Air strikes kill seven civilians in southern Syria: monitor

Smoke following an explosion in Syria is seen from the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights near the Israeli Syrian border July 16, 2018. (Ronen Zvulun/Reuters)
Updated 17 July 2018
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Air strikes kill seven civilians in southern Syria: monitor

  • It was not immediately clear whether the strikes were carried out by the regime or its Russian ally
  • More than 350,000 people have been killed and millions displaced by Syria’s war since it started in 2011

BEIRUT: Air strikes on Tuesday killed seven civilians in a sensitive southwestern province of Syria bordering the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, a war monitor said.
The Damascus regime has been pounding Quneitra since Sunday in a bid to retake the southwestern province from rebels, after winning back most of the neighboring governorate of Daraa in less than a month.
“Six civilians including two women and three children were killed in air strikes near Ain Al-Tina” on Quneitra’s border with Daraa province, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
It was not immediately clear whether the strikes were carried out by the regime or its Russian ally, the Britain-based monitor said.
The monitor determines who carried out strikes based on the type of aircraft and munitions used, locations and flight patterns.
In the west of the adjacent province of Daraa, Russian air raids killed one civilian near the village of Al-Aliya, it said.
“Since Tuesday morning, heavy Russian air strikes and barrel bombs dropped by the regime have been targeting an area straddling Quneitra and Daraa,” Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman said.
Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham, a group led by Syria’s former Al-Qaeda affiliate, is present in that area, he said.
HTS extremists are not included in a cease-fire between regime and rebels in Daraa announced earlier this month, which has allowed the regime to retake control of more than 90 percent of the province.
President Bashar Assad’s regime has advanced in Daraa thanks to a deadly bombardment campaign since June 19, along with Russia-brokered deals between opposition fighters and the regime.
In Quneitra on Monday, rebels in at least five towns raised the national flag, seeking a similar agreement with the regime, Abdel Rahman said.
“Rebel factions in these towns have stopped fighting to avoid bombardment and destruction,” he said.
In two days since Sunday, at least 43 regime fighters have been killed in both Daraa and Quneitra, while 48 extremists and rebels have lost their lives, the Observatory said.
More than 350,000 people have been killed and millions displaced by Syria’s war since it started in 2011 with a brutal crackdown on anti-government protests.


Turkey train crash leaves 9 dead, dozens injured

Updated 13 December 2018
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Turkey train crash leaves 9 dead, dozens injured

  • The high-speed train usually passes through that station without stopping
  • Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said 84 other people had sought medical help after the crash

ANKARA, TURKEY: A high-speed train hit a railway engine and crashed into a pedestrian overpass Thursday at a station in the Turkish capital of Ankara, killing nine people and injuring dozens, officials said.
The 6:30 a.m. train from Ankara to the central Turkish city of Konya collided head-on with the engine, which was checking the tracks at the capital’s small Marsandiz station, Transport Minister Mehmet Cahit Turhan told reporters after inspecting the site. The high-speed train, which the Anadolu Agency said was carrying 206 passengers, usually passes through that station without stopping.
At least two cars derailed, hitting the station’s overpass, which then collapsed onto the train. Three engine drivers and six passengers were killed in the crash, Turhan said. One passenger died after being hospitalized while the others were killed at the scene.
Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said 84 other people had sought medical help after the crash.
Television footage showed emergency services working to rescue passengers from wrangled cars and debris. Hurriyet newspaper said sniffer dogs assisted efforts to find survivors. Turhan said later no one else was believed to be trapped.
It wasn’t immediately clear if a signaling problem caused the crash. Authorities detained three state railway employees over suspected negligence and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed a thorough investigation.
Passenger Ayse Ozyurt told the IHA news agency that the accident occurred 12 minutes after the train left the main station and that it had not yet gained its maximum speed.
“The train was not fast at that time yet,” she said. “Suddenly, there was a frightening breakage ... and the train was off the rail.”
Konya, about 260 kilometers (160 miles) south of Ankara, is home to the tomb of the Sufi mystic and poet Jalaladdin Rumi, attracting thousands of pilgrims and tourists. The crash occurred during an annual week of remembrance for Rumi, when many travel to Konya to watch Whirling Dervishes, members of a Sufi sect, perform.
Turkey has had a raft of train crashes this year.
In July, 24 people were killed and more than 70 injured when most of a passenger train derailed in northwestern Turkey after torrential rains caused a section of the tracks to collapse. Last month, 15 people were injured when a passenger train collided with a freight train in Turkey’s central province of Sivas.