Syrians ‘will never be safe under Assad’ — opposition

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Syrian government soldiers burn an opposition flag at the Nassib border crossing with Jordan in the southern province of Daraa on July 7, 2018. (AFP / Youssef Karwashan)
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Syrian troops stand guard at the Naseeb border crossing with Jordan, in the southern province of Daraa, Syria, on July 7, 2018. (SANA via AP)
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Smoke rises above eastern rebel-held areas of the city of Daraa during reported airstrikes by Syrian regime forces on July 8, 2018. (AFP / Mohamad Abazeed)
Updated 09 July 2018

Syrians ‘will never be safe under Assad’ — opposition

  • New opposition warning as thousands return home after Daraa deal — opposition
  • The regime offensive to retake Daraa from insurgents, which began on June 19, displaced about 330,000 people.

JEDDAH: Syrians will never feel safe under the Assad regime, opposition leaders told Arab News on Sunday, as thousands returned to their homes after a cease-fire deal in the southern region of Daraa. 

The regime offensive to retake Daraa from insurgents, which began on June 19, displaced about 330,000 people. Many headed to the border with Jordan, which refused to allow refugees to cross. Fighting ended on Friday under a Russian-mediated surrender deal.

Anders Pedersen, the UN humanitarian coordinator in Jordan, said on Sunday that only 150 to 200 Syrians remained near a key crossing point into Jordan, and “as far as we understand they are almost exclusively men.”

The cease-fire covered most of southern Syria but intense shelling and airstrikes on Sunday targeted the opposition-held village of Um Al-Mayadeen, just north of the Naseeb border crossing. Regime troops later captured the village after a battle with opposition fighters.

“Despite the return of refugees to their homes, Syrians will never feel safe under the Assad regime’s rule and brutality,” Syrian opposition spokesman Yahya Al-Aridi told Arab News.

“At the same time, this is not a victory for the regime since it is participating in name only. After the Russians and the Iranian militias finished their work, you would see Syrian regime officers coming in front of television cameras. This is what happens.” 

Although the main opposition groups in the eastern parts of Daraa province have agreed to hand over their weapons as part of the surrender, some have vowed to continue fighting, mostly in western parts of Daraa and the nearby Quneitra region on the front with the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

“Those who have lost their families — and those parents whose children have been murdered by the regime — will not accept Assad and his regime’s existence, survival and power,” Bahia Mardini, a Syrian opposition activist and founder of Syrian House, which helps Syrians in the UK, told Arab News. 

“Despite the lack of international desire for military action, as long as the regime clings on to power, I expect that military action will continue.

“As long as there is terrorism and dictatorship, there will remain a Syrian opposition who seek democracy and human rights for the Syrian people. They will continue to find new mechanisms to work and succeed despite the difficulties. 

“As long as there is a case for democracy there will be a Syrian opposition. We want justice, human rights, freedom and democracy and we will not give up until it is a reality for the next generation,” she said.

“An internationally backed democratic solution is so desperately important.”

“Military cells will remain in Syria, some of them dormant, and despite the international silence, they will renew their military action if there is no democratic process that satisfies the rebellious people and all the parties. That is why an internationally backed democratic solution is so desperately important.”

Sheikha Shamma calls for balance between economic, environmental resilience

Updated 40 sec ago

Sheikha Shamma calls for balance between economic, environmental resilience

LONDON: The spread of coronavirus has given the world an opportunity to strike a balance between building economic and environmental resilience, the UAE’s Sheikha Shamma bint Sultan bin Khalifa Al-Nahyan said on Thursday during a webinar attended by Arab News.
“As governments, we must continue to encourage the diversification of GDP (gross domestic product) contribution and exploration of new and sustainable industries. As investors, we need to make more responsible decisions with our investments,” said Sheikha Shamma, who is CEO of Alliances for Global Sustainability and founder of the Circle of Hope foundation.
“As businesses, we must adopt technologies and business models that increase both financial and environmental efficiency. And as individuals, we must rethink our approach to these sources, support local producers and work toward creating a circular economy,” she added.
“My hope is that in these difficult times, we won’t just find ways to overcome challenges but seek out opportunities that pave the way toward a more sustainable future.”
The webinar, titled “The State of the Environment post-COVID,” was hosted by the UK-based Emirates Society.
It featured Lord Goldsmith, UK minister of state for the Pacific, international environment, climate and forests, and animal welfare, as well as Dominic Jermey, director general of the Zoological Society of London.
“The numbers really speak for themselves, and they reflect a litany of devastation,” Lord Goldsmith said. He highlighted how populations of animals have on average more than halved, with around 1 million species facing extinction within decades, while every minute on average the world loses 30 football pitches worth of forests.
“A third of marine animals are threatened with extinction and, if trends continue, we’re told that by 2050 the oceans will contain more plastic than fish, as measured by waves,” he said.
“We need economists, businesses and markets to develop tools fast to value things like nature and attach a cost to things that we need to phase out like emissions, deforestation, plastic pollution and so on.”
Jermey, who was Britain’s ambassador to the UAE from 2010 to 2014, called COVID-19 a “wake-up call.”
He added: “Those pathogens, that 75 percent of emerging infectious diseases that move from wildlife to people, are increasingly making that transition. We have to rethink, holistically, our relationship with nature.”