End Syria hospital attacks, Russia told at UN

Civilians and a member of the Syrian Civil Defence, also known as the "White Helmets", carry a wounded person following an airstrike by Syrian regime forces in Maaret al-Numan in northwest Syria on July 16, 2019. (AFP / Abdulaziz Ketaz)
Updated 19 July 2019

End Syria hospital attacks, Russia told at UN

  • Kuwait, Germany and Belgium asked for the hastily called closed-door session
  • Russian and Assad egime aircraft have since late April ramped up deadly bombardment of the Idlib region

UNITED NATIONS: Russia on Thursday opposed a United Nations Security Council resolution calling for an end to attacks on health facilities in Syria’s Idlib region, diplomats said after the latest meeting over violence in the country’s last major opposition bastion.
The outcome led to a rare statement following the meeting by the UN’s humanitarian chief, Mark Lowcock.
“The carnage must stop,” he said.
Russian and Assad egime aircraft have since late April ramped up deadly bombardment of the Idlib region of about three million people in northwest Syria, despite a deal to avert a massive government assault.
Kuwait, Germany and Belgium asked for the hastily called closed-door session, the latest of many they have sought since May in response to worsening fighting in Syria’s northwest.
The draft text, given to journalists, expressed “grave concern regarding the recent attacks on hospitals and other health facilities,” including a July 10 attack on Maarat National Hospital, one of the largest in the area and whose coordinates had been shared through the UN “deconfliction mechanism” that aims to spare civilian targets.
Russia again denied bombing such facilities.
“I provided information from my ministry of defense” and investigation demonstrated that there were “no attacks at nine out of eleven facilities” allegedly attacked, Moscow’s UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia told reporters.
“The two others were partially damaged but not by Russian” forces, he said.
His British counterpart, Karen Pierce, seemed skeptical.
“There’s some interest in an investigation into the Maarat Hospital hit. So I think that’s the thing to focus on,” she said at the end of the meeting.
“We’ve got our suspicions. But let’s get a proper look into that and get a proper answer.”
Lowcock said after the meeting that since July 1, “at least six health facilities, five schools, three water stations, two bakeries and one ambulance have been damaged or destroyed.
“Entire villages have been destroyed and emptied” because of air strikes, he said.
Regime air strikes on Tuesday killed 11 civilians in Idlib’s south, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
The region on Turkey’s doorstep is administered by Syria’s former Al-Qaeda affiliate Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham, but other jihadist and rebel groups are also present.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres last week strongly condemned air strikes in the region following reports from a Syrian doctors’ group that four health facilities including the Maarat Al-Numan facility were hit during a single day of bombing.
Syria’s war has killed more than 370,000 people and displaced millions since it started in 2011 with a brutal crackdown on anti-government protests.


Israel reduces Gaza fuel supply after rocket attack

Updated 42 sec ago

Israel reduces Gaza fuel supply after rocket attack

  • Israel imposes cut after rocket attacks from Gaza
  • Palestinian enclave suffers chronic blackouts

JERUSALEM: Israel said on Monday it was cutting by half the amount of fuel it supplies to Gaza’s only power plant, in response to rocket attacks from the Palestinian territory.
Three rockets were fired from the Hamas Islamist-run enclave at southern Israel on Sunday and two were intercepted by the Iron Dome anti-missile system, the military said. There was no claim of responsibility.
After the attack, Israel launched an air strike against what the military described as a Hamas military compound. No casualties were reported on either side of the volatile border.
In a statement, COGAT, a unit in the Defense Ministry that coordinates civilian issues with Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip, said “cutting the amount of diesel in half will significantly reduce” the plant’s output.
It said the measure, “following the firing of rockets ... and the continued violation of stability and security” will be in effect until further notice.
Gaza has long suffered from a shortage of electricity and chronic blackouts. A new power line from Israel has been proposed to alleviate the situation.
Mohammad Thabet, spokesman for the Gaza power company, described the Israeli decision as collective punishment.
“We already are in a crisis and now the Israeli decision will make it worse. It will have a grave impact on the lives of 2 million people and on vital services such as hospitals,” Thabet told Reuters.
Currently residents get six hours of electricity followed by 12 hours of blackout. Thabet said the fuel cuts would decrease power time to only four-hour periods.
In a series of border confrontations in recent weeks, Israel said it killed at least eight Palestinian militants who tried to infiltrate its territory.
Israeli and Egyptian blockades have brought the Gazan economy to the brink of collapse. Recent foreign aid cuts and sanctions by the Palestinian Authority, Hamas’s rival in the West Bank, have worsened the situation.