Rebels begin leaving new area outside Damascus: state media

A Syrian rebel fighter evacuated from the town of Dumayr, east of the capital Damascus, holds his son while sitting in a bus upon arriving in the city of Azaz in the northern countryside of Aleppo on April 20, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 21 April 2018
0

Rebels begin leaving new area outside Damascus: state media

DAMASCUS: Rebels started leaving a new area outside the Syrian capital Saturday, state media said, after a new deal was reached between opposition fighters and the Russia-backed regime.
The agreement for the East Qalamun area is the latest in a string of deals that have seen rebels and civilians bussed out of former opposition strongholds near Damascus.
"Buses carrying terrorists and their families start exiting Al-Ruhayba", a town in East Qalamun some 60 kilometres (35 miles) northeast of Damascus, state news agency SANA said, using its usual term for rebels.
State television said 3,200 fighters and their relatives were expected to leave Al-Ruhayba, as well as the nearby towns of Al-Nasiriya and Jayrud on Saturday.
It showed images of buses moving in what it said was Al-Ruhayba, most with their curtains drawn.
SANA late Friday said an agreement had been reached for fighters to leave Al-Ruhayba, Jayrud and Al-Nasiriya starting Saturday.
They would be transferred to the rebel-held northern town of Jarabulus in Aleppo province and to the neighbouring province of Idlib, where hardline rebels have their strongest grip on power.
The regime is pushing to secure the capital after it announced its full reconquest last week of what was the last major rebel bastion outside Damascus.
Eastern Ghouta was emptied of rebels after a nearly two-month deadly assault on the enclave and several Russia-brokered deals that saw tens of thousands of people transported on buses to Syria's north.
Earlier this week, a deal was inked that saw around 5,000 people including 1,500 fighters exit Dumayr, a town just to the south of Al-Ruhayba.
The regime has simultaneously turned its sights on the southern districts of the capital where Daesh has a presence.
Regime forces have bombarded the Yarmuk Palestinian refugee camp on the southern edge of Damascus in recent days in a bid to dislodge Daesh fighters.
Syria's conflict has killed 350,000 people and displaced millions more since it broke out in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government protests.


Militants kidnap Christian in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula

Police pursued the kidnappers into the desert to which they fled after the incident. (AP)
Updated 35 min 20 sec ago
0

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.