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.”


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.