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.

Egypt races to reduce impact of $5 billion Ethiopian dam

Updated 21 March 2019

Egypt races to reduce impact of $5 billion Ethiopian dam

  • Research group warns of ‘dire humanitarian consequences’ over disputed Al-Nahda project
  • Ethiopia plans to store 74 billion cubic meters of Nile water behind the dam

CAIRO: An international research group has warned of “dire humanitarian consequences” if a controversial Ethiopian project to dam the Nile leads to conflict with Egypt and neighboring Sudan.

The $5 billion dam is a source of friction between the three countries that could spill over into open hostility, the Brussels-based International Crisis Group said in a report.

Egypt and Sudan fear the dam, now being built near the Sudanese border, could reduce available water to both countries.

The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, or Al-Nahda dam, has been under construction since 2011 and is due to be completed in 2022. When finished it will be the largest dam in Africa, generating about 6,000 megawatts of electricity for domestic use and export.

Dr. Abbas Al-Sharaki, a water resources expert at the Institute of African Studies at Cairo University, told Arab News that Egypt is likely to face a water crisis in the future because of the dam.

Planned negotiations on the dam between the leaders of Egypt and Ethiopia are unlikely to succeed, he said. 

Ethiopia plans to store 74 billion cubic meters of Nile water behind the dam, which would affect the 55.5 billion cubic meters of water that Egypt currently gets from the Nile. Ethiopia’s leaders insist the dam will also benefit all three countries.

Dr. Mahmoud Abu Zeid, the former Egyptian minister of irrigation, said that the impact of the Ethiopian dam on the Egyptian water quota is inevitable, but Egypt is looking to reduce its effects and delay it as long as possible until other resources are raised.

Dr. Hisham Bakhit, professor of water resources at Cairo University, said that Egypt is conducting large-scale research to reduce the impact of the dam.

Egypt has many sustainable solutions to manage the Nile’s water, he said.

The country gets 90 percent of its irrigation and drinking water from the Nile, and has “historical rights” over the river guaranteed under treaties in 1929 and 1959, Bakhit said.

MP Mustafa Al-Jundi said that Egypt has the right to appeal to the African Union, the African Parliament, the UN and international courts in the case of Ethiopia’s intransigence.

Mohamed Abdel-Ati, Egypt’s minister of irrigation and water resources, said this week that Cairo does not oppose the development ambitions of any country “as long as they don’t harm any shares in water or threaten national security.”

The ministry is working to tap all sources of water and implement modern methods in irrigation. Desalination and wastewater treatment plants, and experimental studies into salt water farming are among Egypt’s plans to ensure reliable future supplies, he said.

The Al-Nahda dam was 60 percent complete before work stopped in August as a result of a funding crisis. In January, a Chinese company, Voith Hydro Shanghai, signed a deal to build the turbine generators at the dam.