Syrian airstrikes intensify in northwest

Civil Defense men search for survivors in a collapsed building after a regime airstrike in Syria’s Idlib province. (AFP)
Updated 13 July 2019

Syrian airstrikes intensify in northwest

  • Unstopped regime bombardment of Idlib region causes more deaths

IDLIB, BEIRUT: Airstrikes targeted opposition-held cities in northwest Syria on Friday, a war monitor reported, widening bombardment of the last major insurgent enclave to areas that had mostly escaped it.
The strikes killed three people in Idlib and three in Maarat Al-Numan, two of the largest cities in the region, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported. Nine more people were killed elsewhere in the enclave, it said.
Another 45 civilians were wounded in the strikes across the opposition-held Idlib region, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Idlib city had been spared strikes by the regime and its Russian ally since they stepped up bombardment of the region more than two months ago.
“It’s the first time that the raids hit the center of Idlib, after being confined until now to its suburbs,” said Observatory Director Rami Abdel Rahman.
Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS) in January took full administrative control of the Idlib region, home to 3 million people, although other militant groups and opposition factions are also present.
Russian and regime aircraft have ramped up strikes on Idlib since the end of April, killing more than 580 civilians. More than 100 fighters were killed in clashes between regime and opposition-led forces in northwest Syria, the monitor said on Thursday, as violence raged on the edge of an opposition bastion despite a September truce deal.
The UN said it had received reports that the strikes hit medical facilities and health care workers.

FASTFACT

More than 100 fighters and regime troops were killed in clashes in Syria, as violence raged on the edge of an opposition bastion despite a truce deal.

Russian and regime aircraft have since late April ramped up the deadly bombardment of the Idlib region, despite a deal to avert a massive government assault.
Friday’s airstrikes hit residential buildings in one of the city’s largest squares, Sabaa Bahrat, an AFP photographer said. Ambulances were dispatched to the scene to tend to the victims, he added.
Meanwhile in neighboring Hama province, six children were wounded by opposition fire in the regime-held area of Karnaz.
Fierce clashes have raged in the northern sliver of Hama province in recent days, with at least 22 fighters killed on Friday, according to the Observatory.
At least 10 regime troops and a dozen militants and allied opposition fighters were killed in the battle near the village of Hamameyat and its strategic hilltop.
Regime forces retook the area in the north of Hama province overnight into Friday after relentless fighting, according to the Britain-based war monitor.
The recent uptick in violence has forced 330,000 people to flee their homes, according to the UN.


Former Lebanese FM Gebran Bassil comes under fire at Davos panel

Updated 3 min 50 sec ago

Former Lebanese FM Gebran Bassil comes under fire at Davos panel

  • Bassil, who has been the target of protesters' anger, was speaking on a panel named “The return of Arab Unrest”
  • CNBC's Hadley Gamble, who moderated the discussion, put pressure on Bassil over his comments on governance

DAVOS: Lebanon’s new government needs to win the confidence of the parliament, the confidence of the people, and the confidence of the international community, former Lebanese foreign minister Gebran Bassil said at the World Economic Forum in Davos on Thursday.

In a much-anticipated panel discussion plagued by controversy and uncertainty since its announcement, Bassil appeared despite a social media campaign and petition calling for his invitation to be rescinded. 

He said the country was in its current position because of 30 years of “wrong policies.”

“The responsibility of the Lebanese government is to take the challenge of changing and reforming the system,” he said. “What is happening now in the streets is very positive because it is creating a dynamic for change.”

Joining Bassil for the discussion — “The return of Arab Unrest” — were Dutch Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation Sigrid Kaag and Damac Properties chairman Hussein Sajwani. 

Kaag spoke of the importance of Lebanon as a “regional public good in a volatile region” saying the country has “so much to offer.” However, she added, “It is so painful to see a model of consensual democracy turn away to provide a disservice.

“One should not need wasta,” she continued, referring to the Arabic word for influence and/or bribery. “Wasta is a total sign of poverty, whereby only if you have means, access, and influence, you are someone.”

Gebran Bassil, a hate figure for Lebanese protesters, was grilled by Hadley Gamble during a Davos panel. (WEF)

Panel moderator, CNBC anchor Hadley Gamble, did not hold back when questioning the former foreign minister, repeatedly reminding him of his infamous quote at Davos last year, when he said, “Washington and London should maybe learn from Lebanon how to run a country without a budget.”

Bassil’s spokesperson May Khreish had earlier accused Gamble of being part of “a Zionist campaign against Bassil's participation in the conference.”

“We have a malfunctioning system because of confessionalism. What the young people are calling for in the streets is a secular system whereby citizens are equal,” Bassil said.

He also expressed his hope that Lebanon’s current crisis could be resolved in-house. “Let the people of the region decide what they want,” he said. “Don’t dictate to them foreign recipes. Let the international community help not dictate.

“Lebanon is still a democracy — we have a high level of freedom and they are encouraged to keep this force of change, and when they decide we don’t represent them anymore, we step aside,” he continued, referring to former Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s government resigning a few weeks after the start of the protests in October 2019.

Damac boss Sajwani suggested that the general public in the region did not treat democracy with appropriate gravitas. “The challenge we have in the Middle East is that people are not being professional when it comes to elections,” he said. “They are going by emotions and religion, which is totally unacceptable.”

Kaag praised the determination and persistence of Lebanon's youth. “The specter of possible civil war will not work anymore (as a deterrent for protests),” she said.

Lebanon’s new coalition government was formed on Tuesday after almost 100 days of widespread public protests about the state of the economy, corruption, high unemployment and a lack of basic services. The majority of its 20 ministers are aligned with Hezbollah and its allies.