Assad troops block medical aid to Eastern Ghouta; 50 more dead in new regime bombardment

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Trucks from Syrian Red Crescent and humanitarian partners are seen in Ghouta, Syria, on Monday in this photo obtained from social media. (REUTERS)
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Workers unload parcels of humanitarian aid at the besieged town of Douma, Eastern Ghouta, Damascus, Syria on March 5, 2018. (REUTERS/Bassam Khabieh)
Updated 06 March 2018
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Assad troops block medical aid to Eastern Ghouta; 50 more dead in new regime bombardment

BEIRUT/GENEVA: Assad regime troops ordered aid agencies to remove vital medical supplies from a humanitarian convoy into Eastern Ghouta on Monday.
As the first aid trucks rolled into the besieged opposition enclave east of Damascus, 50 civilians were killed and 190 injured in a renewed regime bombardment that has killed more than 740 people in the past two weeks.
The regime also pressed ahead with its ground assault. Syrian and Russian troops have captured more than a third of Eastern Ghouta, threatening to slice the last major opposition-held area near the capital in two, despite Western accusations that they are violating a cease-fire ordered last month by the UN Security Council.
The Assad regime ordered 70 percent of medical supplies to be stripped out of a humanitarian aid convoy, preventing trauma kits, surgical kits, insulin and other vital material from reaching the area, the World Health Organization said. The Red Cross said some of its medical equipment was also blocked.
Up to 400,000 people are trapped inside the besieged enclave, and were already running out of food and medical supplies before the assault began with intense airstrikes two weeks ago.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said new strikes on Monday targeted front lines near the town of Harasta and the villages of Beit Sawa and Hosh Al-Ashari.
Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said the only way to end the conflict was to support the Syrian regime.
The US condemned the assault and accused Moscow of ignoring a UN resolution calling for a 30-day cessation of hostilities.
It said Russia had killed “innocent civilians under the false auspices of counterterrorism operations.”
The UN Human Rights Council on Monday ordered investigators to examine the latest violence.
A resolution tabled by Britain specifically condemned “the indiscriminate use of heavy weapons and aerial bombardments against civilians, and the alleged use of chemical weapons in Eastern Ghouta.”


Jumblatt expresses concern over torture of Syrian refugees

Syrian children are pictured at a refugee camp in the village of Mhammara in the northern Lebanese Akkar region on March 9, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 5 min 26 sec ago
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Jumblatt expresses concern over torture of Syrian refugees

  • Walid Jumblatt has expressed concern about Syrian refugees returning to their country from Lebanon
  • Jan Kubis: “The UN and the humanitarian community will continue to facilitate these returns as much as possible

BEIRUT: Lebanese Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt has expressed concern about reports that Syrian refugees returning to their country from Lebanon face torture and murder.

This coincides with a debate in Lebanon about whether Syrian refugees should return without waiting for a political solution to the conflict in their country. 

UN Special Coordinator Jan Kubis stressed after meeting with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri on Monday the “urgent need to ensure the safe, voluntary and dignified return of Syrian refugees home, according to international humanitarian norms.” 

Kubis added: “The UN and the humanitarian community will continue to facilitate these returns as much as possible. Another very important message was also to support the host communities here in Lebanon.”

Mireille Girard, representative of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), on Monday said: “The reconstruction process in Syria may not be enough to attract refugees to return. We are working to identify the reasons that will help them to return.”

She added: “The arrival of aid to the refugees is an element of trust that helps them to return. Their dignity and peaceful living must be ensured.”

Social Affairs Minister Richard Kouyoumdjian said the Lebanese General Security “issued lists containing the names of refugees wishing to return to their homes, but the Syrian regime accepted only about 20 percent of them.”

He added: “The solution is to call on the international community to put pressure on Russia, so that Moscow can exert pressure on (Syrian President) Bashar Assad’s regime to show goodwill and invite Syrian refugees to return to their land without conditions, procedures, obstacles and laws that steal property and land from them.”

Lebanese Education Minister Akram Chehayeb said: “The problem is not reconstruction and infrastructure, nor the economic and social situation. The main obstacle is the climate of fear and injustice in Syria.”

He added: “There are 215,000 Syrian students enrolled in public education in Lebanon, 60,000 in private education, and there are informal education programs for those who have not yet attended school to accommodate all children under the age of 18.” 

Chehayeb said: “As long as the displacement crisis continues, and as long as the (Assad) regime’s decision to prevent the (refugees’) return stands … work must continue to absorb the children of displaced Syrians who are outside education to protect Lebanon today and Syria in the future.”