Air raids kill 12 civilians in militant-held Syrian town: monitor

People gather at the site of an air strike on a market in the town of Maarat Al-Numan on May 22, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 23 May 2019

Air raids kill 12 civilians in militant-held Syrian town: monitor

  • The militant-dominated Idlib region is nominally protected by a buffer zone deal
  • The Observatory said they have no proof of the chemical attacks

BEIRUT: Air strikes by Damascus or its ally Moscow killed 12 civilians in a market in Syria’s Idlib province, a monitor said Wednesday, and denied allegations that the government used chemical weapons.

Another 18 people were wounded when the warplanes hit the militant-held town of Maarat Al-Numan around midnight on Tuesday, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
The market was crowded with people out and about after breaking the daytime fast observed by Muslims during the holy month of Ramadan.

The Observatory said it had no evidence to suggest the Syrian army had carried out a new chemical attack despite Washington’s announcement it had suspicions.

“We have no proof at all of the attack,” Rami Abdul Rahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, told AFP.

“We have not documented any chemical attack in the mountains of Latakia,” he said.
The air strikes in Idlib came as heavy clashes raged in the north of neighboring Hama province after the militants launched a counterattack on Tuesday against pro-government forces in the town of Kafr Nabuda.
Fresh fighting on Wednesday took the death toll to 52 — 29 troops and militia and 23 militants, the Observatory said.
It said that the militants had retaken most of the town from government forces who recaptured it on May 8.
The militant-dominated Idlib region is nominally protected by a buffer zone deal, but the regime and its Russian ally have escalated their bombardment of it in recent weeks, seizing several towns on its southern flank.
A militant alliance led by Syria’s former Al-Qaeda affiliate, Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham, controls a large part of Idlib province as well as adjacent slivers of Aleppo, Hama and Latakia provinces.

The northern mountains are the only part of Latakia province, on Syria’s Mediterranean coast, that are not firmly in the hands of the government.

The Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham accused government forces on Sunday of launching a chlorine gas attack on its fighters in the north of Latakia province.

The Syrian army dismissed the reports as a fabrication, a military source told the pro-government Al-Watan newspaper.

But the US State Department said on Tuesday it was assessing indications that the government of president Bashar Assad used chemical weapons on Sunday.

“There were no civilians in the area,” Abdel Rahman said.

White Helmets rescue volunteers, who have reported past chemical attacks in rebel-held areas of Syria, told AFP Wednesday that they had no information on the purported gas attack.

International inspectors say Assad’s forces have carried out a series of chemical attacks during the Syrian civil war, which has killed more than 370,000 people and displaced millions since it started in 2011.
Russia and rebel ally Turkey inked the buffer zone deal in September to avert a government offensive on the region which threatened humanitarian disaster for its three million residents.
President Bashar Assad’s government has renewed its bombardment of the region since HTS took control in January.
Russia too has stepped up its air strikes in recent weeks as Turkey proved unable to secure implementation of the truce deal by the militants.
The Observatory says more than 180 civilians have been killed in the flare-up since April 30, and the United Nations has said tens of thousands have fled their homes.


Thousands homeless after Yemen floods

A picture taken on June 3, 2020 in Yemen's Hadramout province shows a flooded area following torrential rains brought by Cyclone Nisarga. (AFP)
Updated 5 min 28 sec ago

Thousands homeless after Yemen floods

  • Efforts to contain COVID-19 affected

AL-MUKALLA: Thousands of people have been left homeless following torrential rain and flash flooding in Yemen.

For the second consecutive week, heavy rains triggered flash floods that washed away houses, farms, roads and electricity and water lines in the provinces of Marib, Dhale, Abyan, Hadramout, Ibb and Hajjah. The severe weather prevented medical workers battling the coronavirus pandemic from reaching health facilities, testing centers and patients.

Yemen’s President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi on Sunday instructed the governors of heavily affected provinces to send relief aid to those who had lost property during the downpours. He also appealed to local and international aid organizations to help the country cope with the effects of the flooding.

The government’s Executive Unit for IDPs Camp Management said that more than 2,600 families in Marib, Hajjah, Abyan and Dhale have been left without shelter after rains and floods washed away their tents and straw houses.

In its reports, seen by Arab News, the unit recommended distributing cash to the affected families, relocating them to safer areas and building stronger houses. In the central city of Marib that hosts hundreds of thousands of people who fled fighting in their home provinces, flash floods filled up the Marib dam reservoirs.

The unit said 1,340 families were affected after floods inundated their tents. The intensity of floods stoked fears about a possible dam rupture that could destroy hundreds of houses and farms.

To allay fears and quash rumors about the crumbling of the dam, Marib Gov. Sultan Al-Arada and several government officials visited the dam and assured the public that it was safe and could withstand even harsher floods.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) office in Yemen said flooding in the northern province of Hajjah and the western province of Hodeidah had washed away the homes and farms of thousands of families.

“Recent heavy rains and flooding across Hajjah and Hodeidah have impacted 9,000+ families,” it said. “Shelters, roads and land were destroyed. Loss of livestock and personal belongings. UNHCR quickly responded, helping thousands with emergency shelter and items like mattresses and blankets,” the UNHCR Yemen office tweeted on Sunday.

The National Meteorology Center has predicted more heavy rains and flash floods in many parts of Yemen throughout this week, warning people against crossing into water courses or driving in mountainous and hilly areas.

Health concerns

Local health officials said Monday that the downpours had hampered efforts to contain the spread of coronavirus across Yemen and created ripe conditions for the spread of mosquitoes.

Dr. Ishraq Al-Subaee, a spokesman for the Aden-based National Coronavirus Committee, told Arab News that many health facilities across government-controlled provinces could not send updates about coronavirus as floods prevented them from testing suspected cases or sending samples to testing centers.

Health workers in the southern province of Shabwa, which does not have a coronavirus testing center, could not send samples to neighboring Hadramout province due to floods and rains, he said.

The National Coronavirus Committee on Sunday reported four new cases and three deaths, bringing the total number of confirmed coronavirus infections to 1,734, including 497 fatalities and 862 recoveries. Yemen reported its first case of coronavirus on April 10 in Hadramout.

Local health officials in the city of Marib said that ambulances could still not reach heavily affected areas in the province due to the floods, as local health centers reported a surge in the number of mosquito-borne diseases.

“What concerns us most is a potential outbreak of malaria and dengue fever in Marib, mainly among displaced people,” Dr. Abdul Aziz Al-Shadadi, the director of Marib’s Ministry of Health office, told Arab News.