Children ‘hit hardest by violence in Syria’, advocacy group reports

Children ‘hit hardest by violence in Syria’, advocacy group reports
Syrian children sit in the back of a truck transporting their belongings in the northern countryside of Idlib on January 28, 2020, after fleeing its southern countryside as a result of an ongoing offensive by regime forces on Syria's rebel-held northwestern region. (AFP / Omar Haj Kadour)
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Updated 01 February 2020

Children ‘hit hardest by violence in Syria’, advocacy group reports

Children ‘hit hardest by violence in Syria’, advocacy group reports
  • Save the Children says half of those displaced are children, adding that at least 37,000 children were forced to flee in the month of January

PARIS: A children’s advocacy group warned on Friday that half of nearly 400,000 displaced people in the Syrian regime’s two-month-long offensive on the country’s last opposition-held region are children, calling it a wave of displacement unlike anything seen before in the war in Syria.

The offensive by Syrian regime forces, backed by ally Russia, has focused mainly on Idlib province in the northwest, and also lately on neighboring Aleppo. It is an attempt to seize control of a strategic highway that links the capital, Damascus, and the north. 

The UN has estimated that 390,000 Syrians have been displaced over the past two months — 315,000 in December and 75,000 in January.

According to advocacy group Save the Children, half of those displaced are children, adding that at least 37,000 children were forced to flee in the month of January.

During a one-week period in mid-January, 34 children and 13 women were killed, the UN said.

Trucks and other vehicles have crammed the roads as civilians — some of them already displaced by earlier fighting — packed up their meager belongings to leave towns and villages under attack.

Save the Children said its advocacy partners working in Idlib and Aleppo described miles of convoys and said “the sheer scale of displacement is unlike anything they have seen before.”

The US and Europe are stepping up their sanctions against the regime because of the Idlib assault, according to Ambassador James F. Jeffrey, US special representative for Syria engagement and special envoy for the global coalition to defeat Daesh.

He said the US government was “appalled and horrified by the unrelenting Assad regime assault on Idlib” supported by Russia and Iran. 

It was, he added, a violation of UN Resolution 2254 from 2015, as well as several more recent cease-fires that Russia had agreed to but was now ignoring. 

“It indicates that the regime does not want a compromise solution but rather a military solution,” Jeffrey told the media.

The US was not planning any withdrawal of US troops from Syria in the near future, he said.

He said that EU and Arab League countries met in London to talk about the next steps for Syria. 

“We are seeing Daesh come back as an insurgency as a terrorist operation with some 14,000 to 18,000 terrorists between Syria and Iraq, and Daesh considers both countries as a single front,” said Jeffrey. 

“We are working with both the Iraqi government and the local authorities in Syria to combat this scourge. We had a setback temporarily in Syria last October with the Turkish incursion but we are back doing full operations with our local partner, the Syrian Democratic Forces.”

 

Detailed coverage Page 6


Foreign forces ignore UN’s Libya exit deadline under fragile truce

Foreign forces ignore UN’s Libya exit deadline under fragile truce
In this file photo taken on November 19, 2020, a Libyan stands in front of a school, which was damaged during fighting between rival factions, in the capital Tripoli's suburb of Ain Zara. (AFP)
Updated 24 January 2021

Foreign forces ignore UN’s Libya exit deadline under fragile truce

Foreign forces ignore UN’s Libya exit deadline under fragile truce
  • Ankara and Moscow appear intent on defending their interests under any final settlement

TRIPOLI: Foreign forces ignored a deadline to pull out of Libya as scheduled on Saturday under a UN-backed cease-fire deal, highlighting the fragility of peace efforts after a decade of conflict.

Satellite images broadcast by CNN show a trench running tens of kilometers dug by “Russian mercenaries” near the frontline coastal city of Sirte, as main foreign protagonists Ankara and Moscow appear intent on defending their interests under any final settlement.
An unidentified US intelligence official, quoted by the American news network, said there was “no intent or movement by either Turkish or Russian forces to abide by the UN-brokered agreement.”
“This has the potential to derail an already fragile peace process and cease-fire. It will be a really difficult year ahead,” he said.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday urged all “regional and international actors to respect the provisions” of the Oct. 23 cease-fire accord that set out a withdrawal within three months of all foreign troops and mercenaries.
That deadline passed on Saturday, with no movement announced or observed on the ground.
The UN estimates there are still some 20,000 foreign troops and mercenaries in Libya helping the warring factions, the UN-recognized Government of National Accord in Tripoli and military strongman Khalifa Haftar in the east. The GNA has received military support from Turkey. Haftar has the backing of Russia.
Guterres called on all parties to implement the terms of the cease-fire “without delay,” something he noted “includes ensuring the departure of all foreign fighters and mercenaries from Libya, and the full and unconditional respect of the Security Council arms embargo,” which has been in place since the 2011 NATO-backed uprising that ousted and killed longtime ruler Muammar Qaddafi.

HIGHLIGHT

The UN estimates there are still some 20,000 foreign troops and mercenaries in Libya helping the warring factions.

Any withdrawal or end to foreign interference “does not depend on the Libyans but on the outside powers,” said Khaled Al-Montasser, professor of international relations at Tripoli University.
Turkey on Friday welcomed a deal reached at UN-backed talks for Libya’s warring factions to set up an interim executive to rule the North African country until polls in December.
Turkey has backed the GNA with military advisers, materiel and mercenaries, repelling an advance on Tripoli by Haftar’s forces, and it also has a military base in Al-Watiya on the border with Tunisia under a 2019 military accord.
Last December, parliament in Ankara extended by 18 months its authorization for Turkey’s troop deployment in Libya, in apparent disregard of the cease-fire deal.
“The mercenaries are unlikely to leave Libya so long as the countries which have engaged them have not guaranteed their interests in the new transitional phase,” said Montasser, referring to the multiple tracks of UN-sponsored talks currently underway.
“Their presence keeps alive the threat of military confrontation at any moment, while the current calm staying in place seems uncertain,” he said.
Most of the foreign forces are concentrated around Sirte, at Al-Jufra airbase held by Haftar’s forces 500 km south of Tripoli and further west in Al-Watiya.