Kurd families flee to Iraq as armies advance

Under Turkish airstrikes and artillery fire, Kurdish fighters have defended Ras Al-Ain with a network of tunnels, berms and trenches, losing ground but holding off Turkey and its proxies for the past week. (AFP)
Updated 18 October 2019

Kurd families flee to Iraq as armies advance

  • Syrian Kurdish authorities on Thursday called for a humanitarian corridor to evacuate civilians from the border town encircled by Ankara’s forces

BERDARCH/IRAQ: With an array of armies zeroing in on their homes since Turkey launched an offensive on northern Syria, Kurdish families have been joining fellow Kurds across the border in Iraq to escape rockets and bombardment.

Rosine Omar, 28, reached the safety of Berdarch camp in autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan from the flashpoint town of Ras Al-Ain, a key target of the assault on Kurdish-held northeast Syria that Ankara launched on Oct. 9.

“In Ras Al-Ain, the situation was unbearable. We heard rocket fire and were worried the situation would get even worse,” she said.

Apart from the immediate dangers of a conflict that has killed dozens of civilians, Omar feared the advance of not only Turkish forces but also of Ankara-backed Syrian rebels and government troops.

He said that they were also scared that Daesh or the Free Army (of Syrian rebels) would “occupy our town, so we preferred to leave because we had to get our children out of this war.”

From the early hours of Turkey’s third offensive against the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia in northeast Syria, Zoueida, her husband and their children fled Ras Al-Ain.

“We heard the Turkish soldiers were going to bomb out homes so we took to the roads,” she said.

Humanitarian officials in Iraqi Kurdistan say almost 1,000 Syrian Kurds have entered since the launch of the Turkish operation codenamed “Peace Spring.”

Under Turkish airstrikes and artillery fire, Kurdish fighters have defended Ras Al-Ain with a network of tunnels, berms and trenches, losing ground but holding off Turkey and its proxies for the past week.

Syrian Kurdish authorities on Thursday called for a humanitarian corridor to evacuate civilians from the border town encircled by Ankara’s forces.

The appeal came after Turkey’s Syrian proxies hit a health facility in the town, trapping patients and staff inside, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Zoueida said she was at the home of friends elsewhere in Syrian Kurdistan when she heard that regime troops were entering what has turned into a semi-autonomous zone since the 2011 outbreak of Syria’s civil war.

“We’ve seen a lot of blood on the streets. Children were having to sleep out on the streets, there was no water and nothing to eat,” she said.

Her family made their way to the Iraqi border where the Iraqi Kurds have laid on buses to ferry the refugees to Berdarch near the city of Dohuk that was originally built for Iraq’s own internally displaced.

Iraqi Kurdistan previously hosted millions of Iraqis who fled fighting with IS jihadists who occupied much of the country’s north between 2014 and 2017.

Many of them are still housed in camps for the displaced.

Turkey’s week-old offensive has displaced more than 300,000 civilians, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory said Thursday.

The monitoring group’s head Rami Abdel Rahman said residents were also being forced to flee areas around Tal Abyad and Kobani and in Hasakah province of northeast Syria.

Most displaced people tried to move in with relatives in safer areas, some were sleeping rough in orchards and others in some of the 40 schools that have been turned into emergency shelters, Abdel Rahman said.


Egypt sets virus vaccine target

Updated 3 min 46 sec ago

Egypt sets virus vaccine target

  • Volunteers will be closely monitored in order to take a second dose after 21 days

CAIRO: Assistant Health Minister and Coordinator of the Anti-COVID-19 Scientific Committee Ihab Kamal said that 842 people have volunteered in just one week to take part in Egypt’s coronavirus vaccine trials.

About 332 have been admitted in accordance with the health ministry’s requirements, which include being free from chronic disease.

Kamal said: “The number of volunteers until now is not low. We are working on raising the awareness of the citizens through various media platforms on the importance of the vaccine tests.” He added that the required number of volunteers is 6000.

He said the first two phases of the vaccine tests are complete and the third phase has begun. He added that volunteers are called for 21 days, pointing out that volunteers take a second dose in case they do not suffer any side effects. Kamal said the blood’s antibodies are measured throughout the year as part of the program.

Egyptian Minister of Health Hala Zayed announced on Thursday that she had launched the third and final phase of clinical trials on two vaccines developed by Egypt. She said the results of the two vaccine trials are positive so far.

Sources said that the Ministry of Health and the three centers taking part in the trials have received many applications. However, many of the applicants do not match the prerequisites, and therefore only 335 were accepted for the trials.

Zayed said in a press conference in Cairo that the current phase targets the participation of 6000 Egyptians. She said there are three places allocated for clinical trials.

Volunteers will be closely monitored in order to take a second dose after 21 days. After 45 days of the first dose, antibodies produced by the vaccine are measured to test their efficiency, Zayed said.

She said that national medical committees have been formed from civil and military bodies representing Egypt’s best medical experts.

She added that a committee will oversee conducting the clinical trials and that two vaccines out of seven have reached the third phase of clinical trials.

Zayed said that the first phase of the two vaccines included a test on a small group of 10 to 20 people with the aim of ensuring safety and also determining an appropriate dose. About 200 people took part in the second phase.

The third phase aimed included trials on 45,000 people from around the world, including 6,000 Egyptians.

The Ministry of Health and the company responsible for conducting the clinical trials explained the conditions that volunteers must follow to be eligible for tests.

They include an age bracket from 18 to 60 years old according to health condition. Registration must also be carried out using official documents. Volunteers must reside in Egypt or have valid residency documents during the trial period. Moreover, volunteers must sign an “informed consent” form prior to taking part in the trial.

There are a number of health conditions that prevent volunteers from taking part in the trials, including suffering from the symptoms of fever, dry cough, exhaustion and gonorrhea during the 14 days that precede the tests.