Turkey says Al-Bab almost taken, war monitor cites heavy toll

Turkey says Al-Bab almost taken, war monitor cites heavy toll
A man rests near a damaged house after an airstrike on Al-Yadouda village in Daraa Governorate, Syria. (Reuters)
Updated 18 February 2017

Turkey says Al-Bab almost taken, war monitor cites heavy toll

Turkey says Al-Bab almost taken, war monitor cites heavy toll

ANKARA/BEIRUT: Turkey’s military said on Friday it was close to taking Syria’s Al-Bab from Daesh, but a war monitor said the terrorists still controlled 90 percent of the town itself and that shelling and airstrikes had killed dozens of civilians in recent days.
Al-Bab, a Daesh stronghold 30 km from the Turkish border, has been a prime target since Turkey launched an incursion last August to push the terrorists from its frontier and prevent gains by a Kurdish militia also fighting them.
Taking control of the town would deepen Turkish influence in an area of Syria where it has already effectively created a buffer zone and allow Turkish forces to press on toward Raqqa, Daesh’s de facto capital in Syria.
“The operation to gain complete control of the Al-Bab region has neared its end and the resistance of the Daesh terror group has largely been broken,” the Turkish military statement said.
However, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British-based organization that monitors the war using a network of contacts, said Turkey’s “Euphrates Shield” forces had not made much progress.
Daesh still controls 90 percent of Al-Bab town itself and Turkish shelling and airstrikes had killed 45 civilians, including 18 children, during the past 48 hours, the Observatory said.
Turkish officials have repeatedly said that the Al-Bab operation was taking longer than anticipated because of numbers of civilians still in the town and the care being taken not to harm them. It dropped leaflets on the town as long ago as December urging civilians to seek shelter.
Turkey believes a string of Daesh gun and bomb attacks, including a mass shooting at an Istanbul nightclub on New Year’s Eve, were planned from Al-Bab and Raqqa, and has said clearing the town of militants is a national security priority.
The military statement came as US Marine Corps General and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Joseph Dunford visited the Incirlik air base in southern Turkey, used by the US-led coalition in the fight against Daesh.
Turkey is part of that coalition but relations with NATO ally Washington have been strained by US support for the Kurdish YPG militia in the fight against Daesh.
Turkey views the YPG as a hostile force and an extension of the PKK, a Kurdish militant group that has waged an armed insurgency against the Turkish state for over three decades.
“It is time the US leadership made clear who they are cooperating with in their Syria policy,” a senior Turkish government official told Reuters, when asked about the possibility of US combat troops being deployed to Syria under President Donald Trump.
“US soldiers are present in Syrian territory, and we saw the results. They trained the PKK-YPG, which we call a terrorist organization, gave them weapons and supported terrorist groups.”
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said the next target for the Turkish offensive should be Raqqa but that Arab forces, not the YPG, should be involved.
The Syrian Democratic Forces, an alliance dominated by the YPG, is in the middle of a multi-phased operation to encircle Raqqa, backed by airstrikes and special ground forces from the US-led coalition. 

 


Lebanon extends area claimed in border dispute with Israel

Lebanon extends area claimed in border dispute with Israel
Updated 22 min 43 sec ago

Lebanon extends area claimed in border dispute with Israel

Lebanon extends area claimed in border dispute with Israel
  • Public Works Minister signed a decree amendment that would formally extend Lebanon’s claims by 1,430 square kilometers
  • Lebanon’s unilateral move likely to anger Israel and the U.S. who aren’t expected to recognize the disputed area’s extension

