US ends anti-Daesh operation in Libya’s Sirte

US ends anti-Daesh operation in Libya’s Sirte
Body bags are seen on the ground after being pulled from under the rubble by the Libyan Red Crescent in Sirte on Dec.20, 2016, after pro-government Libyan forces drove the Daesh group out of its Libyan stronghold earlier this month. (AFP / MAHMUD TURKIA)
Updated 22 December 2016

US ends anti-Daesh operation in Libya’s Sirte

US ends anti-Daesh operation in Libya’s Sirte

WASHINGTON: The US military has officially ended operations in a former Daesh bastion in Libya, officials announced.
The Pentagon had launched Operation Odyssey Lightning to help local forces push the militants from the coastal city of Sirte on Aug. 1.
“In partnership with the Libyan Government of National Accord, the operation succeeded in its core objective of enabling GNA-aligned forces to drive Daesh out of Sirte,” the US military’s Africa Command said in a statement.
US drones, gunships and warplanes had hammered Daesh positions, conducting a total of 495 strikes.
“We are proud to have supported this campaign to eliminate ISIL’s hold over the only city it has controlled outside Iraq and Syria,” Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook told reporters.
Officials said the United States would continue to strike Daesh militants if the Libyan unity government asked for help in doing so.
Unity government leader Fayez Al-Sarraj on Saturday announced that military operations in Sirte were done, but Daesh still has fighters in Libya and on Sunday conducted a suicide attack in Benghazi.
The fall of Sirte — Qaddafi’s home town located 450 kilometers (280 miles) east of Tripoli — is a major setback for Daesh, which has also faced military defeats in Syria and Iraq.
Libya descended into chaos following the NATO-backed ousting of former ruler Muammar Qaddafi in 2011, with rival administrations emerging and well-armed militias vying for control of its vast oil wealth.


Syrian White Helmets given funds to make PPE 

Syrian White Helmets given funds to make PPE 
Updated 46 min 52 sec ago

Syrian White Helmets given funds to make PPE 

Syrian White Helmets given funds to make PPE 
  • With millions living in tents across country’s northwest, threat of COVID-19 is severe
  • $1.6m awarded by non-profit organization funded by UK, US, Canadian, Dutch governments

LONDON: Syria’s White Helmets, the civilian rescue group that recovers victims from rubble after airstrikes in the war-torn country, is now making personal protective equipment (PPE) to further its life-saving mission.
The civil defense service, which has worked to reduce the harm of indiscriminate shelling from the Assad regime, has received a $1.6 million award for the production of PPE from a non-profit organization funded by the UK, US, Canadian and Dutch governments.
Funds from the Humanitarian Grand Challenge group have led to the creation of a PPE-producing facility that has manufactured some 2 million masks.
It is also producing protective gowns and face shields — key equipment in the fight against COVID-19 — and handling the disposal of used PPE for northwest Syria’s population, who live in a precarious area that is predominantly out of the regime’s control. 
“The COVID-19 pandemic was the most difficult challenge the White Helmets faced in 2020,” said Munir Mustafa, its deputy general manager for humanitarian affairs.
“We witnessed the spread of the virus in north-western Syria among humanitarian workers and medical personnel, while the global pandemic made cross-borders logistics almost impossible.”
The White Helmets has enhanced community efforts to keep people safe from COVID-19 amid pressing security challenges.
“Our volunteers and fellow humanitarians, health care providers and other essential workers are safer now and can continue caring for Syrian civilians and responding to the pandemic,” Mustafa said.
The White Helmets, established in 2014, was originally formed for search-and-rescue efforts and to broaden the provision of first responders. It claims to have saved some 120,000 lives.
Its role has developed as challenges facing the Syrian people have grown. Violence in the country has demolished health care facilities, decimating communities and cutting off millions from crucial medical care. 
The bombing of civilian areas has forced many to flee to temporary refugee facilities that are often cramped and in poor condition.
With millions living in tents across the country’s northwest, the threat of COVID-19 is severe.
Around 500 cases of COVID-19 are being recorded per day in northwest Syria, but experts say the true number is much higher due to inadequate testing infrastructure.
The Humanitarian Grand Challenge said: “The White Helmets’ ability to manufacture and distribute personal protective equipment inside Syria will not only protect those working in the overwhelmed health system, but reduce the spread of the virus among the most vulnerable.”