Syria Kurds return 25 Yazidis freed from IS to Iraq

Syrian Kurds repatriated 25 women and children from Iraq’s Yazidi minority after freeing them during the final push against Daesh. (AFP)
Updated 13 April 2019
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Syria Kurds return 25 Yazidis freed from IS to Iraq

QAZLAJOKH, Syria: Syrian Kurds on Saturday repatriated 25 women and children from Iraq’s Yazidi minority after freeing them during the final push against Daesh, a local official said.
The US-backed fighters say they rescued some 300 Yazidi women and children during the fight to take the militants’ last scrap of territory in eastern Syria.
“Today, we will hand over 25 people — 10 women and 15 children — to the Yazidi council in Sinjar,” said Ziyad Rustam, an official with the Kurdish-run group Yazidi House, which reunites rescued Yazidi children with surviving relatives.
“They will be sent to their families,” he told AFP.
At the Yazidi House headquarters in a village near the northeastern Syrian city of Qamishli, women wearing colorful robes collected children scampering around the compound before boarding busses bound for Sinjar, the Yazidi heartland in Iraq.
“The fate of my three sisters remains unknown... I don’t know anything about them,” said 17-year-old Jamila Haidar.
“I hope we will be reunited soon.”
Iraq’s Yazidis are a symbol of the suffering caused by Daesh during its rein over vast swathes of Syria and Iraq.
The militants stormed through Iraq’s northwest in 2014 slaughtering thousands of men and boys and abducting women and girls to be abused as sex slaves.
But they have since lost all of the once-sprawling cross-border “caliphate” to multiple offensive.
The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces last month announced the defeat of the Daesh proto-state after tens of thousands of people streamed out of the militants’ last patch of territory, around the village of Baghouz near the Iraqi border.
Rustam said SDF had in total liberated 850 Yazidi women and children during its battles against Daesh since 2015.
But 3,040 Yazidis are still missing, he said, adding that the search for them was ongoing.
Rustam said the militants had “sold many of them to people inside Syria, in places like Idlib,” most of which is held by a former Al-Qaeda affiliate.
Some of the Yazidis extracted from Daesh’s last sliver of territory are being held at the Kurdish-run Al-Hol camp, which also houses militant family members.


Air raids kill 12 civilians in militant-held Syrian town: monitor

Updated 22 May 2019
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Air raids kill 12 civilians in militant-held Syrian town: monitor

  • The militant-dominated Idlib region is nominally protected by a buffer zone deal
  • The Observatory said they have no proof of the chemical attacks

BEIRUT: Air strikes by Damascus or its ally Moscow killed 12 civilians in a market in Syria’s Idlib province, a monitor said Wednesday, and denied allegations that the government used chemical weapons.

Another 18 people were wounded when the warplanes hit the militant-held town of Maarat Al-Numan around midnight on Tuesday, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
The market was crowded with people out and about after breaking the daytime fast observed by Muslims during the holy month of Ramadan.

The Observatory said it had no evidence to suggest the Syrian army had carried out a new chemical attack despite Washington’s announcement it had suspicions.

“We have no proof at all of the attack,” Rami Abdul Rahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, told AFP.

“We have not documented any chemical attack in the mountains of Latakia,” he said.
The air strikes in Idlib came as heavy clashes raged in the north of neighboring Hama province after the militants launched a counterattack on Tuesday against pro-government forces in the town of Kafr Nabuda.
Fresh fighting on Wednesday took the death toll to 52 — 29 troops and militia and 23 militants, the Observatory said.
It said that the militants had retaken most of the town from government forces who recaptured it on May 8.
The militant-dominated Idlib region is nominally protected by a buffer zone deal, but the regime and its Russian ally have escalated their bombardment of it in recent weeks, seizing several towns on its southern flank.
A militant alliance led by Syria’s former Al-Qaeda affiliate, Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham, controls a large part of Idlib province as well as adjacent slivers of Aleppo, Hama and Latakia provinces.

The northern mountains are the only part of Latakia province, on Syria’s Mediterranean coast, that are not firmly in the hands of the government.

The Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham accused government forces on Sunday of launching a chlorine gas attack on its fighters in the north of Latakia province.

The Syrian army dismissed the reports as a fabrication, a military source told the pro-government Al-Watan newspaper.

But the US State Department said on Tuesday it was assessing indications that the government of president Bashar Assad used chemical weapons on Sunday.

“There were no civilians in the area,” Abdel Rahman said.

White Helmets rescue volunteers, who have reported past chemical attacks in rebel-held areas of Syria, told AFP Wednesday that they had no information on the purported gas attack.

International inspectors say Assad’s forces have carried out a series of chemical attacks during the Syrian civil war, which has killed more than 370,000 people and displaced millions since it started in 2011.
Russia and rebel ally Turkey inked the buffer zone deal in September to avert a government offensive on the region which threatened humanitarian disaster for its three million residents.
President Bashar Assad’s government has renewed its bombardment of the region since HTS took control in January.
Russia too has stepped up its air strikes in recent weeks as Turkey proved unable to secure implementation of the truce deal by the militants.
The Observatory says more than 180 civilians have been killed in the flare-up since April 30, and the United Nations has said tens of thousands have fled their homes.