Daesh retreating deep into desert, say Iraqi forces

Daesh retreating deep into desert, say Iraqi forces
Armoured personnel carriers and humvees of the Iraqi forces advance in the western desert in the northern Iraqi region of Al-Hadar, 105 km south of Mosul, on Thursday, as they flush out remaining Daesh fighters in the Al-Jazeera region straddling Salaheddin, Nineveh and Anbar provinces. (AFP)
Updated 24 November 2017

Daesh retreating deep into desert, say Iraqi forces

Daesh retreating deep into desert, say Iraqi forces

BAGHDAD: Iraqi forces said on Friday that Daesh fighters are withdrawing deep into the desert to escape an offensive now in its second day aimed at finally defeating them.
The militants have already been driven out of all of the towns they once held but Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi has said he will not proclaim victory until they have been cleared from the western desert bordering Syria.
The Hashed Al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilization) paramilitary force said its fighters had taken control of 77 villages and hamlets since the launch of the offensive on Thursday morning.
It said five militants had been killed south of the ancient desert city of Hatra but otherwise Daesh had put up little resistance.
The Hashed said that its fighters overran an airfield in the same area, where they discovered underground warehouses used by the militants.
Air support for the offensive, which also involves the army and federal police, has so far been provided exclusively by the Iraqi air force.
The US-led coalition, which has provided air support for other offensives against Daesh in Iraq, said it carried out no strikes on Thursday.
At its peak in 2014, Daesh ruled over 7 million people in a territory as large as Italy encompassing large parts of Syria and nearly a third of Iraq.
It is now being flushed out of its last desert hideouts in Iraq and under attack by Russian-backed government forces and US-backed Kurdish-led fighters in its last pockets of control in Syria.


Syrian White Helmets given funds to make PPE 

Syrian White Helmets given funds to make PPE 
Updated 20 min 40 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.”