Families flee bombardment and hunger in last Syria Daesh pocket

A woman wearing a niqab (full face veil) sits on the ground carrying a child by the back of a truck near the Omar oil field in the countryside of the eastern Syrian Deir Ezzor province on January 25, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 26 January 2019

Families flee bombardment and hunger in last Syria Daesh pocket

  • The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces are fighting to expel the last Daesh fighters
  • Around 750 people reached SDF-held territory from Daesh-held territory on Friday

As US-backed forces advanced, 22-year-old Dima Qatran buried one of her twin babies, then picked up the other and fled the Daesh group’s crumbling pocket in eastern Syria.
Clutching her remaining 11-month-old daughter, she joined hundreds escaping the last shreds of the extremist group’s “caliphate” near the Iraqi border.
She fled through the cold desert on foot toward territory held by US-backed fighters, where she boarded a truck to take her to a camp for displaced Daesh families further north.
“I had twins,” Qatran told AFP on Friday, tears streaming down her face, at a pit stop along the way.
“I buried one, and the second is dying. She has diarrhea and keeps vomiting. I can’t bear it. My daughter died of cold and hunger.”
The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces are fighting to expel the last Daesh fighters from a few hamlets in the eastern province of Deir Ezzor.
“We slept in the street for 11 days after my home was bombed” in Baghouz, a village on the front line, she said.
Qatran said she arrived in Baghouz with her husband’s family a year ago after fleeing the town of Albukamal to the west, which was retaken from Daesh by Russia-backed regime forces in late 2017.
The young mother said all she wanted was to be reunited with her husband who works as a cook in Turkey, and claimed to have no affiliation with Daesh.
“I’m scared of them,” she said.

Ravaged by Rashes

Near the Omar oil field, women and children — some of whom had faces ravaged by rashes — descended from the back of a dozen small trucks, caked in dust and visibly exhausted as the SDF allowed a quick break.
A mother dashed down from a vehicle, rushing her two children out of sight to relieve their bladders, while others pleaded for food and drink, saying that with the bombardment and siege, they had not eaten for days.
Infants screamed while their mothers did their best to soothe them.
For days, hundreds have been fleeing what remains of the so-called “Hajjin pocket” east of the Euphrates River, SDF officials said.
According to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor more than 8,000 people have fled since Monday, including around 1,000 jihadists.
Since early December, some 29,000 people have escaped the fighting, the Observatory said.
Sara Al-Sahar, 32, paced around with her baby trying in vain to pacify him.
He’s “hungry and sick,” said the mother of two.
“There’s no food over there, just hunger,” she said of areas under Daesh control.
“Nothing — not even nappies.”
Sahar also insisted she had nothing to do with Daesh, a claim that AFP could not immediately verify.
“We walked for six hours” in the desert before reaching SDF-controlled territory, she said.

Suspicion

Around 750 people reached SDF-held territory from Daesh-held territory on Friday, Mohammed Suleiman Othman, an official with the Syria Democratic Council said.
They included 600 civilians, mostly Iraqis related to Daesh fighters, he said.
But 150 men were detained on suspicion of belonging to Daesh, after screening near the frontline.
Fourteen women and their children of various nationalities including from Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Turkey were ferried off to a special center for questioning.
Inside that center, women sat with their children in a large room. One was changing her baby, with a nappy improvised from fabric and plastic bags.
In a corner, 20-year-old Mariam from Ukraine fed her baby before she wiped her face with her hands.
“I need to rest before I can remember what happened to me,” she said, speaking in classical Arabic, reluctant to answer any questions.
Near the Omar oil field, women asked how much longer before they reach the Al-Hol camp in the northeastern province of Hasakah.
“Is it still far? We’re so tired,” one of them said.
Tayyeba, 54, said she escaped with her husband, but the SDF detained him for questioning.
“We fled as the frontlines started getting closer,” she said, wrinkles visible under her black face veil.
Umm Baraa, 20, said: “The streets are full of people who can’t find anywhere to sleep. We were running from one neighborhood to another.”
She said her husband — an Daesh fighter — died recently in an air strike.
“We were all doing so well... If the frontline hadn’t got closer, we wouldn’t have left at all,” she said of life under Daesh.
“Now we don’t know what awaits us.”


Iran virus deaths surge past 24,000

Updated 20 September 2020

Iran virus deaths surge past 24,000

  • President Hassan Rouhani blamed people’s failure to observe preventive measures, especially wearing masks, for the surge in cases

JEDDAH: The official coronavirus death toll in Iran surged past 24,000 on Saturday as health chiefs admitted 90 percent of COVID-19 patients on ventilators in hospital were dying.

Payam Tabarsi, head of infectious diseases at Masih Daneshvari Hospital in Tehran, said the number of emergency room patients had jumped from 68 a day to 200 in the past week. “People are queuing to be admitted,” he said, and if the trend continued, deaths from coronavirus could reach 600 a day within weeks.

Iran’s total number of confirmed cases in the past 24 hours spiked by 2,845 to 419,043 and the death toll rose by 166 to 24,118, Health Ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari said.

Iran was slow to react to the first coronavirus cases in February, and is now battling the Middle East’s deadliest outbreak. Daily infections have remained above 2,000 for the past two weeks and are nearing the 3,574 high reached in early June.

Analysts both inside and outside Iran are skeptical of the official figures and believe the true level of infections and deaths is far higher. President Hassan Rouhani blamed people’s failure to observe preventive measures, especially wearing masks, for the surge in cases.

“Today, the Health Ministry gave a worrying report,” he said on Saturday. “The public’s observance, which was 82 percent in earlier weeks, has fallen to 62 percent.”

FASTFACTS

  • Iran’s total number of confirmed cases in the past 24 hours spiked by 2,845 to 419,043 and the death toll rose by 166 to 24,118. •Daily infections have remained above 2,000 for the past two weeks and are nearing the 3,574 high reached in early June. •551 new cases were reported in Saudi Arabia on Saturday, taking the total to 329,271. •Worldwide, the virus has infected just under 31 million people and killed nearly 960,000, amid fears of a ‘second wave.’
  • Daily infections have remained above 2,000 for the past two weeks and are nearing the 3,574 high reached in early June.
  • 551 new cases were reported in Saudi Arabia on Saturday, taking the total to 329,271.
  • Worldwide, the virus has infected just under 31 million people and killed nearly 960,000, amid fears of a ‘second wave.’

Meanwhile in Saudi Arabia daily coronavirus case numbers have fallen to a five-month low after 551 new cases were reported on Saturday, taking the total to 329,271. The death toll rose by 28 to 4,458. The last time the Kingdom recorded numbers in the 500s was April 15, when 518 cases were reported.

Worldwide, the virus has infected just under 31 million people and killed nearly 960,000, amid fears of a “second wave” of the pandemic after the first outbreaks early in the year.

European countries from Denmark to Greece have announced new restrictions to curb surging infections in some of their largest cities, and Britain is considering new measures to tackle an “inevitable” second wave of COVID-19.

The UK has reported the fifth-largest number of deaths from COVID-19 in the world, after the US, Brazil, India and Mexico. “We are now seeing a second wave coming in ... it is absolutely, I’m afraid, inevitable, that we will see it in this country,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson said.

England’s public health chief Yvonne Doyle said: “We’re seeing clear signs this virus is now spreading across all age groups and I am particularly worried by the increase … among older people. This could be a warning of far worse things to come.”