Syria rebels hand over arms in new deal with government

Syrian rebels and civilians prepare to be evacuated from the town of Yalda on the southern outskirts of Damascus on May 3 under a negotiated withdrawal. (AFP)
Updated 04 May 2018
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Syria rebels hand over arms in new deal with government

BEIRUT: Syrian rebels on Friday were surrendering their heavy weapons for the second day after agreeing with the government a new deal to withdraw from central towns, a war monitor said.
Opposition fighters agreed with regime forces and their allies to a cease-fire deal earlier this week for the rebel towns of Talbisseh, Rastan, and Al-Houla, which fall in Syria’s central province of Homs.
“The fighters are handing over their heavy and intermediate weapons to Russian and regime forces for the second consecutive day,” said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said.
It included artillery and machine guns, said Rami Abdel Rahman, the head of the Britain-based Observatory.
“Once the handovers are finished, the rebels who want to leave will be evacuated out with civilians,” Abdel Rahman said.
The deal for the three rebel-controlled towns follows a similar pattern to other agreements recently reached across Syria, mostly around Damascus.
Rebels and civilians will be granted safe passage to the rebel-held town of Jarabulus, in Aleppo province, and the neighboring province of Idlib which largely escapes government control, according to state news agency SANA.
It said the deal also provided for the return of government institutions to the three towns and the reopening of a key highway.
That highway runs from the capital Damascus, through Homs, and onto second city Aleppo, in the north. Securing it has been a major target for the regime’s military operations.
The three towns were part of a “de-escalation zone” agreed one year ago by opposition supporter Turkey and regime allies Iran and Russia.
The total of four zones initially saw a reduction in shelling but violence has since escalated.
One of them, Eastern Ghouta, was recaptured last month by the Syrian government after a blistering two-month offensive that ended in forced evacuations of rebels and civilians there.
Jaish Al-Izza, one rebel faction present in the Homs area where a deal was reached, has said it rejects the agreement and pledged to remain deployed on its front lines.
It is the third such transfer deal for Homs province, after thousands were bused out in a pair of agreements for the city itself.


UN allows Palestinians more full member powers in 2019

Updated 15 min 45 sec ago
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UN allows Palestinians more full member powers in 2019

UNITED NATIONS: The 193-member United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday allowed the Palestinians to act more like a full UN member state during meetings in 2019 when they will chair the group of 77 developing nations.
The United States, Israel and Australia voted against the move, which won 146 votes in favor. There were 15 abstentions and 29 countries didn’t vote.
“We cannot support efforts by the Palestinians to enhance their status outside of direct negotiations. The United States does not recognize that there is a Palestinian state,” US Deputy UN Ambassador Jonathan Cohen told the General Assembly.
The Palestinians want to establish a state in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem. Israel captured those territories in the 1967 Middle East war and annexed East Jerusalem in a move not recognized internationally.
In 2012, the UN General Assembly overwhelmingly approved the de facto recognition of the sovereign state of Palestine when it upgraded the Palestinian Authority’s UN observer status to non-member state — like the Vatican — from entity.
The status upgrade has allowed them to participate in some General Assembly votes and join some international bodies. However, as a non-member state the Palestinians cannot speak in meetings until after member states, diplomats said.
The Egyptian-drafted resolution allows them to procedurally operate like a member state when acting on behalf of the G77 and China — making statements, submitting and co-sponsoring proposals and amendments, giving rights of reply and raising points of order.
“Australia’s decision to vote no on this resolution reflects our long-standing position that Palestinian attempts to seek recognition as a state in international fora are deeply unhelpful to efforts toward a two-state solution,” Australian UN Ambassador Gillian Bird told the General Assembly.