Aid groups suspend aid to Syria’s embattled northwest

Syrians drive with their belongings along the main Damascus-Aleppo highway near the town of Saraqib in Syria's militant-held Idlib province on May 9, 2019 as they flee possible air strikes by the regime and its allies in the area. (AFP)
Updated 11 May 2019

Aid groups suspend aid to Syria’s embattled northwest

  • he World Food Programme said it has suspended deliveries to about 47,000 people
  • OCHA said five humanitarian workers, including two health professionals, have been reportedly killed

BEIRUT: UN-linked aid groups have suspended activities in parts of violence-plagued northwest Syria, where stepped up bombardment by the regime and Russia is jeopardizing the safety of humanitarian workers.
“As of 8 May, at least 16 humanitarian partners have suspended their operations in areas impacted by conflict,” the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, or OCHA said Friday.
The World Food Programme said it has suspended “deliveries to about 47,000 people in towns and villages... (that) have come under bombardment.”
Since late April, government forces have mounted a major bombardment of southern Idlib and neighboring areas with Russian support.
The uptick in air strikes and shelling on the region dominated by Syria’s former Al-Qaeda affiliate has displaced 180,000 people between 29 April and 9 May, OCHA said.
It has also affected 15 health facilities and 16 schools, it added.
“Some organizations suspended activities as their premises were damaged, destroyed or rendered unsafe by the violence,” OCHA said.
“Others have suspended activities in order to keep their staff and beneficiaries safe, or because the beneficiary population has left,” it added.
OCHA said five humanitarian workers, including two health professionals, have been reportedly killed due to air strikes and shelling.
WFP also said that some of its partners inside Idlib have been “displaced due to the violence, while a few others have sustained injuries.”
The northwestern part of Syria controlled by jihadists is made up of a large part of Idlib province, as well as adjacent parts of the Aleppo and Hama provinces.
It has been protected from a massive regime offensive by a September deal inked by Damascus ally Russia and rebel backer Turkey.
The region of some three million people has come under increasing bombardment since Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham, which is dominated by jihadists from Al-Qaeda’s former Syrian branch, took full control of it in the beginning of the year.
Western powers are concerned that the Russia-backed Syrian government will launch a full-scale assault.
On Friday, air strikes and shelling killed 10 civilians, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
The civil war in Syria has killed more than 370,000 people and displaced millions since it started with the brutal repression of anti-government protests in 2011.


Algerian president, 75, self isolates as pandemic spreads

Updated 24 October 2020

Algerian president, 75, self isolates as pandemic spreads

  • Tebboune is self isolating because some officials in “upper ranks of the government” are sick with COVID-19
  • “I assure you, my brothers and sisters, that I am well and healthy and that I continue my work,” he said

ALGIERS: Algeria’s 75-year-old President Abdelmadjid Tebboune is self isolating because some officials in “upper ranks of the government” are sick with COVID-19, he said in a Tweet on Saturday.
Tebboune took office in December in an election that came amidst months of mass protests which forced his predecessor Abdelaziz Bouteflika from power after 20 years.
“I assure you, my brothers and sisters, that I am well and healthy and that I continue my work,” he said, saying his decision was taken on the advice of medical staff.
The global pandemic struck Algeria’s economy as it faced long-term challenges posed by the decline of the oil and gas revenues that finance its historically lavish state spending.
So far, Algeria has officially confirmed more than 55,000 cases of the coronavirus with nearly 2,000 deaths.
Though the pandemic forced an end to the weekly mass protest marches through Algiers and other cities that lasted for more than a year, the political challenges remain.
Tebboune has pushed for changes to Algeria’s referendum to limit presidential terms while expanding the powers of the parliament and judiciary.
However, many people in the leaderless protest movement believe their core goals of replacing the old ruling elite and forcing the army to stay out of politics remain unmet.
Algerians will vote in a referendum on the new constitution on Nov. 1, with Tebboune and the country’s powerful army generals seeking a high turnout in order to turn a page on the protests.