1 million children at risk in Idlib, says UN

Internally displaced boys run outside a tent in Idlib province, Syria July 30, 2018. (REUTERS)
Updated 11 August 2018
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1 million children at risk in Idlib, says UN

  • Human rights activists say tens of thousands of Syrians are held in regime jails across the country
  • More than 350,000 people have been killed since Syria’s civil war started in 2011

BEIRUT: A battle between Syrian regime forces and opposition fighters for the northwestern Idlib province could affect the lives of more than 1 million children, many of whom live in refugee camps, the UN’s children’s agency warned on Friday.
Food, water, and medicine are already in short supply in the largely rural province, which is now home to over 1 million Syrians displaced from their homes by regime offensives in other parts of the country, said UNICEF.
The agency said a battle for Idlib, the last major bastion for Syria’s political and military opposition, would exacerbate an already dire humanitarian situation there and potentially displace 350,000 children.
The regime forces dropped leaflets across the province on Thursday, urging residents to reconcile with its rule. Officials have warned that the regime will take back the province by force if necessary.
There are 2.9 million people living in Idlib and surrounding opposition-held areas, according to UN estimates.
“War cannot be allowed to go to Idlib,” said Jan Egeland, a top UN humanitarian adviser on Syria.
The UN has appealed on Turkey to open its border to refugees, should the regime decides to attack the province, Egeland said.
Separately, a pro-regime daily Al-Watan said Thursday that Syria’s civil registries recorded 68,000 deaths in the war-torn country in 2017.
“Last year, we confirmed 68,000 without specifying the nature of their death and 32,000 this year,” civil registries chief Ahmad Rahal said.
He did not provide any additional details about those who had died, including in what part of Syria they had lost their lives or whether they had been victims of the ongoing conflict.
Thursday’s news come after activists accused authorities of quietly updating civil records to mark detainees in regime jails as “deceased” — some backdated by several years.
Human rights activists say tens of thousands of Syrians are held in regime jails across the country.
Relatives and advocates say they are often tortured, denied a fair trial, and deprived of contact with their families.
But Rahal said employees at the civil record did not have a “missing” box to tick.
“If a document comes through from any government body — whether a hospital or another — to confirm a death, it is confirmed without specifying if they were missing or not.”
The Syrian Network for Human Rights has documented around 400 cases in recent months where civil registry employees have told family members that their detained relative has died.
There could be further such instances which are yet to be documented.
Around 80,000 remain forcibly disappeared by the regime, the rights group says.
More than 350,000 people have been killed since Syria’s civil war started in 2011, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor says.
More than 33,000 were killed last year alone, including more than 10,000 civilians and 7,000 pro-regime fighters, it says.
During the first seven months of this year, at least 14,000 people lost their lives among them more than 5,000 civilians and 7,000 soldiers and loyalists.


Israel locks down Ramallah after two soldiers shot dead

Updated 14 December 2018
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Israel locks down Ramallah after two soldiers shot dead

  • The bloodshed began when Israeli forces shot dead two Palestinians
  • Hours later, a Palestinian gunman killed two Israeli soldiers and wounded a third

AMMAN: Israel was accused on Thursday of humiliating Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas by placing Ramallah on virtual lockdown amid a 24-hour outbreak of violence in which five people died.

The bloodshed began when Israeli forces shot dead two Palestinians suspected of earlier attacks. Salah Barghouti, 29, was accused of shooting seven Israelis on Sunday at a bus station near the Ofra settlement. Ashraf Naalwa, 23, shot two Israelis dead in the Barkan industrial zone settlement in October.

Hours later, a Palestinian gunman killed two Israeli soldiers and wounded a third when he opened fire at the Ofra bus station.

Israeli forces chased the gunman into Ramallah, where they set up road blocks, launched raids and placed the town under virtual siege. In the hunt for the gunman, a Palestinian was shot dead in Al-Bireh neighborhood of Ramallah.

Abbas Zaki, a leading Fatah official, told Arab News Palestinian frustration was being fueled by Israel. “They barged into Ramallah in violation of existing agreements and came very close to the home of President Abbas.

“What more do people need to see to let them give up on a process when Israelis are willing to humiliate in such a way the father of Palestinian peace?”

Abbas himself condemned the anti-Israeli attacks but blamed Israeli raids as a potential cause.

“The climate created by the policy of repeated intrusions into the cities, the provocations against the sovereignty of the president and the lack of a horizon for peace are what led to this unacceptable violence that we condemn and reject,” he said.