Nine Iran-backed fighters killed in 2nd Syria raid in 24 hours: monitor

Israel has launched hundreds of strikes in Syria since the start of the civil war in 2011. (AFP)
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Updated 28 June 2020

Nine Iran-backed fighters killed in 2nd Syria raid in 24 hours: monitor

  • A total of 15 Iran-backed fighters are said to have been killed in 24 hours.

BEIRUT: Air strikes targeting positions of Iran-backed militias in eastern Syria killed nine fighters on Sunday in the second such raid in 24 hours, a war monitor said.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Israel was “likely responsible” for the strikes near the Iraqi border.
They came hours after a similar raid killed six other Tehran-backed fighters, raising the total toll to 15 killed in 24 hours, according to the monitor.
The fighters killed in the early Sunday raids were mostly Iraqi nationals, according to Observatory head Rami Abdul Rahman.
There was no official comment from Israel.
Israel has launched hundreds of strikes in Syria since the start of the civil war in 2011.
It has targeted government troops, allied Iranian forces and fighters from the Lebanese Shiite militant group Hezbollah.
It rarely confirms details of its operations in Syria, but says Iran’s presence in support of President Bashar Assad is a threat and that it will continue its strikes.
On Saturday, air strikes also blamed on Israel hit positions belonging to regime forces and Iran-backed militias near the border with Iraq, the Observatory said.
Four Syrian nationals were among the six fighters killed in that attack, the monitor added.
Saturday’s raids came only days after Israeli strikes in the eastern province of Deir Ezzor and the southern province of Suweida killed seven fighters, including two Syrian soldiers, according to the Observatory.
The uptick in attacks has prompted concern among Iran-backed forces in east Syria that Israeli agents may be among their ranks, the monitor said.
These forces have arrested four people on suspicion of providing intelligence to Israel, the war monitor reported on Sunday, shortly before the latest raids.
The war in Syria has killed more than 380,000 people and displaced more than half of the country’s pre-war population since 2011.


Dubai reopens doors to tourists after long shutdown

Updated 10 min 25 sec ago

Dubai reopens doors to tourists after long shutdown

  • Incoming tourists are required to present a negative test result taken within four days of the flight
  • Dubai is known for its mega malls, high-end restaurants and five-star hotels and resorts

DUBAI: With a “welcome” passport sticker and coronavirus tests on arrival, Dubai reopened its doors to international visitors Tuesday in the hope of reviving its tourism industry after a nearly four-month closure.
But businesses are mainly betting on those already living in the gleaming desert city to energise its ailing economy and serve as a test run before wary foreign holidaymakers return.
“A warm welcome to your second home,” said the sticker applied to passports at Dubai airport, where employees wore hazmat suits and vending machines offered personal protective equipment.
Italian tourist Francesca Conte said on arrival she was worried up until the last minute that her flight would be canceled.
“When I saw passengers queueing at the gate, I thought today we are not leaving, since the trip to Dubai had already been skipped three times,” Conte said.
She said she felt sad “seeing empty spaces” on the plane and stewards and hostesses “dressed like nurses and doctors,” in their lab coats.
The reopening Tuesday came as the number of COVID-19 cases in the United Arab Emirates climbed to 52,600 included 326 deaths, with millions of foreign workers living in cramped accommodation particularly hard hit.
Incoming tourists are required to present a negative test result taken within four days of the flight. If not, they can take the test on arrival, but must self-isolate until they receive the all-clear.
Tourism has long been the lifeline of the glitzy Gulf emirate, one of the seven sheikhdoms that make up the UAE.
High season starts in October when the scorching heat of the Gulf summer starts to dissipate.
Dubai welcomed more than 16.7 million visitors last year, and before the pandemic crippled global travel, the aim had been to reach 20 million arrivals in 2020.
“We are ready to receive tourists while we take all necessary precautions,” said Talal Al-Shanqiti of Dubai’s General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs in a video message tweeted on Sunday.
With scant oil resources compared to its neighbors, Dubai has built the most diversified economy in the Gulf, boasting a reputation as a financial, commercial and tourism hub despite an economic downturn in recent years.
The city-state is known for its mega malls, high-end restaurants and five-star hotels and resorts.
But all have taken a severe hit during the coronavirus outbreak, and Dubai’s GDP in the first quarter of 2020 contracted 3.5 percent following two years of modest growth.
Dubai-based airline Emirates, the largest in the Middle East, has been forced to slash its sprawling network and is believed to have laid off thousands of staff.
Before reopening to international tourists, authorities launched social media campaigns and deployed hundreds of social media “influencers” to tout Dubai’s attractions.
As the hospitality business works out how to create an environment that follows strict hygiene rules but is still worth the hassle for potential foreign clients, hotels are offering Dubai residents “staycation” and “daycation” deals to offset the slump.
Restarting hospitality by “primarily targeting the domestic market is an important first step in our phased approach toward restoring normalcy in the tourism industry,” said Issam Kazim, CEO of the Dubai Corporation for Tourism and Commerce Marketing.
And key to the effort are health and safety measures at hotels to “reassure guests and travelers that Dubai is one of the world’s safest destinations,” he said in a statement last month.
Boosting domestic tourism is also part of the strategy of the UAE’s other main destination, the oil-rich capital Abu Dhabi, which welcomed a record 11.35 million international visitors in 2019.
The UAE’s capital is home to top attractions including an F1 circuit and the Louvre Abu Dhabi museum, which in late June opened its doors to masked, gloved visitors after a 100-day closure.
But the emirate does not share Dubai’s enthusiasm about opening doors to foreign tourists just yet, although those with negative test results are now allowed to enter.
“Plans have changed and we are not expecting to have the same numbers of 2019 this year definitely. It would take another two to three years,” said Ali Al-Shaiba, executive director of tourism and marketing for the Abu Dhabi Department of Culture and Tourism.
“As of today, I can say domestic tourism is what is in our plan. We believe domestic tourism is key now and we don’t see us opening for international travelers very soon,” he told AFP on Monday.