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
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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.
 


Algeria deports nearly 400 migrants back to Niger

Updated 56 min 19 sec ago
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Algeria deports nearly 400 migrants back to Niger

  • The IOM and EU are intensifying efforts to return African migrants home
  • 391 migrants from 16 west and central African countries had arrived in Assamaka

NIAMEY: Algeria has deported nearly 400 African migrants trying to reach Europe, sending them back over the Sahara desert into neighboring Niger, the UN migration agency (IOM) and Niger said on Sunday.
The IOM and European Union are intensifying efforts to return African migrants home, after thousands have died making the dangerous crossing to Europe across the Mediterranean in overcrowded boats. Many get stuck before ever reaching Africa’s northern coast, either in Libya, where they suffer slavery and abuse at the hands of militias, or Algeria.
IOM operations officer Livia Manente told Reuters in an email that the group of 391 migrants from 16 west and central African countries had arrived in the Nigerien town of Assamaka on Friday on about 20-30 vehicles, after being stopped while heading to work in various Algerian cities.
“They claim their phones were confiscated and that conditions were poor — not much food and water, crowded rooms),” she said. “They were transported in trucks after the locality of In Guezzam and then obliged to walk across the border ... including families with pregnant women and children.”
Aboubacar Ajouel, the mayor of Agadez, the last destination for the migrants, confirmed that they had arrived.
Algeria declined to confirm this particular deportation, but said that 20,000 migrants had been prevented from reaching Europe by Algerian authorities since January, thanks to security measures put in place at its borders with Mali and Niger.
“We have no choice but to prevent them,” Hassen Kacimi, director of Algeria’s interior ministry in charge of migration, told Reuters by telephone.