Nearly 30 civilians dead in heavy bombing on north Syria: monitor

Government airstrikes on opposition-held territory in northwest Syria killed around 30 people. (File photo / Reuters)
Updated 10 August 2018
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Nearly 30 civilians dead in heavy bombing on north Syria: monitor

  • Dozens of air strikes and shelling hit parts of the last swathe of Syrian territory still held by rebels
  • The three areas in northwest Syria are the last major ones still in the hands of fighters seeking to overthrow Assad

BEIRUT: Heavy bombardment killed nearly 30 civilians across northern Syria on Friday, a monitor said, in some of the fiercest shelling of rebel-held areas there in months.
The air strikes and barrel bombs targeted the key opposition-held province of Idlib in Syria’s northwest and a rebel town in the adjacent province of Aleppo.
Idlib is the largest chunk of territory still in rebel hands, and President Bashar Assad has warned it would be his next target.
The province’s southwest was shelled heavily on Thursday and the bombing the next day “moved further east,” leaving 11 civilians dead, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
“Air strikes by Russian warplanes and barrel bombs from Syrian helicopters hit southern parts of Idlib province today in very heavy shelling,” Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman said Friday.
“It’s the most intense bombing since Idlib was declared a de-escalation zone last year,” he told AFP.
The shelling left eight civilians dead in the main town of Khan Sheikhun, and another three including a child died in nearby Al-Tah.
The White Helmets, a rescue force operating in opposition-held areas of Syria, said its volunteers were responding to a bombing blitz on both Khan Sheikhun and Al-Tah.
A White Helmets rescuer in Khan Sheikhun told AFP that residential districts had been hit.
Hours later, air strikes pummelled the main rebel town of Orum Al-Kubra in the neighboring province of Aleppo, the Observatory said, without being able to immediately identify if they were Syrian or Russian.
“The death toll is now at 18 civilians including three children, and dozens of people injured,” said Abdel Rahman.
Rebels have lost swathes of the territory they once controlled in Syria to regime forces over the last few months, including three areas that had been designated as “de-escalation zones” last year.
Assad’s troops now appear to have set their sights on the last such area, Idlib.
The Britain-based Observatory said regime reinforcements, including troops and equipment, had been amassing around the southwestern part of Idlib for several days.
But a full-fledged assault would be devastating for the estimated 2.5 million people living in Idlib, many of them rebels and civilians bussed out of other areas that came back under regime control.
The United Nations appealed Thursday for talks to avert “a civilian bloodbath” in the province, which borders Turkey.
“The war cannot be allowed to go to Idlib,” said Jan Egeland, head of the UN’s humanitarian taskforce for Syria.
Around 60 percent of Idlib is held by Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS), which is led by Al-Qaeda’s former Syria affiliate.
Rival factions control most of the rest, but Syrian troops have carved out a small southeastern part.
Government helicopters on Thursday dropped leaflets over towns in Idlib’s eastern countryside urging people to surrender.


Israel clears Palestinians from Jerusalem home claimed by settlers

Updated 17 February 2019
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Israel clears Palestinians from Jerusalem home claimed by settlers

  • Residents of the neighborhood in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem scuffled with police, who stood guard as about a dozen Israeli settlers took possession of the large building

JERUSALEM: Israeli police on Sunday evicted a Palestinian family from their home in the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City, after the supreme court ruled Jewish claimants were the rightful owners.
An AFP photographer said residents of the neighborhood in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem scuffled with police, who stood guard as about a dozen Israeli settlers took possession of the large building.
A police spokesman said two people were detained.
“They disturbed police activities,” he told AFP but could not say if they were subsequently released.
Rania Abu Asab, who lived in the house with her husband, their children and his aunt, stood weeping outside as the settlers raised the Israeli flag on the roof.
“We live there, it’s my house, it’s my whole life,” she said. “They took everything.”
She said the family was compelled to leave behind all its furniture and belongings.
Ir Amim, an Israeli watchdog group which monitors settlement activity in Jerusalem, reported on February 3 that the Abu Asab family had been served an eviction notice ordering them to vacate the property by February 12.
It said family members had lived there since the 1960s.
Israeli NGO Peace Now said the home originally belonged to a Jewish family which fled during the 1948 war which accompanied Israel’s foundation.
East Jerusalem was occupied during that conflict by Jordan until the 1967 Six-Day War, when it was seized by Israel and subsequently annexed, moves never recognized by the international community.
The Abu Asab family lived until 1948 in a neighborhood it fled before eventually moving to the home in question.
Peace Now said in a statement Sunday that under an Israeli law passed in 1950 Palestinians cannot return to homes they fled in 1948.
A 1970 act, however, decreed that property in east Jerusalem abandoned by Jewish owners could be reclaimed.
“The court granted the settlers the house and the Abu Asab family became refugees for the second time,” Peace Now said.