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.


Nobel laureate Murad to build hospital in her hometown in Iraq

Updated 31 min 7 sec ago
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Nobel laureate Murad to build hospital in her hometown in Iraq

  • The laureate was awarded the $1 million prize alongside Congolese doctor Denis Mukwege
  • She said she will use the money to “build a hospital in Sinjar to treat ill people, mainly widows and women”

SINJAR, Iraq: Nadia Murad, an Iraqi Yazidi woman held as a sex slave by Daesh militants who won this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, said on Friday she intended to use the prize money to build a hospital for victims of sexual abuse in her hometown.
The Yazidi survivor was speaking to a crowd of hundreds in Sinjar, her hometown in northern Iraq.
“With the money I got from the Nobel Peace prize, I will build a hospital in Sinjar to treat ill people, mainly widows and women who were exposed to sexual abuses by Daesh militants,” she told the crowd and gathered journalists.
She thanked the Iraqi and Kurdistan governments for agreeing to her plan and said she would be contacting humanitarian organizations “soon” to start construction.
Murad was awarded the $1 million prize alongside Congolese doctor Denis Mukwege for their efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict.
She was one of about 7,000 women and girls captured in northwest Iraq in August 2014 and held by Daesh in Mosul, where she was tortured and raped.
She escaped after three months and reached Germany, from where she campaigned extensively to appeal for support for the Yazidi community.
The Yazidi area in Sinjar had previously been home to about 400,000 people, mostly Yazidis and Arab Sunnis.
In a matter of days, more than 3,000 Yazidis were killed and about 6,800 kidnapped, either sold into slavery or conscripted to fight for Daesh as the religious minority came under attack.