Syria regime accused of chemical attack in rebel enclave, US warns Russia

A Syrian girl holds an oxygen mask over the face of an infant at a make-shift hospital following a reported gas attack on the rebel-held besieged town of Douma in the eastern Ghouta region on the outskirts of the capital Damascus on January 22, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 23 January 2018

Syria regime accused of chemical attack in rebel enclave, US warns Russia

DOUMA, Syria: At least 21 people, including children, suffered breathing difficulties Monday, a monitor said, in a suspected Syrian regime chemical attack on a besieged rebel enclave near Damascus.
United Nations inspectors have accused President Bashar Assad’s regime of being behind multiple deadly poison gas attacks during the country’s devastating seven year war.
Monday’s attack targeted the city of Douma in the rebel-held region of Eastern Ghouta, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
“After regime forces fired rockets into the western part of the city of Douma, white smoke spread, causing 21 cases of suffocation,” it said.
An AFP correspondent at a hospital in the city saw people carrying babies wrapped in blankets, breathing through oxygen masks, some of them screaming.
Young girls and men sat on hospital beds, tears in their eyes, unable to stop coughing.
A doctor at the hospital who gave his first name as Bassil said patients were suffering “respiratory irritation, breathing difficulties, coughing and reddening of the eyes.”
“We noticed that they smelled like bleach, or chlorine, and we stripped them of their clothes,” he said.
Six children and six women were among those affected, the Observatory said
“Residents and medical sources talk of chlorine gas,” Observatory hear Rami Abdel Rahman said, adding that his group — which relies on a network of sources inside Syria could not confirm those reports.

Meanwhile, the United States sternly criticized Russia’s failure to rein in its Syrian ally Bashar Assad on Monday after the reports of a new regime chemical weapons strike emerged.
Washington is not yet in a position to confirm the latest report, but officials noted that Russia has hamstrung UN efforts to probe previous allegations of regime atrocities.
“Civilians are being killed and it is not acceptable,” Steve Goldstein, US assistant secretary of state for public affairs, told reporters in Washington.
Asked whether the United States would raise the issue at the UN Security Council, Goldstein said: “We’ll see tomorrow.”
“Russia had failed to rid Syria of chemical weapons, and they’ve been blocking chemical weapons organizations. Enough is enough,” he warned.
The United States has urged Russia to compel Assad to take a United Nations-brokered peace process in Geneva and Vienna seriously and come to the table.
But Moscow — along with Iran and Turkey — has been running a parallel peace initiative under its own auspices out of Astana and Sochi, and the eight-year-old civil war continues.
In 2013 the previous US administration, under president Barack Obama, balked at striking Syria over its alleged chemical arms use, choosing to work with Moscow on a disarmament plan.
But US military action in Syria has otherwise been focused on defeating Daesh — and thus-far ineffective diplomatic efforts to end the civil war.
On January 13, a similar attack targeted the outskirts of Douma and the Observatory reported seven cases of suffocation.
Days later, Human Rights Watch head Kenneth Roth accused the Syrian regime of using chlorine gas during the siege of Eastern Ghouta.
Besieged since 2013 by regime forces, the rebel stronghold’s 400,000 inhabitants are already experiencing a crushing humanitarian crisis and severe shortages of food and medicine.
The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and the United Nations blamed the Syrian air force for an April 2017 sarin gas attack on the opposition-held village of Khan Sheikhun which left scores dead.
The attack triggered an unprecedented American missile strike on the air base it is believed Syrian forces used to carry out the attack.
The regime is also accused of using chlorine gas in three areas of northern Syria in 2014 and 2015.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has called for efforts to punish officials responsible for chemical attacks in Syria.
Syrian state TV said Monday that rebel mortar fire had killed nine people in two neighborhoods of Damascus.
Syria’s nearly seven-year war, which began as the regime brutally crushed anti-government protests, has claimed more than 340,000 lives, forced millions to flee their homes and left the country in ruins.


Archaeologist Zahi Hawass: ‘There isn’t a country that doesn’t love Egyptian archaeology’

Updated 17 October 2019

Archaeologist Zahi Hawass: ‘There isn’t a country that doesn’t love Egyptian archaeology’

  • With only 30 percent of Egyptian monuments discovered, there is no rush to pursue the remaining 70 percent which remain hidden underground, says Hawass

 CAIRO: World-renowned Egyptian archaeologist Zahi Hawass has affirmed the importance of Egyptian archaeology around the globe.

“There isn’t a country that does not love Egyptian archaeology,” Hawass, who was minister of state for antiquities affairs, told Arab News.

With only 30 percent of Egyptian monuments discovered, Hawass said there was no rush to pursue the remaining 70 percent which remain hidden underground.

“We don’t want to discover everything. We want to start by preserving and preparing the historical monuments which we have discovered, then start thinking about what is still undiscovered,” Hawass said.

So, restoration and preservation are the main goals for now.

With the new Grand Egyptian Museum still in the works, it seems likely that archaeology will be put in the spotlight once again, with more room for Egyptian artifacts to be showcased and appreciated rather than hidden, as in the old Tahrir museum.

“No one in the world doesn’t know Egypt. Egyptian archaeology is in the hearts of all people all across the world,” Hawass said.

This explains the immense popularity the new museum is expecting, located as it is, minutes away from the Pyramids of Giza.

Another reason behind its expected popularity is the attention ancient Egyptian figures have received across the years.

“Among the most famous ancient Egyptian figures, even for those who are not interested in monuments, we have King Kufu, who built the greatest pyramid, because that pyramid is something everyone talks about,” Hawass said.

He added that King Tutankhamun was popular because his coffin was restored whole, as was King Ramses II, the most famous of Egyptian kings, and Queen Cleopatra. Each of these figures gained fame due to popular tales and monuments attached to them.

Egyptian archaeologist Zahi Hawass. (AFP)

Hawass plays a crucial role in drawing awareness about Egyptian archaeology around the world as well as focusing on the current situation in Egypt.

“I lecture everywhere (about archaeology)” he said. “Two to three thousand people attend each of my lectures. So I take advantage of to tell people everywhere that Egypt is safe and that Egypt is run by a president whom we have chosen. I am trying to change the perception about Egypt.”

As part of his efforts to promote Egypt and Egyptian culture, Hawass recently visited Japan.

“They (the Japanese) love archaeology. I would never have expected to be famous in Japan, but as a result of their love of Egyptian archaeology, they know me,” Hawass explained.

This is but a speck in the eventful career Hawass has led — which all started by accident.

“As a child I wanted to become a lawyer, so I enrolled in law school at 16 but realized that it wasn’t something I could do. So I left law and decided to study literature. There they told me about a new section called archaeology,” Hawass said.

After graduating Hawass went to work for the government, which he dreaded, until his first project came along. Workers came across a statue hidden inside a coffin which he had to clean. During the process he found his passion for archaeology. He went on to pursue his graduate studies on the subject.

“I went from failure to success thanks to one thing: Passion. When a person is passionate about something, he excels in it.”

Hawass did not point out his most successful or most preferred moment in his career, so full his life has been of memorable events.

“You cannot prefer one of your children over another. They’re all in my heart, all of the discoveries I have made.”