Opposition fighters reach north Syria after south evacuations

A Syrian child looks through the windows of a bus as displaced people from the Quneitra province wait at the Morak crossing point to be carried in the provinces of Idlib and Aleppo, in Morak, northwestern Syria, on July 21, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 22 July 2018
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Opposition fighters reach north Syria after south evacuations

  • The evacuations from Quneitra came after a Russia-brokered agreement was reached to see rebels hand over the territory to the Syrian regime
  • The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor said the first convoy to reach Morek transported around 2,800 people

Hundreds of opposition fighters and their families arrived on Saturday in northwestern Syria after their evacuation from a southern province under a deal with the regime, an AFP correspondent said.

Airstrikes by regime ally Russia, meanwhile, on a southern militant holdout killed six civilians, a Britain-based monitor said.
The evacuations from Quneitra province, which borders the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights, came after a Russia-brokered agreement struck earlier this week for the opposition to cede the territory to the Syrian regime.
Opposition elements who opposed the territorial handover were given the option to leave.
On Saturday afternoon, state news agency SANA said preparations were underway to ferry a second wave of people from Quneitra to the north of Syria.
In the morning, the first wave of around 50 buses carrying opposition fighters and their families reached the Morek crossing on the edge of northwestern opposition-held Idlib province, an AFP correspondent at the scene said.
Near the parked buses in Morek, a woman and five children waited by a cluster of small suitcases, the eldest among them carrying bottles of water and a blanket.
Men with light weapons slung on their backs shared a bite to eat and some water as they stood around waiting. Several wore scarves wrapped around their faces.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor said the first convoy to reach Morek transported around 2,800 people.
They were to be transferred to other buses run by local NGOs, before traveling further north to temporary camps in rebel-held areas in Idlib and Aleppo provinces, the Britain-based monitor said.
“More than half of the evacuees are women and children,” Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman said.
The evacuations follow a deadly regime offensive on Quneitra, a thin, crescent-shaped province that lies along the buffer zone with the Israel-occupied Golan to the west.
The Russia-negotiated rebel surrender also saw fighters hand over heavy and medium weapons and the return of regime institutions to the area.
Regime forces launched their southern offensive on June 19, targeting the province of Daraa on the border with Jordan, before turning their attention to neighboring Quneitra.
With a mix of military power and negotiated surrenders, President Bashar Assad’s troops this month captured more than 90 percent of Daraa, where protests against him first erupted in 2011.
Regime forces backed by Russia have continued their campaign in Daraa, aiming to retake areas still controlled by Daesh, which is not party to the Russia-backed withdrawal deals.
On Saturday, Russian airstrikes killed six civilians in that Daesh-held pocket, the Observatory said.
The deadly raids came just a day after strikes in the same area took the lives of 26 non-combatants including 11 children.
On Saturday, clashes between Assad loyalists and opposition groups in the area also killed 13 regime fighters, including eight in a car bombing.
Syria’s conflict has killed more than 350,000 people and displaced millions since it began in 2011 with a brutal government crackdown on protesters.


Brother of Palestinian teen Tamimi sentenced for stone-throwing

Updated 21 August 2018
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Brother of Palestinian teen Tamimi sentenced for stone-throwing

  • Ahed Tamimi was teenage girl who became an icon of the Palestinian cause when she was arrested for slapping a soldier
  • Waed had already received a suspended sentence for stoning Israeli security forces in 2016

JERUSALEM: The brother of a teenager who became a symbol of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict after slapping two soldiers has been sentenced to jail for throwing stones at a police officer, the army said Tuesday.
Waed Tamimi, the brother of Ahed Tamimi, confessed to his role in a March 2017 “violent riot” in which an Israeli police officer was wounded by stones thrown by Palestinians at his vehicle, according to a military court ruling from Monday.
Since he had already received a suspended sentence for stoning Israeli security forces in 2016, he was handed a 14-month sentence for the 2017 incident as part of a plea bargain, the court document said.
Asked by the court if he had anything to say, the 22-year-old said: “I have nothing to add. There will be no third time,” according to the ruling, which was published by the army on Tuesday.
The incident took place in Nabi Saleh in the occupied West Bank, where the Tamimi family lives.
Tamimi’s sister, Ahed, was released from prison last month after an eight-month sentence for hitting and kicking two Israeli soldiers in front of her house in the occupied West Bank.
In an interview the day after her release, the now 17-year-old told AFP that she understood she had become a “symbol” of the Palestinian cause.
Video of that incident went viral, leading to praise and support from Palestinians but scorn from Israelis who accused her activist family of using her in staged provocations.
Rights groups harshly criticized Israel for the length of Ahed Tamimi’s sentence.