BEIRUT — Lebanon’s outgoing public works minister said Monday that he has signed a decree that would increase the area claimed by the Mediterranean country in a maritime border dispute with Israel.
Public Works Minister Michel Najjar told reporters that he has signed an amendment of the decree that would formally extend Lebanon’s claims by 1,430 square kilometers (550 square miles).
The unilateral move by Lebanon is likely to anger Israel and the US who are not expected to recognize Beirut’s extension of the disputed area.
Lebanon and Israel began indirect talks with US mediation in October to reach a deal over the disputed area that is believed to be rich with oil and natural gas deposits. The meetings that stopped few weeks later were being held at a UN post along the border of the two nations that remain technically in a state of war.
The negotiations were the first non-security talks to be held between the two countries, which have no diplomatic relations following decades of conflict. Resolving the border issue could pave the way for lucrative oil and gas deals on both sides.
In late October, the Lebanese delegation to the talks — a mix of army generals and professionals — offered a new map that pushes for an additional 1,430 square kilometers (550 square miles).
This area is to be included in Lebanese territory on top of the already disputed 860 square kilometer- (330 square mile-) area of the Mediterranean Sea that each side claims is within their own exclusive economic zones.
Najjar said, however, that the decree still required the signatures of the defense minister, prime minister and president to go into effect.
The announcement came as US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale was expected in Lebanon this week to meet Lebanese officials.
Lebanon is passing through its worst economic and financial crisis in its modern history and had plans to start drilling in search for oil and gas in the disputed area this year.
Israel has already developed offshore natural gas rigs, producing enough for domestic consumption and export abroad. Lebanon hopes that its own oil and gas discoveries will help alleviate its long-running economic troubles.
It was not immediately known how the US and Israel would respond to the Lebanese decision.


Syrian regime used chemical weapons in 2018 attack on Saraqib

Syrian regime used chemical weapons in 2018 attack on Saraqib
Updated 12 April 2021

Syrian regime used chemical weapons in 2018 attack on Saraqib

Syrian regime used chemical weapons in 2018 attack on Saraqib
  • Syrian Arab Air Force used the chemical weapon chlorine in an attack on the town of Saraqib in 2018
  • OPCW previously reported that Assad’s air force used the nerve agent sarin and chlorine in two attacks on the village of Lataminah in March 2017

THE HAGUE: The Syrian regime’s air force used the chemical weapon chlorine in an attack on the town of Saraqib in 2018, the global toxic arms watchdog said on Monday after an investigation.
The report is the second by an investigations team set up by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which has the new power to apportion blame for attacks.
The OPCW said in a statement that the Investigations and Identification Team “concludes that units of the Syrian Arab Air Force used chemical weapons in Saraqib on 4 February 2018.”
“The report reached the conclusion that there are reasonable grounds to believe that, at approximately 21:22 on 4 February 2018, a military helicopter of the Syrian Arab Air Force under the control of the Tiger Forces hit eastern Saraqib by dropping at least one cylinder,” the OPCW report said.
“The cylinder ruptured and released chlorine over a large area, affecting 12 named individuals.”
The team issued its first report a year ago, in which it said Syrian President Bashar Assad’s air force used the nerve agent sarin and chlorine in two attacks on the village of Lataminah in March 2017.


34 migrants dead after boat capsizes off Djibouti: IOM

34 migrants dead after boat capsizes off Djibouti: IOM
Updated 12 April 2021

34 migrants dead after boat capsizes off Djibouti: IOM

34 migrants dead after boat capsizes off Djibouti: IOM
  • Survivors reported that the boat capsized in rough seas at around 4:00 am after leaving Yemen with around 60 passengers on board

