Syria regime strikes kill 6 civilians in south Damascus, war monitor says

A picture taken during a government guided tour shows smoke rising from buildings in Yarmuk, a Palestinian refugee camp on the edge of Damascus, during regime shelling targeting Daesh group positions on April 24. (AFP)
Updated 25 April 2018
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Syria regime strikes kill 6 civilians in south Damascus, war monitor says

BEIRUT: Syrian regime air strikes have killed six civilians in southern Damascus where government forces are fighting the Daesh group, a war monitor said Wednesday.
The six, including two men and their wives, were killed in the strikes on the Palestinian camp of Yarmuk late Tuesday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said.
Regime strikes and rocket fire Wednesday morning targeted the neighboring districts of Hajjar Al-Aswad and Qadam, the Britain-based monitor said.
The latest civilian deaths bring to 18 the total of non-fighters killed in regime bombardment on the capital’s southern neighborhoods since Thursday last week.
Yarmuk, which is now Daesh’s last urban redoubt in Syria or Iraq, was once Syria’s biggest Palestinian refugee camp, home to around 160,000 people.
But the United Nations’ agency for Palestinian refugees UNRWA says most of the 6,000 refugees still living in the camp last week have since fled.
At least 52 pro-regime fighters have been killed in fighting to expel Daesh from the capital’s southern suburbs since April 19, the Observatory says.
Syrian officials do not usually disclose losses within army ranks.
The monitor has said at least 35 militant fighters were also killed during the same period.
There are an estimated 1,000 Daesh fighters left inside Yarmuk and the adjacent districts of Hajjar Al-Aswad and Qadam.
Daesh swept across large parts of Syria and neighboring Iraq in 2014, declaring a cross-border “caliphate” in areas the jihadists seized.
At its height their pseudo-state covered an area the size of Italy, but Daesh has since lost most of the land it controlled in both countries.
More than 350,000 people have been killed since Syria’s war started in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-regime protests.


Iran’s top diplomat warns US is ‘playing with fire’

Updated 16 July 2019
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Iran’s top diplomat warns US is ‘playing with fire’

  • Iran announced last week that it had enriched uranium past the 3.67 percent limit set by the nuclear deal
  • The US quit an international deal aimed at curbing Iran’s nuclear program last year, hitting Tehran with crippling sanctions

UNITED NATIONS: Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif warned Monday that the United States is “playing with fire,” echoing remarks by President Donald Trump as the two sides are locked in a standoff over Tehran’s nuclear program.
The United States quit an international deal aimed at curbing Iran’s nuclear program last year, hitting Tehran with crippling sanctions.
Tensions have since soared, with the US calling off air strikes against Iran at the last minute after Tehran downed an American drone, and Washington blaming the Islamic republic for a series of attacks on tanker ships.
“I think the United States is playing with fire,” Zarif told NBC News.
Iran announced last week that it had enriched uranium past the 3.67 percent limit set by the nuclear deal, and has also surpassed the 300-kilogram cap on enriched uranium reserves.
But “it can be reversed within hours,” Zarif told the channel, adding: “We are not about to develop nuclear weapons. Had we wanted to develop nuclear weapons, we would have been able to do it (a) long time ago.”
Zarif’s comments came as the United States imposed unusually harsh restrictions on his movements during a visit to the United Nations.
Weeks after the United States threatened sanctions against Zarif, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that Washington issued him a visa but forbade him from moving beyond six blocks of Iran’s UN mission in Midtown Manhattan.
“US diplomats don’t roam around Tehran, so we don’t see any reason for Iranian diplomats to roam freely around New York City, either,” Pompeo told The Washington Post.
No US diplomats are based in Iran as the two countries broke off relations in the aftermath of the 1979 Islamic revolution that toppled the Western-backed shah.
“Foreign Minister Zarif, he uses the freedoms of the United States to come here and spread malign propaganda,” the top US diplomat said.
UN spokesman Farhan Haq told reporters that the UN Secretariat was in contact with the US and Iranian missions about Zarif’s travel restrictions and “has conveyed its concerns to the host country.”
The United States, as host of the United Nations, has an agreement to issue visas promptly to foreign diplomats on UN business and only rarely declines.
Washington generally bars diplomats of hostile nations from traveling outside a 40-kilometer (25-mile) radius of New York’s Columbus Circle.
Zarif is scheduled to speak Wednesday at the UN Economic and Social Council, which is holding a high-level meeting on sustainable development.
Despite the restrictions, the decision to admit Zarif is the latest sign that Trump’s administration appears to be retreating from its vow to place sanctions on him as part of its “maximum pressure” campaign on Iran.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on June 24 that sanctions against Zarif would come later that week.
Critics questioned the legal rationale for targeting Zarif and noted that sanctions would all but end the possibility of dialogue — which Trump has said is his goal.
Zarif said in an interview with The New York Times he would not be affected by sanctions as he owns no assets outside of Iran.