Syria extends air campaign on Aleppo region: activists

Syria extends air campaign on Aleppo region: activists
Updated 22 December 2013

Syria extends air campaign on Aleppo region: activists

Syria extends air campaign on Aleppo region: activists

BEIRUT: Syrian warplanes pounded northern Aleppo for a fifth consecutive day Thursday, unleashing their firepower against several rebel-held villages in the province, activists and a monitoring group said.
The latest attacks have killed at least 11 people in just two of the targeted villages, among them four women and two children, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
“After four days of helicopters dropping barrel bombs on Aleppo city, the regime changed the direction of its raids and struck the village of Tal Alam near Sfeira” southeast of Syria’s second city, the Aleppo Media Center said on Facebook.
Another activist network in the province, Shahba Press, reported air raids on Daret Ezza, Marea, Minbej and Anadan north of Aleppo city.
The villages targeted have been rebel-held for more than a year and have suffered frequent bombing.
But activists called Thursday’s raids an extension of a deadly five-day aerial campaign against the provincial capital itself.
The Observatory also reported the attacks, adding that the Aleppo area of Sheikh Najjar was hit with makeshift barrel bombs which are packed with TNT and are highly destructive.
The Britain-based group also updated its toll from warplane and barrel bomb attacks on Aleppo city to 161 people killed between Sunday and Thursday.
On Thursday alone, at least 11 others were killed in Minbej and Daret Ezza, said the Britain-based group.
Doctors Without Borders (MSF) had reported more than 189 killed by Wednesday evening from such attacks in Aleppo city alone.
Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said it would be difficult, “if not impossible,” for the regime’s military to advance on opposition areas of the country’s former commercial hub.
“But I think it is trying to make the population turn against the rebels, so that the people themselves expel the fighters,” he said.
One Syrian security source has denied that barrel bombs have been used against what the regime calls “terrorists,” but another said the military prefers such weapons over missiles because they are cheaper.
Aleppo has been locked in a stalemate for more than a year, since a massive rebel advance on the provincial capital in July 2012.
Parts of the city have remained squarely under regime control ever since, while others have been in opposition hands.
Fighting between rebels and forces loyal to President Bashar Assad, including paramilitaries and officers from Lebanon’s Hezbollah, also raged on the ground in Aleppo city, the Observatory said.
Syria’s war is estimated to have killed more than 126,000 people in 33 months, and forced millions more to flee their homes.


Yemeni teacher’s union slams Houthi curriculum takeover

Yemeni teacher’s union slams Houthi curriculum takeover
Yemeni children of all ages are exposed to violent imagery in Houthi educational materials. (Reuters/File)
Updated 7 min 2 sec ago

Yemeni teacher’s union slams Houthi curriculum takeover

Yemeni teacher’s union slams Houthi curriculum takeover
  • Teachers syndicate accuses Iran of ‘policy of cultural colonialism’ in Yemen via Houthi proxies
  • ‘Houthis far more interested in radicalizing than homogeneous education,’ expert tells Arab News

LONDON: Yemen’s union of teachers has denounced the Iran-backed Houthi militia’s takeover of the country’s schools and curriculum, and accused Tehran of using the education system to pursue a “policy of cultural colonialism.” 

Yahya Al-Yinai, head of media at the Yemeni Teachers Syndicate, told the Daily Telegraph that the Houthis have made hundreds of changes to the teaching curriculum since they seized power in a violent 2014 coup. He also said they have replaced nearly 90 percent of school principals with pro-Houthi allies.

Al-Yinai accused Iran of overseeing the changes, saying it is pursuing a “policy of cultural colonialism” by trying to introduce the “ideology of the Khomeinist revolution in Yemen through public education.”

With military and economic assistance from Iran, the Houthis control roughly two-thirds of the Yemeni population.

A report by education watchdog IMPACT-se found that they have been using this position of power to foster hostility to the US, Saudi Arabia and other adversaries of Iran.

Around 3 million young Yemenis currently receive their education in Houthi-controlled parts of the country.

IMPACT-se found that the materials used to educate them are “rife with violence and imagery of death, irrespective of the age of the target audience.”

These images, which include pictures of dead children, are used “to portray the Houthis’ enemies as monstrous and inhumane.”

The organization found that through their signature magazine Jihad, the Houthis aim to indoctrinate Yemen’s next generation toward violence and extremism.

“The Houthi materials grossly violate the ideal of peacemaking, entirely dismissing peace as an option in international conflict resolution, and condemning those who advocate for it as cowardly, foolish or traitorous,” IMPACT-se found. 

“Instead, violent jihad, sacrifice in battle, and supporting the war effort in any way possible is held up as an ideal and a central virtue.” 

Marcus Sheff, IMPACT-se’s CEO, told Arab News: “Despite lip service to Yemeni nationhood, the Houthis are far more interested in radicalizing than in homogeneous education.”

He said the violent and graphic Houthi education materials could have a lasting impact on children exposed to them.

“Any changes that radicalize — and traumatize — young children are significant,” he added. “These changes fly in the face of those in the region who are trying to moderate curricula, not to incite violence and hate, as are the Houthis.”