DJIBOUTI: Thirty-four migrants drowned on Monday after their boat capsized off the coast of Djibouti, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said, the second such accident in just over a month.
Survivors reported that the boat capsized in rough seas at around 4:00 am (0100 GMT) after leaving Yemen with around 60 passengers on board, an IOM official in Djibouti told AFP, asking not to be named.
"The migrants were being transported by people smugglers," Mohammed Abdiker, the IOM's regional director for East Africa and the Horn of Africa, added on Twitter.
"Apprehending and prosecuting people traffickers and smugglers who exploit the vulnerabilities of migrants must become a priority. Too many lives needlessly lost."
There were "many children" among the bodies found, the first official said, adding that survivors were receiving treatment from the IOM and local authorities.
The boat capsized in seas north of the Djibouti port town of Obock, a major transit point for thousands of African migrants in the region trying to reach the Gulf.
It follows a similar accident on March 4 when 20 people drowned after smugglers threw dozens of migrants overboard during a journey between Djibouti and Yemen across the Gulf of Aden.
At least 200 migrants were packed aboard that vessel when it left Djibouti. But about 30 minutes into the voyage the smugglers panicked about the weight on board, and threw 80 people into the sea before turning back towards land.
Two similar incidents in October claimed the lives of at least 50 migrants.
Every year thousands of migrants make perilous boat journeys from the Horn of Africa to war-torn Yemen, many with the aim of travelling overland to Gulf nations in search of work.
It is believed thousands of migrants are stranded in Yemen, where a years-long conflict has claimed tens of thousands of lives and displaced millions in what the UN calls the world's worst humanitarian crisis.
The strait which separates Djibouti from Yemen is unusual in that it sees migrants and refugees passing in both directions -- boatloads of Yemenis fleeing to Africa to escape war, while others head in the opposite direction carrying African migrants to the Arabian Peninsula in search of better opportunities.


Netanyahu says will not allow Iran to obtain nuclear weapons

Netanyahu says will not allow Iran to obtain nuclear weapons
Updated 34 min 14 sec ago

Netanyahu says will not allow Iran to obtain nuclear weapons

Netanyahu says will not allow Iran to obtain nuclear weapons
  • Israel will never allow Tehran to build nuclear weapons says Netanyahu
  • Iran blamed Israel for Sunday's incident at the Natanz nuclear site, threatens revenge

DUBAI: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday that Iran has never given up efforts to obtain nuclear weapons and that Israel will never allow Tehran to build them.
The Israeli leader, addressing reporters with visiting US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin at his side, made no comment about Iran's accusation that Israel had sabotaged its key Natanz nuclear site.

Iran blamed Israel for Sunday's incident at the Natanz nuclear site and will take its revenge, state TV quoted Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif as saying on Monday.
Iranian authorities described the incident a day earlier as an act of "nuclear terrorism" and said Tehran reserves the right to take action against the perpetrators.
Iran and world powers held what they described as "constructive" talks last week aimed at reviving the 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran that Washington abandoned three years ago.
"The Zionists want to take revenge because of our progress in the way to lift sanctions ... they have publicly said that they will not allow this. But we will take our revenge from the Zionists," Zarif was quoted as saying.

On Monday, Iran had identified the person who disrupted flow of power at the Natanz nuclear facility that led to electricity outage in the site, Iran’s Nournews website quoted intelligence sources as saying.
“The person has been identified ... Necessary measures are being taken to arrest this person who caused the electricity outage in one of the halls at the Natanz site,” the website reported. It gave no details about the person.


Dubai’s local campaign to provide food goes international

Dubai’s local campaign to provide food goes international
Updated 12 April 2021

Dubai’s local campaign to provide food goes international

Dubai’s local campaign to provide food goes international
  • The program is an expansion of last year’s local ‘10 Million Meals’
  • Donations can be made across the globe to the campaign through www.100millionmeals.ae

DUBAI: The ‘100 Million Meals’ campaign, launched by Dubai’s ruler, will provide food parcels for the needy across 20 countries during Ramadan.
The program is an expansion of last year’s local ‘10 Million Meals,’ which distributed food in communities affected by the coronavirus pandemic across the country.
Individuals and companies across the globe can make donations to the campaign through www.100millionmeals.ae, which will then distribute food in countries such as Sudan, Lebanon, Jordan, Pakistan, Angola, Uganda and Egypt.
“Providing food during the holy month of Ramadan is the best we can give from the UAE to humanity,” Dubai’s Ruler Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum said.
The Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives (MBRGI) will work with the UN World Food Program, Food Banking Regional Network and local humanitarian organizations in receiving countries to distribute food for those in need.
“We will work with humanitarian organizations, companies, entities and humanitarians to join us in securing 100 million meals to bring a sense of safety to underserved homes across the world,” Al-Maktoum said.  
The campaign also supports the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals to end hunger by 2030.