Stranded Syrian refugees braced for ‘killer’ storm

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A Syrian refugee hangs clothes to dry at a flooded refugee camp in the town of Bar Elias, in the Bekaa Valley, Lebanon. (AP)
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Syrian refugees use a floating piece of wood to move around after heavy rain caused flooding at a refugee camp. (AP)
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Syrian refugees stand in a pool of mud and rain water at a refugee camp, in the town of Bar Elias. (AP)
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Syrian refugee's tents are reflected in a pool of rain water at a refugee camp in the town of Bar Elias, in the Bekaa Valley, Lebanon. (AP)
Updated 10 January 2019
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Stranded Syrian refugees braced for ‘killer’ storm

  • Agency launches emergency aid operation

BEIRUT: Emergency relief operations are underway in Lebanon in a desperate bid to prevent thousands of Syrian refugees freezing to death as another icy storm heads their way.
Aid workers fear that a blizzard, forecast to sweep across the country, poses a serious threat to the lives of up to 70,000 refugees living in makeshift camps.
Gihan El-Kaissi, executive director of the Union of Relief and Development Associations (URDA), told Arab News: “The majority of Syrian refugee camps are in the coldest parts of Lebanon. Even if every refugee could shelter under 10 blankets, they would still freeze to death without fuel oil for heating.” 
Snow storms that battered Lebanon last week destroyed plastic tents, leaving 11,000 refugees with no shelter and many enduring temperatures as low as minus 10. In Miniyeh, in northern Lebanon, a 10-year-old girl died after being washed away in floods. 
Around 850 refugee camps have been set up throughout Lebanon, housing an estimated 40,000 children.
El-Kaissi said: “We have emergency plans in place to distribute fuel oil, blankets and mattresses as a priority. We are also working hard to mend damaged tents and have begun sending out awnings to be placed over them.” She added that many children had nothing to wear on their feet and hundreds of pairs of shoes were being dispatched to camps.
In the Lebanese border town of Arsal, male refugees were reported to be working around the clock to clear snow off tents and erect wooden supports to prevent the flimsy structures from collapsing.
Abu Mohammed, a Syrian refugee from Qusayr, said most people who had fled from his town wished to return to Syria, but he said they were being prevented by the Syrian authorities.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) representative in Lebanon, Mireille Girard, told Arab News that a lack of official refugee camps in Lebanon was adding to the crisis.
She said 20 percent of refugees in Lebanon were living in camps set up in areas vulnerable to flooding, while many others lived in part-built houses, basements and garages. Hundreds of families had been forced to move into makeshift camps because they could not afford to rent apartments, Girard said. 
She added that UNHCR officials were in constant discussions with the Lebanese authorities over the plight of Syrian refugees. “They (the refugees) are not waiting for a plan to reconstruct Syria. They want to return to their country and their homes,” she said. 
The agency now has eight offices in Syria to help support families returning there.


Security tops agenda as Iraqi PM visits Egypt in first foreign trip

Updated 23 March 2019
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Security tops agenda as Iraqi PM visits Egypt in first foreign trip

  • After meeting Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, Abdul Mahdi highlighted “the importance of drying up the sources of terrorism”
  • The visit to Egypt is Abdul Mahdi’s first trip abroad since taking office in October

CAIRO: Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi sought Egypt’s support for efforts to tackle extremist militants in the region during a visit to Cairo on Saturday, his first trip abroad since taking office in October.
After meeting Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, Abdul Mahdi highlighted “the importance of drying up the sources of terrorism” and said “cooperation between Egypt and Iraq will be essential for this matter,” according to an official statement.
His comments came as US-backed forces said they had captured Daesh’s last shred of territory in eastern Syria at Baghouz, ending its territorial rule over a self-proclaimed caliphate straddling Syria and Iraq after years of fighting.
Though the defeat ends the group’s grip over the extremist quasi-state that it declared in 2014, it remains a threat.
Some Daesh fighters still hold out in Syria’s remote central desert and in Iraqi cities they have slipped into the shadows, staging sudden shootings or kidnappings and awaiting a chance to rise again.
The United States thinks the group’s leader, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, is in Iraq.
Defeating militants in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula and restoring security after years of unrest has been a key promise of El-Sisi, the general-turned-president who came to power a year after the military overthrew Islamist President Mohammed Mursi in 2013.
Egypt has fought an insurgency waged by a Daesh affiliate in North Sinai since 2013. Hundreds of members of the security forces have been killed.