Douma safe for press visits, not safe for UN chemical inspectors

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Photo showing people in the streets of Douma during a press visit organized by Assad regime, April 20, 2018. (AFP)
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Photo showing people in the streets of Douma during a press visit organized by Assad regime, April 20, 2018. (AFP)
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Photo showing devastated streets of Douma during a press visit organised by Assad regime, April 20, 2018. (AFP)
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Photo showing a portrait of Syrian president in a devastated street in Douma during a government organised visit to eastern Ghouta, Damascus, 20 April,2018. (AFP)
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Photo showing a regime soldier and a Russian soldier in Douma during a press visit organised by Assad regime, April 20, 2018. (AFP)
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Photo showing a Syrian Flag flying amidst destroyed buildings in Douma, during a press visit organised by Assad regime April 20, 2018. (AFP)
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Photo showing a girl carrying her toddler brother in the devastated town of Douma, during a press visit organised by Assad regime, April 20, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 20 April 2018
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Douma safe for press visits, not safe for UN chemical inspectors

  • Regime troops accompany journalists on a tour of Douma
  • Chemical weapons inspectors failed to visit scene of chemical attack on April 7

LONDON: Journalists working in Syria’s capital Damascus were treated to an organized visit to the opposition enclave of Douma.
Members of the press toured and photographed deserted areas of Douma which has been held by opposition groups for the last seven years. The government invited international news agencies to tour the devastated neighborhood of Damascus that witnessed the birth of the revolution against Assad’s rule in 2011.
Chemical weapons inspectors meanwhile are still awaiting the green light to access areas where chemical attacks were carried out on the 7th April, and which led to the evacuation of fighters and their families to the north of the country as part of a deal to evacuate the enclave.


Militants kidnap Christian in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula

Police pursued the kidnappers into the desert to which they fled after the incident. (AP)
Updated 18 January 2019
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Militants kidnap Christian in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula

  • The attack took place about 30 km west of El-Arish

CAIRO: Extremist militants on Thursday kidnapped a Christian man traveling in a taxi in the turbulent north of Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, according to security officials, an incident that raises the specter of renewed attacks on minority Christians in the region after a two-year lull.

The officials did not identify the man, but said police pursued the kidnappers into the desert to which they fled after the incident, killing one of them and wounding two others in a firefight, but could not free the hostage. Two policemen were also wounded in the firefight, said the officials.

There was no word on whether any of the other passengers traveling in the taxi, a minibus, were harmed, suggesting that the kidnapping of the Christian man could have been planned. 

The attack took place about 30 km west of El-Arish, northern Sinai’s largest city, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media.

A spate of attacks on Christians in northern Sinai in late 2016 and early 2017 forced nearly 300 families to flee their homes there and find refuge elsewhere in Egypt. 

Those killed included a cleric, workers, a doctor and a merchant. The last Christian to be killed in Sinai was in January 2018, when militants gunned him down as he walked on the street in El-Arish.

The militants, now led by Daesh, say they are punishing the Christians for their support of President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi.

The spiritual leader of Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Christians, whose ancient church is the country’s predominant Christian denomination, is a close ally of El-Sisi, who has made sectarian harmony a cornerstone of his domestic policy. 

El-Sisi’s patronage of the community has given Christians a measure of protection but did little to protect them from radicals, particularly in regions south of Cairo where Christians are a sizable minority.

Since 2016, Daesh militants have killed more than 100 Christians in attacks targeting churches and buses carrying pilgrims to remote desert monasteries. 

Also on Thursday, according to the officials, suspected militants sneaked into the parking lot of the main hospital in the city of Rafah on the Sinai border with the Gaza Strip and torched two vehicles before escaping. 

The incident was the latest in a recent spate of violent incidents in Rafah, most of whose residents have been evicted and compensated over the past year to deny the militants hiding places.

Nearly a year ago, the government threw into the battle against the Sinai militants thousands of troops, heavy armor, helicopter gunships and jet fighters in a bid to end the insurgency. 

The operation has significantly reduced the number of attacks and restored a near total normal life in El-Arish, on the Mediterranean coast.