Syrian rebel group says agreed evacuation of wounded from Ghouta

Smoke billows following regime forces' bombardment on Kafr Batna, in the besieged Eastern Ghouta region. (AFP)
Updated 12 March 2018
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Syrian rebel group says agreed evacuation of wounded from Ghouta

BEIRUT: Jaish Al-Islam, one of the main rebel groups in Syria’s eastern Ghouta, said on Monday it had reached an agreement with the government’s ally Russia to evacuate wounded people from the besieged enclave near Damascus.
It communicated with Russia through the United Nations to reach the agreement, it said, as the government presses a major offensive against the enclave with Russian military help. 
Meanwhile Syrian TV says another group of civilians has left the rebel-held enclave of Eastern Ghouta outside Damascus through a corridor established by the Syrian army
The state-run TV broadcast footage showing a small group of men, women and children it says left the town of Madyara on Monday. The town was captured by Syrian troops on Sunday.
Earlier on Monday, new airstrikes and barrel bombs pounded Eastern Ghouta as regime forces pressed a three-week advance that splintered the opposition enclave and trapped dozens under collapsed buildings.
Defying global calls for a cease-fire, Syria’s regime has pursued a ferocious Russian-backed air campaign and ground offensive to capture the region, the last rebel bastion on the capital’s doorstep.
In three weeks of fighting, it has overrun more than half the area and split the remainder into three pockets, isolating the urban hub of Douma from the rest of the enclave.
On Sunday, regime troops battered the edges of each pocket with air raids, barrel bombs, and rockets, said the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
After fighting all morning, they captured the town of Medeira, which lies at the heart of the three zones, Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman said.
State news agency SANA had reported troops were focusing on the town in order to cut the opposition’s access routes in Ghouta.
Bombing runs across several towns in Ghouta killed a dozen civilians on Sunday, bringing the total toll from the offensive to at least 1,111 civilians, the Observatory said.
They include dozens of decomposing bodies still trapped under pulverized residential blocks in the towns of Hammuriyeh, Saqba, and Misraba.
In Hammuriyeh, AFP’s correspondent saw a young man scrambling frantically over the rubble of a collapsed building in search of his loved ones.
His father, mother, and three siblings were killed in an air raid, but rescue workers have been unable to pull them out.
Hassaan, a 30-year-old rescue worker, said there were around 20 more families under the rubble.
“We need heavy machinery to get them out, but we can’t bring the machines out into the streets because the regime may bomb them,” he said.
In the main town of Douma, bodies piled up in the morgue as bombardment prevented families from reaching the cemetery, AFP’s correspondent there said.
Families grew desperate for news of loved ones who had fled to other areas that were now inaccessible.
On Saturday, Syrian troops and allied militia cut off the main road leading out of Douma in a major blow to opposition fighters attempting to defend their enclave.
Regime forces also captured the town of Misraba.
Some residents fled from the advancing troops, but dozens stayed as soldiers recaptured their neighborhoods.
SANA reported on Sunday that troops transported “dozens of civilians, including women and children,” from Misraba to temporary shelters in regime-held zones.
The Observatory told AFP that Misraba was left abandoned after 75 to 100 people were moved out of the town by regime forces.
On Sunday, four people were killed and six wounded in rebel rocket fire on a regime-controlled district in eastern Damascus, state television reported.
It broadcast live footage from the battered skyline of Medeira, saying Sunday’s gains linked Syrian soldiers advancing from the east with troops based on the western edges of Ghouta.
In recent years, regime forces have recaptured several areas around Damascus and other parts of war-ravaged Syria from opposition fighters by pursuing fierce military offensives culminating in evacuation deals.


Egypt court upholds corruption conviction of Mubarak, sons

Updated 5 min 7 sec ago
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Egypt court upholds corruption conviction of Mubarak, sons

  • Saturday’s ruling by the Court of Cessation dashed any hope that Gamal Mubarak could run for public office.
  • Mubarak’s two sons are currently on trial for insider trading.

CAIRO: Egypt's highest appeals court on Saturday rejected a motion by former president Hosni Mubarak and his two sons to overturn their conviction on corruption charges.
The ruling by the Court of Cessation, Egypt's final recourse for appeals in criminal cases, dashed any hope that Gamal, Mubarak's younger son and one-time heir apparent, could run for public office. A senior newspaper editor and confidant of Egypt's current president had recently suggested that banker-turned-politician Gamal may have been contemplating the move.
The Mubarak trio was sentenced to three years each for embezzling funds meant for maintenance of presidential palaces but which they spent on upgrading or building private residences. The sons were released in 2015 for time served, while their father was freed last year. They repaid the funds, a total of 125 million pounds (about $7 million).
Mubarak's sons are currently on trial for insider trading. They are free on bail after a judge on Thursday overturned a surprise Sept. 15 ruling to detain them. The case's next hearing is on Oct. 20.
The rejection of their appeal Saturday and Gamal Mubarak's subsequent ineligibility to run for office came in the wake of recent comments by the chief editor of state-run Al-Akhbar publications, Yasser Rizq, who suggested that frequent public appearances by the younger Mubarak could be a prelude to a future presidential run.
Rizq first warned Gamal Mubarak against harboring presidential ambitions in an article published in May. He repeated the warning in a television interview aired earlier this week.
"His real crime is insulting the dignity of the Egyptian people," Rizq said, alluding to Gamal's one-time intention to succeed his father. It violated the constitution and amounted to the toppling of republican rule, he explained. He said it was not improbable that he would strike a political deal with the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood to secure the group's return to politics in exchange for its support in a presidential bid in 2022, when President Abdel-Fattah El-Sissi's second term ends.
Preventing Gamal from succeeding his father was among the main drivers of a 2011 uprising that ended Mubarak's 29-year rule, as well as the military's support for it. The years that followed saw Mubarak regime heavyweights tried on corruption or abuse of power charges. Most have since walked free, while second-string regime loyalists found their way back to public life under El-Sissi.