Aid workers reach remote Syrian camp for 1st time

A convoy of vehicles of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent driving in the Syrian desert heading to Rukban camp between the Jordan and Syria borders, Sunday, Nov. 4, 2018. (Syrian Arab Red Crescent via AP)
Updated 04 November 2018
0

Aid workers reach remote Syrian camp for 1st time

DAMASCUS: UN officials and volunteers from the Syrian Arab Red Crescent offered children vaccinations and distributed desperately needed aid on Sunday, the first such assistance since January to reach thousands in a remote camp for the displaced on Syria’s border with Jordan.
Residents said that teams from international organizations entered their desolate camp for the first time since it was set up over three years ago, where nearly 50,000 have been stranded in limbo.
Fadwa Baroud of the United Nations Office of the Resident Coordinator said it was the first time a UN aid convoy had accessed Rukban camp from inside Syria. She said aid workers were in the Rukban area.
Before January, aid only reached the camp from Jordan and aid workers were barred from accessing the camp because of security concerns.
The Arab Syrian Red Crescent and the United Nations posted pictures of staff unloading trucks of life-saving assistance and administering vaccines to children.
Residents posed with the aid trucks driving through the desolate camp, where 10,000 children are expected to be vaccinated.
The US-led coalition fighting against Daesh militants said its local allies, a Syrian armed group known as Maghawir Al-Thawra, provided security for the aid convoys.
Resident Abdul-Fatah Al-Khaled, who also runs a camp school, said aid workers, including UN staff, were on the ground at the camp for the first time.
“Before (January) the aid used to be distributed from the Jordanian side over the sand berms” or by rebel groups who resided in the camp, Al-Khaled said.
Al-Khaled said distribution of food and winter clothes began late Saturday.
People started gathering in Rukban three years ago, fleeing Daesh militants and airstrikes by the US-led coalition, Russia and Syria. Jordan sealed its border and stopped regular aid deliveries in 2016 after a cross-border Daesh attack that killed seven Jordanian soldiers. The attack, and other violence, fueled accusations that militants were hiding among camp residents and raised concern that deteriorating humanitarian conditions amounted to collective punishment.
The last aid delivery from Jordan was in January, leaving the camp’s residents dependent on goods largely smuggled from government-held areas. The situation sharply deteriorated after the Syrian government blocked supply routes last month following a botched reconciliation deal with rebel groups in the area.
Russia, a close ally of the Syrian government, has blamed the US for the deterioration of the situation in Rukban, which is within a 55-square kilometer (20 sq. mile) “deconfliction zone” set up by US forces stationed in the nearby Tanf military base.
The US-led coalition has denied such allegations and blamed Russia and the Syrian government instead.
“We continue to stand ready to enable future delivery of UN humanitarian relief to the people of Rukban until they are able to return home as we pursue our mission of an enduring defeat of (Daesh),” said Maj. Gen. (UK) Christopher Ghika, a deputy commander for the US-led Coalition.
The UN said aid deliveries would continue for up to four days, describing the condition in the camp as “critical” with reported shortages of basic commodities, protection concerns and increasing violence.
At least four people have died in the past month due to malnutrition and lack of medical care as regional powers traded blame.
Also on Sunday, the US-led coalition conducted joint patrols with the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces along the borders with Turkey, the second this week following increased tension after Turkish artillery shelled Kurdish positions in northeast Syria.
“Sunday’s joint patrol with the SDF is the second of the week, after the first one was conducted by US forces on Friday,” Col. Sean Ryan, the coalition spokesman, told The Associated Press in an email. “The US forces’ assurance patrols enables us to maintain safety and security in the region, but are not carried out on a routine basis.”
Senior Kurdish official Ilham Ahmed said the patrols were conducted along the borders with Turkey in Ras Al-Ayn, Tal Abiyad and Manbij.
In recent tension, Turkey said its military shelled Kurdish positions across the border in Syria, east of the Euphrates River, at least twice last week, in an area where US-led coalition are based.
Turkey considers the Kurdish militia that forms the backbone of SDF a terror threat and an extension of Kurdish rebels waging an insurgency within Turkey. US support for the Kurdish-led forces has resulted in increased tension between Washington and Ankara.
Separately on Sunday, the Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad told the pro-government daily Al-Watan that Syria would cooperate with the new UN envoy Geir Pederson if he avoids the “methods” of his predecessor, commits to the country’s territorial integrity and stops supporting “terrorists, as his predecessor did.”
Pedersen succeeds Staffan de Mistura, who steps down this month after four years of unsuccessful peace efforts.


Sudan protesters plan march on parliament, more demos

Updated 19 January 2019
0

Sudan protesters plan march on parliament, more demos

KHARTOUM: A group that is spearheading anti-government protests across Sudan on Saturday said it plans to launch more nationwide rallies over the next few days, including a march on parliament.
Protests have rocked Sudan since December 19, when the government raised the price of bread, and since then have escalated into rallies against President Omar Al-Bashir’s three-decade rule.
The Sudanese Professionals Association, an umbrella group of trade unions, in a statement called for a march on parliament Sunday to submit to lawmakers a memorandum calling for Bashir to step aside.
“We are calling for a march to parliament in Omdurman on Sunday,” it said referring to Khartoum’s twin city where parliament is located.
“The protesters will submit to parliament a memorandum calling on President Bashir to step down,” added the association, which represents the unions of doctors, teachers and engineers.
Over the past month, protesters have staged several demonstrations in Omdurman, on the west bank of the Nile.
Officials say at least 26 people, including two security personnel, have died during a month of protests, while rights group Amnesty International last week put the death toll at more than 40.
The group spearheading the protests said there will also be rallies in Khartoum on Sunday, to be followed by night-time demonstrations on Tuesday in the capital and in Omdurman.
“And on Thursday there will be rallies across all towns and cities of Sudan,” the statement added.
On Friday, hundreds of mourners leaving the funeral of a protester had staged a spontaneous demonstration in the capital’s Burri district, while crowds of Muslim worshippers had launched another rally in a mosque in Omdurman, witnesses said.
Protesters chanting “freedom, peace, justice” have been confronted by riot police with tear gas at several rallies since the first protest erupted in the eastern town of Atbara on December 19 after the rise of bread price.
The government’s tough response has sparked international criticism, while Bashir has blamed the violence on unidentified “conspirators.”
Analysts say the protests have emerged as the biggest challenge to the veteran leader’s rule who swept to power in 1989 in an Islamist-backed coup.
The protests come as Sudan suffers from an economic crisis driven by an acute shortage of foreign currency and soaring inflation that has more than doubled the price of food and medicines.