Shells hit south Syria city for first time in three years

Shells hit south Syria city for first time in three years
Syrian rebel fighters flash the victory gesture while riding in the back of a military truck during a military parade near the southern city of Daraa on June 7, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 19 June 2018

Shells hit south Syria city for first time in three years

Shells hit south Syria city for first time in three years
  • The Syrian Observatory said opposition forces fired shells into Sweida city
  • This was the first attack since 2015

BEIRUT: Rebel shellfire slammed into the southern Syrian city of Sweida on Tuesday for the first time in three years, a monitor said, as fresh regime reinforcements arrived in the area.
The government holds most of Sweida province, but rebels still control much of the nearby Daraa and Quneitra governorates.
On Tuesday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said opposition forces fired shells into Sweida city, “which led to loud blasts but no casualties.”
“It is the first time since 2015 that the city has been subjected to shellfire,” said Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman.
State news agency SANA also blamed rebels “spread out in the towns and villages in eastern parts of Daraa province” for firing shells on Sweida.
It also said one girl was killed and two people were wounded in opposition fire on government-held parts of Daraa city.
Sweida, whose residents are mostly from the Druze minority, has remained relatively insulated from seven years of war that ravaged the rest of the country.
But rebels hold a sliver of territory in western Sweida that borders their main bastion in the province of Daraa, and clashes and exchanges of fire have erupted in that area in recent days.
Syria’s government has set its sights on ousting rebels from the south and has been dispatching troops and equipment there for weeks.
Rebel commander Abu Hassan told AFP on Tuesday his units had seen the reinforcements and were on high alert.
“We are almost always mobilized. The joint operations room has upped its coordination to the highest level,” he said.
On Tuesday, the regime dropped new flyers on the rebel-held half of Daraa city, calling on residents to expel rebels, “like your brothers did in Eastern Ghouta and Qalamun,” referring to two areas near Damascus recently recaptured from the opposition.
Opposition fighters appeared to fear the regime would use Sweida’s civilian population as justification for the assault, and issued a message addressed to them on Tuesday.
“We call on our people in Sweida province not to serve as bait for the goals of the regime, sectarian militias from Iran, and Hezbollah, which are trying to occupy this land and divide its people,” they said in a statement.
But the government has also hinted a political settlement could be reached over the south’s fate.
“We have moved toward the south and we are giving the political process a chance,” Syrian President Bashar Assad said last week.
“If that doesn’t succeed, we have no other option but to liberate it by force.”
Assad has regained the upper hand since 2011, when protests erupted across the country demanding he step down.
Demonstrations then turned into an armed conflict that has killed more than 350,000 people, drawn in world powers, and given rise to militants like the Daesh group.
IS has been defeated across much of Syria but the militants hold a few positions in desert areas of Sweida, where it has clashed with government troops recently.
On Tuesday, eight regime forces were killed in clashes with Daesh in the area.


Lebanon extends area claimed in border dispute with Israel

Lebanon extends area claimed in border dispute with Israel
Updated 11 min 14 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 52 min 20 sec ago

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 22 min 45 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.