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.


Trump’s Mideast team meets Israel’s Netanyahu over peace plan

Updated 22 June 2018
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Trump’s Mideast team meets Israel’s Netanyahu over peace plan

JERUSALEM: President Donald Trump’s Mideast team met Friday with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel as part of a visit with regional leaders to discuss the US plan for peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
The meeting comes shortly before the Trump administration is expected to unveil its Middle East peace plan. Trump has promised to pursue the “ultimate deal” between Israelis and Palestinians. But the Palestinians are shunning the Americans since Trump’s policy shift recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and his moving the embassy there from Tel Aviv. Trump said at the time he is not taking a position on the boundaries of Israeli sovereignty that are to be determined in negotiations.
The White House issued a statement after Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner along with Mideast envoy Jason Greenblatt and Ambassador David Friedman met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday afternoon in Jerusalem.
“They discussed the means by which the humanitarian situation in Gaza can be alleviated, while maintaining Israel’s security. They further discussed the continued commitment of the Trump Administration and Israel to advance peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians,” it said. The statement gave no additional details.
Kushner has been leading efforts to broker a peace deal between the two sides. US officials have said the long-awaited peace plan is near completion and should be released this summer following several postponements. The Trump team met this week with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, Jordan’s King Abdullah II, Saudi Arabia’s crown prince Mohammed bin Salman and other regional leaders.
Netanyahu issued a statement after the hours-long meeting in which he “expressed his gratitude for President Trump’s support for Israel.”
No talks with the Palestinians are scheduled, though the Americans have left the door open to meeting with them.
The Palestinians were angered by Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and to move the US Embassy there and have since rejected the US as peace broker. They see the decision as siding with Israel on the most sensitive issue in the conflict, arguing it disqualifies the US from its traditional role.
Details of the plan have not been released, but Palestinians fear they will get little more than a symbolic foothold in Jerusalem.
Israel captured east Jerusalem, home to key sites sacred to Jews, Muslims and Christians, in the 1967 war from Jordan. Palestinians claim the territory for its future capital. Israel claims the entire city as its eternal capital.
The fate of the city is an emotional issue at the heart of the conflict.