Suspected Russian strikes kill 44 civilians in northwest Syria: Monitor

Syrian rescuers and civilians recover bodies in Zardana, in the mostly opposition-held northern Syrian Idlib province, in the aftermath of airstrikes in the area, on June 8. AFP
Updated 09 June 2018
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Suspected Russian strikes kill 44 civilians in northwest Syria: Monitor

  • The air strikes are thought to have been carried out by Russian jets on a residential area in northwestern Syrian
  • The toll includes five children, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said

BEIRUT: Airstrikes thought to have been carried out by Russian jets on an opposition-held residential area in northwestern Syria have killed 44 civilians, a Britain-based monitor said on Friday.
Six children were among those killed when the strikes hit the Zardana area of Idlib province late Thursday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
This is the highest death toll in a single attack on the region this year, it noted.
The monitoring group said Russian war planes probably carried out the attacks. The Russian Defense Ministry dismissed the Observatory’s reports of strikes on Zardana as having “nothing to do with reality,” in a statement carried by the TASS news agency. It denied its war planes were involved.
Russia is Syria’s main ally in his war against an armed opposition, now in its seventh year.
The Observatory said the jets targeted the village of Zardana in northern rural Idlib overnight, killing 27 men, 11 women and six children.
The death toll is expected to increase, since some of the 60 injured in the strikes were in a critical condition, the Britain-based Observatory said. Rescue workers were still searching the rubble for survivors.
An AFP correspondent at the scene saw volunteers with a crane still searching the rubble in the early morning.
Half-a-dozen men in civilian clothes helped carry a person in a black body bag away from the site of the strikes, which pulverised several buildings.
At night, dozens of wounded streamed in to the local hospital, including children, women, elderly people and rescue volunteers, the correspondent said.
Dust dashed with blood covered the twisted bodies of the dead.
Most of Idlib province is held by an array of militant groups with only parts controlled by the Russian-backed government.
The Russian ministry was quoted as saying it had information about fighting between Nusra Front militants and opposition fighters involving heavy artillery fire in the past 24 hours.
The Observatory had reported on Wednesday night violent clashes in the village between local factions, but later said the destruction and resulting casualties were due to airstrikes.
Idlib, a region in northwestern Syria, remains the largest populated area of the country in the hands of insurgents fighting the Damascus government.
In recent years, tens of thousands of fighters and civilians have fled there from parts of the country the army has recaptured with the help of Russia and Iran.
Zardana is largely controlled by opposition fighters, with a small presence of the Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham alliance led by Syria’s former Al-Qaeda affiliate.
Since Russia intervened in its support in 2015, the government has regained control of around half of the country.
More than 350,000 people have been killed in the Syrian war since it started in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government protests.
The Observatory says it relies on sources inside Syria for its information, and determines who carried out strikes on the basis of flight patterns, and the type of aircraft and ammunition used.


Iraqi PM faces protests over power shortages and graft

Updated 2 min 1 sec ago
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Iraqi PM faces protests over power shortages and graft

  • Security services in Basra were on high alert on Sunday after the circulation of an image of a leaflet with the slogan of Daesh on it calling for support for the protests
BAGHDAD: Iraq’s exclusion from US sanctions on Iran and allowing it to import gas and electricity will not ease the pressure on Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi’s government, Iraqi politicians and officials told Arab News on Sunday.
Mass demonstrations are planned for later this week in the Shiite-dominated southern provinces to protest about the lack of basic daily services including electricity and drinking water, high rates of unemployment and corruption in ministries and government departments, activists told Arab News.
Iranian energy and natural gas imports amount to about 4,000 megawatts per day, equivalent to 20 percent of Iraq’s total production.
The US three-month extension waiver allowing Iraq to import Iranian gas and electricity is expected to dampen some of the anger and give Abdul Mahdi’s government a chance to find more radical solutions to the electricity shortage caused by terrorist actions, lack of planning and government corruption over the past 15-16 years.
People in Basra plan to take to the streets on July 20, activists told Arab News.
“Unemployment, scarcity of electricity and potable water and corruption are all still in place and none have been addressed despite the fact we have been protesting every year,” Sheikh Raied Al-Fraijai, the head of Basra tribal council and one of the Basra’s key activists, told Arab News.
“We will demand the dismissal of Abdul Mahdi and his government,” he said.
Electricity supply from the national grid does not exceed a 12-hour-a-day average during the summer, when temperatures exceed 50 degrees Celsius. This is one of the most powerful engines of the demonstrations, which usually turn violent and lead to clashes between protesters and security forces.
Last summer demonstrations extended to most of the southern provinces and Baghdad. There were massive riots, especially in Basra and Amara, where government and party headquarters were set on fire, as well as the Iranian Consulate. At least 22 demonstrators and security personal were killed.
Controlling the demonstrations and preventing Iraqi political forces from exploiting them is one of the challenges facing both local governments and activists.
Security services in Basra were on high alert on Sunday after the circulation of an image of a leaflet with the slogan of Daesh on it calling for support for the protests and inciting demonstrators to attack members of the “Savage army,” a term used by Daesh to describe the Iraqi army.
“This game (the circulation of the leaflet) aims to give the necessary cover for the local government in Basra to target us,” an activist told Arab News.
“Now they (local officials) have a good pretext to come after us. They can easily say that we are belong to Daesh or just say these are aimed to provide the cover for sabotage and targeting security forces.”