Air raid in Syria's rebel-held Idlib province kills 20 people, including 16 children - monitor

Syrian men gathered outside a crater left over a collapsed make-shift bomb shelter after an air strike left over a dozen school-children killed in the town of Kafr Batikh in the northwestern Idlib province. (AFP)
Updated 21 March 2018

Air raid in Syria's rebel-held Idlib province kills 20 people, including 16 children - monitor

DAMASCUS: An air raid on a rebel-held area of northwestern Syria killed 20 people including 16 children fleeing an earlier strike on a school, rescue workers said on Wednesday.
The Syrian Civil Defense rescue service, which operates in opposition areas, said the air raid took place in the village of Kafr Batikh in the eastern part of Idlib province on Wednesday.
A war monitor, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, gave the same number of dead and said that 15 were from one family.
Idlib is the largest, most populous area still held by rebels seeking to oust Syrian President Bashar Assad, whose forces are backed in the war by Russian air power.
Assad and his allies are also attacking rebels in Eastern Ghouta, near Damascus, in an offensive that has involved intense bombardment.
On Wednesday, a hardline Syrian rebel faction said it had agreed with the regime to evacuate a bombed-out town in the Eastern Ghouta enclave and provide safe passage to Idlib.
"The deal between the regime and rebels in Harasta sees rebels exiting the city with their weapons, and whichever civilians want to leave, to northern Syria with Russian guarantees," said Munzer Fares, spokesman for the Ahrar al-Sham group in Ghouta.
Meanwhile, the UN humanitarian coordinator in Syria on Wednesday condemned the “tragic” living conditions of thousands of civilians who have fled a regime assault on the shrinking rebel enclave of Eastern Ghouta.
“If I was a citizen, I would not accept to stay in Adra for five minutes, with this tragic situation,” Ali Al-Zaatari told AFP, referring to a regime-held area to which thousands of civilians have fled.
Tens of thousands of civilians have streamed out of the enclave in less than a week.
Russia-backed regime forces have retaken most of the former opposition bastion since February 18, slicing remaining rebel-held territory into three separate pockets.
The displaced have gathered in regime-controlled territory outside the enclave, including in Adra to its north.
In one makeshift shelter, AFP journalists saw hundreds of people assembled on thin bedding under a tarpaulin sheet, with donated blankets piled beside them.
Dozens of people — including women and children — queued outside limited bathroom facilities.
“People may have escaped fighting, fear and insecurity but they find themselves in a place without anywhere to wash themselves. This should not be,” Zaatari added.
Since March 15, more than 70,000 people have fled the enclave after weeks of bombardment, says the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The UN says shelters have received over 50,000 in the past week.
“This crisis must be managed in a different way and the solution is to speed up people’s return home,” Zaatari said.
“The solution is to empty these shelters of inhabitants, as soon as possible, and to keep residents in Eastern Ghouta,” Zaatari said, if security conditions allow.
“Keeping people in their homes and aid reaching them there is easier than bringing them to these public places,” he said.
Before the regime assault, some 400,000 civilians in Eastern Ghouta had lived under government siege since 2013, facing severe food and medicine shortages.
Zaatari was also critical of the humanitarian situation for tens of thousands who have fled a Turkey-led advance on the northern region of Afrin.
Pro-Ankara forces swept into the Kurdish region’s main city — also named Afrin — on Sunday.
The United Nations says around 100,000 people have fled the region since the start of the assault on the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia there on January 20.
“We cannot access Afrin as it’s an occupied region,” Zaatari said, adding attempts were being made daily to try to reach people.
He said areas hosting the newly displaced outside Afrin were coming under “increasing pressure.”
More than 350,000 people have been killed since Syria’s war started in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government protests.

Gaza field hospitals prepare for another day of bloodshed

Updated 19 April 2018

Gaza field hospitals prepare for another day of bloodshed

  • At least 33 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza since the ‘Great March of Return’ began last month
  • Gaza suffers from a lack of medical facilities and supplies as a result of an 11-year land, sea and air blockade by Israeli forces

GAZA: A tent consisting of nine beds and some basic medical equipment is all that will serve as a field hospital in the Zeitoun area of Gaza when Palestinians gather at the Israeli border to take part in a mass protest against the occupation on Friday.

Eleven doctors and 12 nurses work at the facility during what has become a weekly ritual of defiance and bloodshed for the people of this besieged coastal enclave. With access to only rudimentary supplies, the staff must deal with injuries caused by live ammunition, rubber bullets and tear gas.

When Arab News visited the hospital southeast of Gaza City last week the sound of ambulances rushing back and forth was almost non-stop as the medics worked tirelessly amid the chaos. But no one expects any respite in the month ahead, with the protesters due to return every Friday until mid-May.

“In one hour we have received more than 30 injuries, about 26 of which are to the lower limbs and from live bullets,” said Khalil Siam, a doctor who works at the hospital from 8 a.m. until 10 p.m.

Gaza’s “Great March of Return” began on March 30, when tens of thousands of protesters traveled in buses from across the strip to five locations along the Israeli border. 

The demonstration was timed to coincide with “Land Day,” an annual event when Palestinians remember the deaths of six Arab citizens killed by Israeli forces during demonstrations over land confiscations in northern Israel in 1976. It is due to continue until May 15, when Palestinians commemorate the Nakba, or catastrophe — the creation of

On the first day of the protest at least 17 Palestinians were killed and more than 1,000 were injured as Israeli troops opened fire on the huge crowds, causing the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to call for “an independent and transparent investigation.”

Then on April 6 several more Palestinians were killed as protesters threw stones and set fire to piles of tires at the border, sending thick clouds of black smoke spiralling into the air.

A handful of field hospitals run by both volunteers and government doctors have been set up to deal with the constant stream of casualties each Friday, but they struggle to cope. Protesters critically wounded in the upper part of the body are rushed straight to Gaza’s main hospitals but staff here also find themselves increasingly overwhelmed by the sheer scale of the bloodshed.

According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, a total of 33 Palestinians have been killed and 4,300 have been injured between the start of the protests last month and April 14. Thirteen of the casualties have required amputations.

Even before the demonstrations began, Gaza suffered from a lack of medical facilities and supplies as a result of an 11-year land, sea and air blockade by Israeli forces and ongoing divisions between the two main Palestinian political factions, Fatah and Hamas.

Ashraf Al-Qidra, a spokesman for the Ministry of Health in Gaza, told Arab News that all hospitals were facing a situation of “severe attrition.”

“A large number of drugs and medical items have been drained from emergency departments, operating rooms and intensive care units due to the large number of casualties,” he said.

The Israeli government initially refused to allow injured protesters to be moved to the occupied West Bank until Israel’s High Court ruled unanimously on Monday that Yousef Al-Karnaz, a 19-year-old Palestinian, should be allowed to receive urgent medical care in Ramallah.

Al-Karnaz was shot and wounded by Israeli troops on March 30 but was not allowed to leave the strip. As a result, his left leg was amputated.

Ismail Al-Jadbah, director of the vascular department at Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, told Arab News that the strip had enough doctors to cope with the casualties but lacked the necessary resources to give them the best possible care.

“In addition to a shortage of medicine, the large number of injured has put a great burden on us. Treating injuries in the right way, and in the right time, is very difficult,” he said.