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.”


Jordan arrests 17 protesters against fiscal reform

Updated 15 December 2018
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Jordan arrests 17 protesters against fiscal reform

AMMAN: Seventeen Jordanians were arrested over protests against a controversial fiscal reform, a judicial source in Amman said on Friday.
The attorney general in the capital decided to “arrest 17 people who he accused of participating the previous day in a protest near the prime minister’s office and of provoking trouble which resulted in police and members of the security forces being wounded,” the source said.
Those arrested would be kept in custody for a week, the judicial source said, without specifying how many police had been wounded.
A thousand Jordanians had taken to the streets of Amman on Thursday to protest against an income tax law adopted in November under an austerity program aimed at reducing public debt.
The protesters gathered near Prime Minister Omar Al-Razzaz’s office, which was cordoned off by security forces.
“Down with the tax law,” read one sign, held aloft by demonstrators calling for “reforms and change.”
“We want a government of patriots, not a gang of thieves,” the protesters said.
Jordanian lawmakers on November 18 approved an IMF-backed income tax bill after making amendments to a controversial draft law that sparked a week of angry protests in June.
The original bill, which the government approved in June, raised taxes for employees by at least five percent, and on companies by between 20 and 40 percent.
These measures were left unchanged in the amended version.
But in a concession, the revised bill raises the 2019 threshold for households to pay income tax to 20,000 Jordanian dinars ($28,000) from a previous ceiling of 18,000.
The amended legislation also introduced exemptions of up to 2,000 dinars per family for basic expenses such as education and health, and 1,000 dinars per single person, if receipts are provided.
The demonstrators on Thursday chanted for the release of 24 activists local media said had been detained in smaller scale protests over the last two weeks.
With a lack of natural resources to boost state coffers, Jordan relies heavily on foreign aid and has an unemployment rate of 18.5 percent.
Stability in Jordan is seen as fundamental to the region and in the wake of the June protests Amman was offered a $2.5 billion aid package by three Gulf backers, including Saudi Arabia.