Syrian rebels hand over arms, leave another town near Douma

Pro-Syrian government forces gather around busses carrying Jaish Al-Islam fighters and their families from their former rebel bastion of Douma as they arrive at the Syrian government-held side of the Wafideen checkpoint on the outskirts of Damascus, after being evacuated from the last rebel-held pocket in Estearn Ghouta on April 9, 2018. (AFP /Youssef Karwashan)
Updated 19 April 2018
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Syrian rebels hand over arms, leave another town near Douma

BEIRUT: Syrian state media say hundreds of rebels fighters in a town northeast of Damascus have handed in their weapons and started to leave under an evacuation deal.
Under the agreement, the rebels are allowed to move with their families to opposition-held areas in the country’s north, effectively surrendering their turf to Syrian government forces.
The state SANA news agency says the Army of Islam fighters and their families are leaving the town of Dumayr on Thursday. The report says 1,500 rebels and 3,500 of their next of kin are to leave Dumayr for the town of Jarablus, near the Turkish border.
Dumayr is in the Qalamoun mountains, near the eastern Ghouta region which came under full government control last week after a weeks-long offensive and an alleged chemical weapons attack.


Netanyahu to cut US trip short after rocket attack near Tel Aviv

Updated 8 min 33 sec ago
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Netanyahu to cut US trip short after rocket attack near Tel Aviv

  • Netanyahu said the incident will evoke a strong Israeli reaction
  • Palestinian rockets rarely reach an area at that distance from Gaza

MISHMERET/JERUSALEM: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday that he is to cut short his trip to the United States after a rocket attack near Tel Aviv.

“In light of the security events I decided to cut short my visit to the US,” Netanyahu said, calling the attack a heinous crime that would draw a strong Israeli response.

He said he would meet with President Donald Trump in the coming hours and then fly back immediately.

A rocket fired from the Gaza Strip hit a house in a community north of Tel Aviv and caused it to catch fire, wounding seven Israelis, authorities and medics said.

Israel’s army said the rocket was fired from the Palestinian enclave run by Islamist movement Hamas, raising the risk of another escalation between the two sides just ahead of April 9 Israeli elections.

The house hit was located in the community of Mishmeret, police said. Medics said they were treating one Israeli with moderate wounds and four others injured lightly.

Mishmeret is more than 80 kilometers from the Gaza Strip and rocket fire from the Palestinian enclave at that distance is rare.

Monday’s incident comes after two rockets were fired from Gaza toward Tel Aviv — also rare — on March 14.

No damage or injuries were caused, but Israel responded to that and further rocket fire by hitting what it said were around 100 Hamas targets across the Gaza Strip.

Four Palestinians were reported wounded in those strikes.

Both Hamas and its ally Islamic Jihad denied they were behind the March 14 rocket fire toward Tel Aviv, raising the possibility they were launched by fringe groups.

Israel’s military said they were launched by Hamas, but later there were Israeli media reports that the army’s preliminary assessment was that they had been fired by mistake during maintenance work.

The reports were a sign that Israel was seeking to calm tensions. The military had refused to comment on the reports at the time.

Monday’s rocket comes just days ahead of the March 30 one-year anniversary of Palestinian protests and clashes along the Gaza Strip’s border with Israel.

An informal truce between Hamas and Israel had led to relative calm along the border of the blockaded strip, but recent weeks have seen another uptick in violence.