Syrian rebels shoot down government warplane in northwest

Syrian government soldiers intensified their fighting in the past days. (File/AFP)
Updated 14 August 2019

Syrian rebels shoot down government warplane in northwest

  • Syrian army captured 5 villages, including Tel Aas and Kfar Eean
  • Syrian military media said they fought Al-Qaeda-linked militants

BEIRUT: Rebels shot down a Syrian warplane in the opposition stronghold of Idlib province on Wednesday as Russian-backed government forces closed in on a strategically important town, rebel sources and a war monitor said.
A pilot who ejected from the plane was captured, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which reports on the war using a network of sources. Syrian state media made no initial mention of such an incident.
The hard-line extremists Tahrir Al-Sham, the most powerful insurgent group in the area, said its fighters had shot down a Sukhoi 22 jet that had taken off from a Syrian air base in Homs province.
The jet was downed near Khan Sheikhoun, a rebel-held town that was hit by a sarin gas attack in 2017 and is now being targeted in a Russian-backed government offensive.
Government forces seized new ground from rebels near Khan Sheikhoun on Wednesday, advancing to within a few kilometers (miles) of the town. A rebel commander told Reuters that the town, in opposition hands since 2014, was in “great danger.”
Dozens of people were killed in Khan Sheikhoun in 2017 in the poison gas attack that prompted President Donald Trump to order a missile strike against the Syrian air base from where the United States said it had been launched.
An investigation conducted by the United Nations and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said the Syrian government was responsible for releasing sarin on the town on April 4, 2017. Damascus denies using such weapons.
Syrian rebels have shot down government planes on several occasions during the war that spiralled out of the uprising against President Bashar Assad in 2011.
Tahrir Al-Sham’s statement did not say how the plane had been shot down. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said heavy machine guns had been used.
The northwestern Idlib region is part of the last major stronghold of the opposition to President Assad.
Assad’s side had struggled to make any gains in the area in an offensive that got under way in late April. But since the collapse of a brief cease-fire this month, it has managed to take several significant positions, including the town of Al-Habeet on Saturday.
The advance toward Khan Sheikhoun threatens to encircle the last remaining pocket of rebel-held territory in neighboring Hama province, including the towns of Morek, Kafr Zeita and Latamneh.
The humanitarian adviser to the UN Special Envoy for Syria said the new surge in violence in the northwest threatened the lives of millions after more than 500 civilians were killed since late April.
Tahrir Al-Sham is the latest incarnation of the group formerly known as the Nusra Front, which was Al-Qaeda’s official wing in the Syrian conflict until they parted ways in 2016.
The group is designated as a terrorist organization by the UN Security Council.


Grand Egyptian Museum symbol of Japan cooperation

Updated 20 August 2019

Grand Egyptian Museum symbol of Japan cooperation

  • The museum will house thousands of monuments and artifacts including mummies

CAIRO: The Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM), set to open in 2022, is already a beacon for future Egyptian prosperity.

Built to showcase Egypt’s civilization and heritage, the museum will house thousands of monuments and artifacts including mummies, as well as housing a very important restoration center which will help in preserving Egyptian Pharaonic heritage.

It is hoped the GEM will boost tourism, and act as beacon of a new, forward-facing nation in the aftermath of several years of political upheaval, and centuries of losing its treasures overseas.

Egypt began work on the museum in 2008 at a cost of approximately $550 million, with the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities funding $100 million, with the remainder facilitated through a loan from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), in addition to local and international donations.

Covering the third phase of the build, Japanese support was not limited to the loan, but extended to the financial and technical support of the museum’s preservation and conservation center. 

Moreover, Japan currently supports the museum’s archaeological database and the team chosen to cultivate and manage it. 

The JICA also organizes a program that holds several restoration training sessions in both Egypt and Japan, in partnership with the Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties. 

Egypt’s Ambassador to Japan Ayman Kamel talked about the details of Japan’s participation in constructing the GEM.

“This project, which was launched years ago, is a success story in Egyptian-Japanese bilateral relations,” Kamel said.

BACKGROUND

It is hoped the Grand Egyptian Museum will boost tourism, and act as beacon of a new, forward-facing nation in the aftermath of several years of political upheaval, and centuries of losing its treasures overseas.

He added that Japan contributed in supporting one of the Egyptian centers specializing in monument restoration, providing “unmatched” Japanese eco-friendly materials and technology. 

Kamel predicted that following its inauguration, the GEM would be a source of pride not only for Egypt and Japan but also for the whole world.

“The final inauguration will take place in 2022 when all construction operations are completed.”

Japan’s Ambassador to Egypt Masaki Noke said the GEM was a “huge project that transfers heritage to the coming generations” and hailed Egypt for carrying out “this huge archaeological project.” 

Noke added that the Japanese were very happy to participate in this huge achievement which he considered of paramount importance “not only on the economic level but also on the human level in general.”

Around 42,000 Japanese tourists visited Egypt in 2018, adding to an increasingly large community of Japanese residents, and a sizable presence of archaeological missions working in the country.  

Egyptian archaeological expert Ahmed Kadry told Arab News that there are currently 10 Japanese archaeological missions in Egypt with universities and institutions.

Kadry said that the GEM’s inauguration in 2022 will change the perspective of museum tourism the world over, and hailed to work of Japanese and Egyptian archaeologists for their work in the field of diagnostic examination of monuments by using hand-held devices called XRFs, a primary examination machine using X-rays.

He added the results of such examinations provided useful information regarding the preparation of painted layers “which help in not only deepening the understanding of the condition of murals once they are restored but also in conducting more research to gain more knowledge in the field of archaeology.”

In July 2018, Dr. Tadayuki Hara, an associate professor and senior research fellow at the Institute for Tourism Studies, gave a lecture on how to improve the value of touristic assets in Egypt at the Japanese Embassy in Cairo, where he cited the importance of the GEM in Egypt’s future.

“Revenues can be created through great memories,” Dr. Hara said. “That can be achieved through the GEM, the project that Japan is taking part in constructing.”