US-backed forces announce 3-day curfew in Raqqa city

Fighters of Syrian Democratic Forces walk along a road after Raqqa was liberated from the Daesh group, in Raqqa, Syria October 17, 2017. (REUTERS)
Updated 24 June 2018
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US-backed forces announce 3-day curfew in Raqqa city

  • Local security forces in Syria’s northern city of Raqqa announced a two-day curfew starting Sunday in response to intelligence on potential attacks by the Daesh group
  • Daesh was kicked out of its former bastion Raqqa in October by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, which then stood up police units to hold the city

AMMAN: US-backed forces in control of Syria’s Raqqa city imposed a three-day curfew on Sunday and declared a state of emergency saying Daesh militants had infiltrated the city and planned a bombing campaign.
Witnesses say internal security forces affiliated to Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), who had announced late last night the surprise curfew from dawn in the former Daesh stronghold until Tuesday, set up checkpoints across the devastated city.
A statement said the state of emergency in the city were “protective measures.”
“Our intelligence apparatus has received information of the entry of terrorist groups tied to Daesh that are about to wage attacks to undermine secuity in the city,” the statement read.
The curfew prevents anyone from leaving or entering the city that was retaken by US-backed militias last October, after a four-month battle that left thousands of civilians dead and most of its neighborhoods flattened in devastating US led aerial strikes.
Daesh in 2014 had declared Raqqa the capital of its self-proclaimed state. Two residents said the city has seen in recent weeks growing tensions between the majority Arab residents and SDF forces dominated by Kurdish personnel that spilled into sporadic protests last month. The protests, quelled by force, called for the SDF’s eviction from the city.
They said many of its over 100,000 residents are angered by a policy of obligatory military conscription of youths and resentful of perceived discriminatory practices against the majority Arab population by senior Kurdish officials who effectively run the city.
The SDF, an alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters, denies these accusations and says its local councils are run by the city’s residents and says it seeks to redress decades of ethnic discrimination against Kurds by the Syria’s ruling Baath party
Another resident in touch with local officials said the security operation aimed at arresting the leader of a disaffected Arab rebel group Thwar Al-Raqqa, affiliated with the SDF. A previous attempt last month to arrest him provoked violent demonstrations by his supporters.


Palestine, Egypt offer air support as Israel battles wildfires

A firefighting aircraft flies over a forest near Kibbutz Harel, which was damaged by wildfires during a record heatwave, in Israel May 24, 2019. (REUTERS)
Updated 25 May 2019
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Palestine, Egypt offer air support as Israel battles wildfires

  • Thousands of people were evacuated from their homes on Thursday as fires raged
  • The fires were fueled by high temperatures and dry condition

JERUSALEM: Egypt and four European countries sent aircraft to help Israel battle wildfires that have forced the evacuation of some small towns, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Friday, as a record heatwave looked set to worsen conditions.
At an emergency briefing, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel had appealed for international help to combat the fires, and that firefighting planes were coming in from Greece, Croatia, Italy and Cyprus.
Egypt, on the orders of President Abdel-Fatah El-Sisi, had also sent two helicopters to assist Israel, Netanyahu told reporters.
The Palestinian Authority and Russia had also offered help, Netanyahu said.
Israel braced for wildfires on Friday amid a major heat wave that shows no signs of abating.
Israel “really appreciates” the help, Netanyahu said, singling out El-Sisi for sending aid.
“I am deeply thankful for the readiness of neighbors to help us in a time of crisis, just as we help them,” Netanyahu said.
Israel’s Fire and Rescue Service said blazes in a key corridor between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv were mostly under control but difficult weather remained a conflagration risk.
“As of this moment, this (containment) is being done in the best possible way, but the challenge is yet ahead of us given the weather conditions, the winds and the extreme heat,” Netanyahu said.
Some 3,500 residents of small towns in the path of the fires were evacuated on Thursday, officials said. Dozens of homes have burned down.

Evacuations
Thousands of people were evacuated from towns and dozens of homes were burned on Thursday as fires raged, fueled by high temperatures and dry conditions. Over 500 acres of woodland have burned, said Nitai Zecharya, an Israeli official from the Jewish National Fund, known for planting forests in the country.
Zecharya said that while firefighters had brought most of the blaze under control, officials remained “very stressed” about strong winds fanning flames and “spreading fires to other fronts.”
The cause of the fires remains unclear, but they erupted following the Jewish festival of Lag Ba’Omer, which observers mark with bonfires.
A sweltering heat wave is pushing temperatures in parts of the country up to 110 degrees Fahrenheit, or 43 Celsius.