Workers recover over 300 bodies from Syrian mass grave

Syrian White Helmets carry a body after an airstrike in Idlib. (AFP/File)
Updated 15 July 2019

Workers recover over 300 bodies from Syrian mass grave

  • Remains found are of women, children and other people likely killed by Daesh

BEIRUT: A local official in Syria’s Raqqa said workers have unearthed 313 bodies from a mass grave discovered last month near the northern city.

Yasser Al-Khamees who leads a team of first responders says among the bodies found are those belonging to civilians, including women and children, as well as people believed to have been shot dead by Daesh militants.

The mass grave was discovered in mid-June on the southern edges of Raqqa. The city was the de facto capital of the Daesh’s so-called Islamic caliphate, which spanned territories in Syria and Iraq.

US-backed Syrian forces retook the city from Daesh in 2014 after gruesome battles that killed thousands and left the city in ruins.

Several other mass graves have previously been discovered in and around Raqqa.

Separately, the Syrian regime said a gas plant resumed operations Monday after repairs to a key pipeline put out of service by a sabotage attack at the weekend.

“The Ebla gas plant resumed production at full capacity” at dawn Monday after repair of the sabotaged pipeline, the Ministry of Oil and Mineral Resources said in a statement.

The pipeline in the Badiya desert, where Daesh is present, transports gas from the regime-controlled Shaer gas field, the country’s largest, in the central province of Homs to the Ebla plant.

It feeds the Ebla plant with 2.5 million cubic meters of gas per day, according to the ministry.

On Sunday, regime's news agency SANA said that a “terrorist attack” by unidentified perpetrators had put the pipeline out of service.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said a bomb blast targeted the pipeline.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

The Badiya desert is the scene of regular clashes between regime forces and Daesh, which retains the ability to strike despite losing all the territory it once held in Syria.

The country’s eight-year war has seen the regime lose control of key oil fields and caused state hydrocarbon revenues to plummet by billions of dollars.

The regime of President Bashar Assad has been slapped with a raft of Western economic sanctions, extending to hydrocarbons.

Last month, underwater pipelines connected to a refinery in western Syria were sabotaged.

Turkey sends armed drone to northern Cyprus amid gas dispute

Updated 59 min 36 sec ago

Turkey sends armed drone to northern Cyprus amid gas dispute

  • The breakaway northern Cyprus government approved the use of the airport for unmanned aerial vehicles
  • A recent agreement between Turkey and Libya claims extensive areas of sea for Turkey in the Mediterranean

FAMAGUSTA, Cyprus: A Turkish military drone was delivered to northern Cyprus on Monday amid growing tensions over Turkey’s deal with Libya that extended its claims to the gas-rich eastern Mediterranean.
The Bayraktar TB2 drone landed in Gecitkale Airport in Famagusta around 0700 GMT, an AFP correspondent said, after the breakaway northern Cyprus government approved the use of the airport for unmanned aerial vehicles.
It followed a deal signed last month between Libya and Turkey that could prove crucial in the scramble for recently discovered gas reserves in the eastern Mediterranean.
The agreement claimed extensive areas of the sea for Turkey, undercutting claims by Greece and the internationally recognized Republic of Cyprus, which runs the southern part of the island.
Analysts say Turkey was pushing back against rival efforts to claim exploration rights in the area after Cyprus, Greece, Egypt and Israel excluded Turkey from a new “East Mediterranean Gas Forum” that also includes Jordan, Italy and the Palestinian territories.
The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), which is only recognized by Turkey, said approval for the drone was given last week “in light of the latest developments in the eastern Mediterranean region” and “to protect the legitimate rights and interests of the TRNC and Turkey.”
The TRNC’s transport minister, Tolga Atakan, said Turkish drones were partly a response to the acquisition of Israeli drones by Cyprus in October to monitor its exclusive economic zone.
Cyprus has been divided since Turkish troops occupied the northern third of the island in 1974 in response to a coup sponsored by the Greek military junta.
Turkey already has two drilling vessels in the eastern Mediterranean despite the threat of European Union sanctions.
Ankara does not recognize the Republic of Cyprus, an EU member, and says the TRNC has the right to explore around the entire island.