Freed Daesh captive says son died in her lap from militant gunfire

Freed Daesh captive says son died  in her lap from militant gunfire
Men walk amid the rubble of a destroyed building in Tadamun neighborhood near the Yarmouk camp in the south of Damascus. (AFP file photo)
Updated 10 November 2018

Freed Daesh captive says son died in her lap from militant gunfire

Freed Daesh captive says son died  in her lap from militant gunfire
  • Extremists held hostages in different hideouts, including a camp and a cave, Syrian woman reveals
  • The US-led coalition and local allies have been battling Daesh on the eastern banks of the Euphrates River

DAMASCUS: A Syrian woman captured by Daesh said her eight-year-old son died in her lap after the extremists shot him and his cousin during a military operation to liberate them more than 100 days after they were kidnapped.

Najwa Abu Ammar, 35, was kidnapped with her two sons and daughter and nearly two dozen others in July from southern Sweida province in a bloody attack on their villages in which the militants killed over 200 people.

When a military operation began to liberate them on Thursday, the children panicked during the gunfire, she said. 

Her son Rafaat and his 13-year-old cousin Qusay ran and the militants fired at them.

“We were in the open air at the bottom of a valley as the clashes raged between the army and gunmen,” she said. 

“When my son tried to run away, they (Daesh militants) shot him. He was in my lap when he died.”

His cousin Qusay bled to death after nearly five hours, Abu Ammar said.

““I am very very sad,” she said in a telephone interview through a crackling line from her remote village of Shbiki. “I am tired.”

A large funeral procession for the two children set out on Saturday from the national hospital in Sweida to their village, about 30 km to the east.

“What is the sin of those innocent children, who should now be in their classrooms,” Monzer Al-Shoufi, a resident of Sweida who took part in the procession, told AP by telephone.

The family of Abu Ammar suffered another loss in the kidnapping — Rafaat’s grandmother was killed on the day of the abductions.

Nashaat Abu Ammar, Rafaat’s father, said his mother was among those kidnapped by the militants, who forced the elderly, sick woman to walk about 4 km. When she failed to continue, they shot her dead.

 

Bombings

The rare attacks in the province populated mainly by minority Druze included several suicide bombings. The violence on July 25 devastated the community and shattered the region’s calm. At least 216 people were killed and the militants walked away with the captives.

Nashaat Abu Ammar said about 20 of those killed were close relatives and 60 others were related.

Najwa Abu Ammar said the captors held the group in different hideouts, including a camp and a cave, and once kept them in a moving car for over 12 hours, the captives not knowing where they were headed.

The militants fed them sporadically and beat and insulted the children. They didn’t torture them, Abu Ammar said, but started threatening to kill them as time passed.

At least two women and one man died in captivity, including a woman who was shot by the extremists to pressure authorities in negotiations for the captives’ release.

Abu Ammar’s husband said she looked frail.

“Sometimes they fed us once every two days and other times twice every day,” Abu Ammar said, adding that it was mostly just olive oil, thyme and jam.

“They held us first in a camp then a cave and kept moving us from one place to the other,” she said.

Abu Ammar said she didn’t know about the killed hostages until they were liberated.

 

Broad offensive

Six other hostages, two women and four children, had been freed in an exchange with the regime in October. Negotiations were expected to free the remaining hostages but talks failed and Syrian troops launched a broad offensive against Daesh in southern Syria.

Separately, a war monitoring group and pro-Assad media accused the US-led coalition of killing over two dozen civilians in airstrikes in Hajjin, a town in southeastern Syria near the border with Iraq, Daesh’s last stronghold.

Spokesman Col. Sean Ryan told AP in an email that the US-led coalition “successfully struck (and) destroyed” a Daesh observation post and staging area in Hajjin “void of civilians at the time.”

Ryan said the coalition team in charge of tracking civilians reviews claims of civilian casualties they see in media reports.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least 26 people, believed to be members of Daesh families, were killed in Hajjin and another seven were killed in Shafaa in airstrikes on Friday. 

The Observatory said the dead were mostly women and children and were mostly Iraqis.

Syria’s state news agency reported 26 killed, quoting locals.

The Daesh group posted a rare video from inside Hajjin showing badly destroyed homes, bodies protruding from under rubble and dust still rising from some buildings.

The US-led coalition and local allies have been battling Daesh on the eastern banks of the Euphrates River. 

But the militants continue to hold their ground in the small sliver of territory around Hajjin.


Syrian White Helmets given funds to make PPE 

Syrian White Helmets given funds to make PPE 
Updated 19 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.”