Syria rebels exit towns near Damascus, leaving only Daesh

Fifteen buses carrying hundreds of fighters and their relatives left the towns of Yalda, Babila, and Beit Saham on the southern edge of Damascus. (AFP)
Updated 10 May 2018

Syria rebels exit towns near Damascus, leaving only Daesh

  • Fifteen buses carrying hundreds of fighters and their relatives left the towns of Yalda, Babila, and Beit Saham on the southern edge of Damascus
  • Government forces have been pressing a ferocious weeks-long assault against Daesh

BEIRUT: Hundreds of Syrian rebels left an area south of Damascus on Thursday, a monitor and state media said, leaving the capital threatened only by Daesh.
Fifteen buses carrying hundreds of fighters and their relatives left the towns of Yalda, Babila, and Beit Saham on the southern edge of Damascus, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor.
“The convoy is on its way to opposition territory in northern Syria,” the Observatory told AFP.
In all, the Observatory said, 8,400 people had been evacuated from the three towns since a deal was reached one week ago for the negotiated withdrawals.
“For the first time since 2011, there are no opposition fighters in or around Damascus except the Daesh group,” said Rami Abdel Rahman using a name for Daesh, director of the Britain-based monitor.
Daesh still controls a pocket of territory inside the Yarmuk Palestinian camp and the adjacent Hajjar Al-Aswad district, both inside Damascus.
Government forces have been pressing a ferocious weeks-long assault against them there and continued to carry out air strikes there on Thursday.
The agreement for Yalda, Babila, and Beit Saham was reached on May 3 and follows a pattern of similar deals through which Syria’s government has recaptured swathes of territory around Damascus.
“Yalda, Babila, and Beit Saham south of Damascus have been cleared of terrorism, after the final wave of terrorists who did not want to reconcile (with the government) left to northern Syria with their families,” said state news agency SANA.
It said government security forces were preparing to enter the three towns, which had for several years fallen under a “reconciliation” agreement with the Syrian state.
That meant they remained in rebel hands but a local cease-fire was enforced.
This year, however, President Bashar Assad has appeared more determined than ever to secure the entirety of the capital and its surroundings with a blend of military pressure and negotiated withdrawals.
It used the same strategy on the Eastern Ghouta rebel stronghold, which it recaptured last month, and on an area northeast of the capital.
bur/mjg/dv


Palestinians, Arabs ‘must learn lessons of Naksa’

A Palestinian man facing Israeli soldiers waves a national flag during a protest against Israel's plan to annex parts of the occupied West Bank, near the town of Tulkarm on June 5, 2020. (AFP)
Updated 06 June 2020

Palestinians, Arabs ‘must learn lessons of Naksa’

  • Jordanian MP Kais Zayadin said that the biggest mistake Arab countries made was to trust that the occupying state would make peace and reach a lasting solution to the Palestinian cause

AMMAN: Leading Palestinian and Arab figures have used the 53rd anniversary of Naksa — the displacement and occupation of Arab territories that followed Israel’s victory in the 1967 war against Egypt, Syria, and Jordan — to highlight political mistakes made during and after the conflict.

Adnan Abu-Odeh, political adviser to Jordan's King Hussein and King Abdullah II, told Arab News that Arab countries and the Palestinian leadership had failed to understand the goals of Zionism.

“Governments that participated in the war were naive, expecting a repeat of the 1956 Sinai invasion when the US ordered an Israeli withdrawal. This was followed by the mistaken belief that we could liberate the land using guerrilla warfare," he said.

Anees Sweidan, director-general of foreign relations in the PLO, told Arab News that the Palestinian cause is undergoing a complicated phase where political opportunities are limited.

“The US bias towards Israel and absence of unity has put the Palestinian movement in a difficult situation. It is harder to generate external support and the financial crunch is causing much suffering despite the fact that we have made important accomplishments in the UN and Europe.”

Abdalqader Husseini, chairperson of the Faisal Husseini Foundation, said that the opportunities the anniversary offers should not be ignored.

“We need to realize that this is an illegal occupation that continues to dig deeper and escalate every day to the degree that the international community has lost interest and world conscience has become numb to Israeli practices. We in Jerusalem have not normalized with the occupiers and we have not accepted the new situation as an inescapable reality that we must accept.”

Jordanian MP Kais Zayadin said that the biggest mistake Arab countries made was to trust that the occupying state would make peace and reach a lasting solution to the Palestinian cause.

“We went to Madrid with hope, the Palestinian leadership went to Oslo with optimism that they could reach a phased solution that would lead to statehood. As we remember this Naksa, we must revisit the path that has allowed the occupying entity to steal our land and cause havoc to our people without any deterrence from the international community," he said.

They (Palestinian youth) personify the meaning of steadfastness for dignity, and they have the will to protect our heritage, our identity, and our holy places.”

Mahdi Abdulhadi, head of PASSIA thinktank

Nibal Thawabteh, director of the Bir Zeit University’s Media Development Center, said the biggest mistake since 1967 was focusing on politics and avoiding community development.

"We don’t have a strong sense of citizenship, some have become accustomed to religious Islam. We need to work more on the citizenship.”

Ahmad Awad, director of the Amman-based Phenix Center for Economic and Informatics Studies, said there is a lack of acknowledgment of the reasons behind the Arab loss.

“Political, economic and cultural factors caused our loss, and we feel that most Arab countries have not learned this lesson. Instead of learning, we are going backwards, failing to defend their existential rights, shifting to isolationism as well as cultural and economic regression in our region."

Instead of looking backward, some Palestinians wanted to look forward.

Mahdi Abdulhadi, head of the PASSIA thinktank in Jerusalem, said that Palestinian youth who never felt the shock of the 1967 defeat but have seen the exposure of Arab regimes in the face of the "deal of the century" will prevail.

“They personify the meaning of steadfastness for dignity, and they have the will to protect our heritage, our identity, and our holy places.”

Lily Habash, a Exeter University political science graduate, told Arab News that things look different on the ground.

“The world is changing and Israel uses geopolitical and regional changes to its advantage,” she said.

Dangers today encourage despair but Palestinians will be steadfast in the long term, she added.

“Some say we need a savior to get us out of this dilemma but I believe we need to trust in ourselves and work on all fronts.”