is not expected to talk politics.
Chris Doyle, director of the Council for Arab-British Understanding (CAABU), told Arab News that the four-day tour is likely to focus on making trade deals in preparation for Britain’s departure from the EU next year, rather than on addressing the moribund Middle East peace process.
“There is a pretty naked desire to build relationships and Israel is a warm target for an increase in trade,” he said.
The visit risks “normalizing” the abusive regime under which Palestinians live, he added.
“Of course Prince William has to go to both the Israeli and Palestinian sectors or there would have been outrage. But there is a risk of his visit making it appear more acceptable and normal to carry out abuses of international law like the blockade of Gaza,” Doyle said.
William begins his Middle Eastern tour on Sunday in Jordan, a long-time ally of Britain. On Tuesday he will move on to Jerusalem, where he will visit Yad Vashem, the official memorial to Holocaust victims, meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and later attend a football event with a mixed Arab and Jewish team.
On Wednesday he will meet young activists, both Arab and Jewish, who are involved in education and social programs, and also cross into the Occupied Palestinian Territories to meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah before attending an event focusing on Palestinian refugees.
He is due to deliver a speech at a reception hosted by the American consul in Jerusalem. However, protocol prevents him from making any remarks that might be deemed partisan. Doyle told Arab News this was a pity in view of how William’s mother, the late Princess Diana, championed justice for the oppressed.
“It is a pity that someone of his status, who clearly cares about his mother’s legacy, cannot give voice to real major concerns about the treatment of the Palestinians and the human rights abuses that are daily issues for them under Israeli control but which will be airbrushed out,” he said.
“Yes, he will see co-operative programs and Arabs and Jews playing football together, but the reality is that the Palestinian footballers can only travel to matches with Israeli permission.”
William was a surprise choice for the visit. Many expected the task to fall to his father, Prince Charles, who has more experience of countries which are politically extremely sensitive. But it is thought he was chosen because his youth chimes better with young Israelis working in hi-tech fields who he is scheduled to meet. Among Palestinians, his presence will barely register, said Doyle.
“I hope the language can be found for him to say something to his Israeli hosts, that his visit will be more than window-dressing, but the reality is it’s very unlikely. So the visit won’t register as important with Palestinians. They don’t want to be part of some tourist show or box-ticking exercise,” he said.