UN warns Idlib assault by Syrian regime could be “six times worse” than Ghouta

Cars use the highway extending from Harasta in Eastern Ghouta on the outskirts of Damascus. (AFP)
Updated 16 May 2018

UN warns Idlib assault by Syrian regime could be “six times worse” than Ghouta

UNITED NATIONS, New York: The UN special envoy to Syria warned Wednesday that a regime assault on the northern rebel-held area of Idlib would be “six times” more destructive than the battle to recapture Ghouta, which fell last month after years of siege.
“If we see a Ghouta scenario in Idlib, this could be six times worse, affecting 2.3 million people,” Staffan de Mistura told the UN Security Council’s monthly meeting on the Syria conflict.
De Mistura described what he called the classic Syrian regime tactic of a bombardment of a rebel territory followed by negotiations and then mass evacuations from the defeated area.
But the special envoy noted that half of the people in the northern rebel province of Idlib had already fled from other parts of Syria, “and will have nowhere else to go because there is no other place to go.”
Regime forces recaptured Ghouta from rebels last month after a ferocious offensive that displaced tens of thousands, both to government-controlled zones around Damascus and to opposition-held parts of northern Syria.
Nevertheless de Mistura said he was “encouraged” by talks earlier this week in the Kazakh capital Astana on “how to avoid worst-case scenario in Idlib.”
The latest round of peace talks, which wrapped up on Tuesday, did not however make any concrete progress toward ending the seven-year conflict that has cost 350,000 lives.
The high-level talks ended merely with a declaration by the three main guarantor nations of Russia and Iran — both of which are allies of the Damascus regime — and Turkey, which backs rebel groups, that negotiations would resume in July in the Russian city of Sochi, but rebel groups said they would not attend.
Since the Astana negotiations began at the beginning of last year, they have mostly focused on attempts to keep Syrian regime forces and their rebel opponents at arm’s length.
Russia’s deputy ambassador to the United Nations, Dmitry Polyanski, said that the solution to the Syria conflict was “simple: restore the sovereignty of Damascus over its territories.”
“If you cannot or will not help solve the problem, at least do not stand in our way!” he said in a statement directed at the United States, which did not send a delegation to the latest Astana talks.
Shortly before the UN meeting, the Dutch ambassador Karel Van Oosterom told reporters that the main obstacle to resolving the conflict was that “the Syrian government is not engaging.”
He said that was the message that De Mistura himself had made during a recent meeting of the council.


Egypt court hands out 6 death sentences on terror charges

Updated 19 August 2019

Egypt court hands out 6 death sentences on terror charges

  • Giza criminal court on Monday also sentenced 41 defendants, including 28 in absentia, to life in prison
  • The charges stem from two different attacks in 2013 and 2015 in the town of Kerdasa

CAIRO: An Egyptian court has sentenced six people to death on terror charges for carrying out attacks that killed at least three people, including a policeman, on the outskirts of the capital.
Giza criminal court on Monday also sentenced 41 defendants, including 28 in absentia, to life in prison on similar charges, including possession of weapons and explosives. Another seven defendants received 15 years, and one got three years. The court acquitted 14 others.
The verdict can be appealed.
The charges stem from two different attacks in 2013 and 2015 in the town of Kerdasa, located near the famed Giza Pyramids.
Kerdasa had been a hotbed of Islamist support for ex-President Muhammad Mursi, who was ousted by the military in June 2013 after massive protests against his rule.