Arik Agrissi, chief operating officer at IMPACT-se, said: “Textbooks can act as either a barrier or blueprint to radicalization. In the Houthis’ case, it’s explicitly the latter.”


Egyptian architects win UNESCO competition to rebuild Mosul’s Al-Nouri Mosque

The winning design, which is called “Courtyards Dialogue,” is the work of a team of four partners, headed up by Salah El-Din Samir Hareedy. (Supplied/UNESCO/©Salah El Din Samir Hareedy and team)
The winning design, which is called “Courtyards Dialogue,” is the work of a team of four partners, headed up by Salah El-Din Samir Hareedy. (Supplied/UNESCO/©Salah El Din Samir Hareedy and team)
Updated 13 min 32 sec ago

Egyptian architects win UNESCO competition to rebuild Mosul’s Al-Nouri Mosque

The winning design, which is called “Courtyards Dialogue,” is the work of a team of four partners, headed up by Salah El-Din Samir Hareedy. (Supplied/UNESCO/©Salah El Din Samir Hareedy and team)

LONDON: UNESCO has announced the winner of an architectural design competition to rebuild a historic mosque destroyed by Daesh in Iraq.

Eight Egyptian architects beat out more than 120 other entries to win the international competition for the reconstruction of the Al-Nouri Mosque complex in Mosul.

The mosque was mostly destroyed by the extremist group in 2017 as Iraqi forces fought to recapture the city.

The reconstruction of the mosque is a central part of UNESCO’s “Revive the Spirit of Mosul” project, which aims to rehabilitate the ancient city, which was heavily affected by the recent conflict.

(Supplied/UNESCO/©Salah El Din Samir Hareedy and team)

The winning design, called “Courtyards Dialogue,” is the work of a team of four partners, headed up by Salah El-Din Samir Hareedy.

“The reconstruction of Al-Nouri Mosque complex, a historical site that is part of Mosul’s fabric and history, will be a landmark in the process of advancing the war-torn city’s reconciliation and social cohesion,” Audrey Azoulay, UNESCO director-general said. “Heritage sites and historical monuments are powerful catalysts for people’s sense of belonging, of community, and identity. They are key to reviving the spirit of Mosul and of Iraq as a whole.”

The UAE has been heavily involved with the reconstruction of the mosque and the “Revive the Spirit of Mosul” project overall, and the country's culture minister said the announement was a “significant milestone.”

“In 2018, the UAE took the lead and joined UNESCO on this historic endeavor, inspired by the history and legacy of Mosul and the resilience and strength of its people,” Noura bint Mohammed Al Kaabi said. 

“Reaching this important milestone has brought us closer to the realization of a shared commitment to restore social cohesion and a spirit of fraternity and tolerance in Mosul once again,” she added.

The mosque, like much of the city of Mosul, was mostly destroyed by the extremist group Daesh in 2017 as Iraqi forces fought to recapture the city. (AFP/File Photo)

The winning team issued a statement welcoming the results of the competition, saying: “Our team worked with high passion to submit a project that primarily addresses the need for social cohesion and revival of souls. We are looking forward to completing the design and to helping the revival of the Old City of Mosul.”

The group of architects have a proven track record in heritage rehabilitation, urban planning and climate-based architecture, and will now produce a more detailed design for the project, with a view to starting work in late autumn 2021.


Palestine slams UK opposition to ICC war crimes probe

Palestine slams UK opposition to ICC war crimes probe
Updated 15 April 2021

Palestine slams UK opposition to ICC war crimes probe

Palestine slams UK opposition to ICC war crimes probe
  • Rejection of investigation ‘marks low point’ in bilateral ties: Diplomatic mission
  • UK stance ‘farcical and hypocritical,’ Palestine Solidarity Campaign tells Arab News

LONDON: Palestine has said its relations with Britain have reached a “new low” after Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced his opposition to an International Criminal Court (ICC) investigation into alleged war crimes in the Israeli-occupied territories.

In a letter to the lobby group Conservative Friends of Israel, Johnson said his government had “respect (for) the independence” of the ICC but opposed the inquiry.

“This investigation gives the impression of being a partial and prejudicial attack on a friend and ally of the UK’s,” he wrote.

In a statement posted on its website, the Palestinian diplomatic mission in Britain said Johnson’s letter was “deeply regrettable” and “marks a low point in UK-Palestine relations and undermines the UK’s credibility on the international stage.”

The letter contradicts both international law and Britain’s own policy on Palestine, the mission said, stressing the need to respect international law for the good of all parties.

“We sincerely hope the UK will reconsider its position and that in the cold light of day understand that the best option for everyone, including Israel, is a firm commitment to international law and the basic principle of equality for all,” it added.

A panel of judges at the ICC ruled in February that the court has jurisdiction in the occupied Palestinian territories. 

The court is expected to look at possible war crimes committed by Israeli forces and Palestinian militants during and after the 2014 Gaza war, as well as Israel’s establishment of settlements in the occupied West Bank and annexed East Jerusalem. 

