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

  • 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


Initial investigations point to negligence as cause of Beirut blast

Updated 29 min 57 sec ago

Initial investigations point to negligence as cause of Beirut blast

  • 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate, used in fertilisers and bombs, had been stored for six years at the port without safety measures
  • A source said a fire had started at warehouse 9 of the port and spread to warehouse 12, where the ammonium nitrate was stored

BEIRUT: Initial investigations indicate years of inaction and negligence over the storage of highly explosive material in Beirut port caused the blast that killed over 100 people on Tuesday, an official source familiar with the findings said.
The prime minister and presidency said on Tuesday that 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate, used in fertilisers and bombs, had been stored for six years at the port without safety measures.
"It is negligence," the official source told Reuters, adding that the storage safety issue had been before several committees and judges and "nothing was done" to issue an order to remove or dispose of the highly combustible material.
The source said a fire had started at warehouse 9 of the port and spread to warehouse 12, where the ammonium nitrate was stored.
Tuesday's explosion was the most powerful ever suffered by Beirut, a city is still scarred by civil war three decades ago and reeling from a deep financial crisis rooted in decades of corruption and economic mismanagement.
Badri Daher, Director General of Lebanese Customs, told broadcaster LBCI on Wednesday that customs had sent six documents to the judiciary warning that the material posed a danger.
"We requested that it be re-exported but that did not happen. We leave it to the experts and those concerned to determine why," Daher said.
Another source close to a port employee said a team that inspected the ammonium nitrate six months ago warned that if it was not moved it would "blow up all of Beirut".
According to two documents seen by Reuters, Lebanese Customs had asked the judiciary in 2016 and 2017 to ask the "concerned maritime agency" to re-export or approve the sale of the ammonium nitrate, removed from the a cargo vessel, Rhosus, and deposited in warehouse 12, to ensure port safety.
One of the documents cited similar requests in 2014 and 2015.
"A local and international investigation needs to be conducted into the incident, given the scale and the circumstances under which these goods were brought into the ports," said Ghassan Hasbani, former deputy prime minister and a member of the Lebanese Forces party.
Shiparrested.com, an industry network dealing with legal cases, had said in a 2015 report that the Rhosus, sailing under a Moldovan flag, docked in Beirut in September 2013 when it had technical problems while sailing from Georgia to Mozambique with 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate.
It said that, upon inspection, the vessel was forbidden from sailing and shortly afterwards it was abandoned by its owners, leading to various creditors coming forward with legal claims.
"Owing to the risks associated with retaining the ammonium nitrate on board the vessel, the port authorities discharged the cargo onto the port's warehouses," it added.