“Shamefully, Johnson has made clear that the government’s opposition to the ICC’s investigation is rooted in the fact that it’s being initiated against ‘a friend and ally of the UK’s’,” Ben Jamal, director of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, told Arab News.

“It also renders farcical and hypocritical the prime minister’s simultaneous assertion that the UK is ‘a strong supporter’ of the court,” Jamal added.

“We call upon the UK government to adopt a more consistent position supporting the court but not exempting Israeli officials from proper investigation.”
A joint letter penned by several charities and aid groups accused Johnson of “political interference” in the ICC’s work.

The UK government “could be a bastion of international law and human rights — but instead it is undermining international criminal proceedings and standing in the way of justice,” said the signatories, which include Medical Aid for Palestinians and the Council for Arab-British Understanding.

The government “should respect the impartiality and independence of the court, and should support — rather than substantially undermine — international legal frameworks and judicial mechanisms,” they added.


Judge orders release of 6 detained over Lebanon port blast

Judge orders release of 6 detained over Lebanon port blast
Updated 15 April 2021

Judge orders release of 6 detained over Lebanon port blast

Judge orders release of 6 detained over Lebanon port blast
  • Investigating judge ordered the release of 6 men including an officer, who had warned top officials of dangers of material stored at port
  • The six will be banned from traveling outside Lebanon, according to a judicial official

BEIRUT: A Lebanese judge investigating 2020’s massive blast at Beirut’s port on Thursday ordered the release of six people, including security officers, who had been detained for months, state news agency reported.
It was not immediately clear what triggered the release of the men, who include an officer who had written a detailed warning to top officials prior to the explosion about the dangers of the material stored at the port.
Judge Tarek Bitar was named to lead the investigation in February after his predecessor was removed following legal challenges by two former Cabinet ministers he had accused of negligence.
State-run National News Agency said Bitar ordered the release of the six including Maj. Joseph Naddaf of the State Security department and Maj. Charbel Fawaz of the General Security Directorate. The four others are customs and port employees.
Nearly 3,000 tons of ammonium nitrates, a highly explosive material used in fertilizers that had been improperly stored in the port for years, exploded on Aug. 4, killing 211 people, wounding more than 6,000 and damaging nearby neighborhoods.
The six will be banned from traveling outside Lebanon, according to a judicial official, speaking on condition of anonymity to follow regulations. The official added that 19 people are still being held in the case. Among those who are still held are the head of the customs department and his predecessor as well as the port’s director general.
In a July 20 report, State Security warned that one of the doors of the warehouse where the material had been stored was separated from the wall enough to allow anyone to enter and steal the ammonium nitrate.
The report that was sent to President Michel Aoun and then-Prime Minister Hassan Diab warned that thieves could steal the material to make explosives. Or, it said, the mass of material could cause an explosion “that would practically destroy the port.”
Holding Naddaf for months had angered some in Lebanon especially that his report two weeks before the blast was a clear warning of the dangers.
The Beirut port explosion has been one of the most traumatic national experiences the Lebanese have faced and families of those killed are skeptical that any investigation into the explosion can be transparent and independent in a country where a culture of impunity has prevailed for decades.


Lebanon demands Israel halt offshore gas exploration in disputed area

Lebanon demands Israel halt offshore gas exploration in disputed area
Updated 15 April 2021

Lebanon demands Israel halt offshore gas exploration in disputed area

Lebanon demands Israel halt offshore gas exploration in disputed area
  • Talks stalled after Lebanon demanded larger area, including Karish gas field, where Israel has given a Greek firm rights for exploration
  • "Lebanon is within its rights to evolve its position according to its interest and as suitable under international law," Aoun told US envoy Hale

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun demanded Israel on Thursday to halt exploration in an offshore gas field on its southern border amid ongoing dispute over their shared sea frontier.
Still technically at war, the two countries last year took part in indirect US-brokered talks to discuss demarcation to clear the way for offshore oil and gas exploration.
The talks stalled after Lebanon demanded a larger area, including part of the Karish gas field, where Israel has given a Greek firm rights for exploration.
“Lebanon is within its rights to evolve its position according to its interest and as suitable under international law,” Aoun told visiting United States envoy David Hale.
Aoun “demanded international experts... draw the line according to international law,” the presidency said in a statement.
He also called for a “commitment to not carrying out any oil or gas activities and not starting any exploration in the Karish field and its adjacent waters” until the matter was settled.
The talks last year were supposed to discuss a Lebanese demand for 860 square kilometers (330 square miles) of territory in the disputed maritime area, according to a map sent to the United Nations in 2011.
But Lebanon then said the map was based on erroneous calculations and demanded 1,430 square kilometers (552 square miles) more territory further south, including part of Karish.
Lebanon’s outgoing public works minister this week signed a decree to make official Lebanon’s demand for the larger area.
Aoun, the caretaker prime minister, and the outgoing defense minister still have to sign it before Lebanon sends it to the UN to make its new demand official.
For his part, Hale on Thursday said the US was ready to continue brokering Israel-Lebanon talks “on the basis on which we initiated these discussions,” appearing to reject the Lebanese move toward demanding a larger area.