US military review of civilian casualties in Syria flawed, claims Human Rights Watch

US military review of civilian casualties in Syria flawed, claims Human Rights Watch
Smoke rises behind destroyed vehicles and damaged buildings in the village of Baghouz in Syria's eastern Deir Ezzor province. (File/AFP)
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Updated 19 May 2022

US military review of civilian casualties in Syria flawed, claims Human Rights Watch

US military review of civilian casualties in Syria flawed, claims Human Rights Watch
  • NGO accuses defense department of “refusal to hold itself accountable for civilian deaths” 
  • US Congress needs to urgently address the military’s handling of civilian harm, says HRW Washington director

LONDON: Internal US military reviews of operations resulting in civilian harm remain “fundamentally” flawed and require urgent redress despite pledges made last year, Human Rights Watch said on Thursday.
On Tuesday, the US Department of Defense released a public summary, but not the full report, of an airstrike it conducted against Syria in 2019 in which it acknowledged faults for the handling of the operation but found no one accountable.
Sarah Yager, Washington director of Human Rights Watch, said: “It’s disappointing but not surprising the DOD has once again refused to hold itself accountable for civilian deaths.”
She added: “In addition to resolving obvious flaws in its investigative process, the US military should publish the full review, as a show of respect to the victims’ families and to prevent future abuses.”
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin initiated the review after a November New York Times article condemned an initial investigation for its failure to acknowledge that dozens of civilians had been killed by the strike on Baghouz in March 2019 and alleged individuals within the DOD had sought to cover up the extent of civilian harm.
Despite Austin’s intervention and pledge to create a Civilian Harm Mitigation and Response Action Plan, HRW said this latest review failed in its commitments to transparency, lacked information from witnesses, used “an overly elastic definition of combatants” and did not provide amends for the civilians harmed.
The NGO claimed the DOD classified all adult males as combatants, regardless of their participation in hostilities, contravening international humanitarian law standards on distinguishing between civilians and combatants; relied on incorrect Syrian allies, rather than properly verifying information received; and provided no evidence of interviews with people outside the US military.
In a statement, HRW said: “Instead, it appears that the military reviewers relied upon the same incomplete information in the review that they relied upon to conduct the airstrike.”
Yager pointed to the failure to investigate as proof that the US Congress needed to intervene to urgently address the military’s handling of civilian harm.
“We had high hopes for Secretary Austin’s commitments earlier this year to reform, but the many missteps in this inquiry leave us deeply concerned that the US military hasn’t gotten the memo,” she said.


Jordan govt blames lack of safety measures for deadly gas leak in Aqaba port

Jordan govt blames lack of safety measures for deadly gas leak in Aqaba port
Updated 8 min 17 sec ago

Jordan govt blames lack of safety measures for deadly gas leak in Aqaba port

Jordan govt blames lack of safety measures for deadly gas leak in Aqaba port
  • The accident happened when a tank filled with 25 tons of chlorine gas being exported to Djibouti fell while being transported

AMMAN: The Jordanian government on Sunday blamed a lack of safety measures for the deadly gas leak in Aqaba last week.


A total of 13 people were killed, and 250 others were hospitalized when a chlorine tank exploded after a crane dropped it at the Red Sea port of Aqaba, releasing a large plume of toxic yellow smoke.

The accident happened when a tank filled with 25 tons of chlorine gas being exported to Djibouti fell while being transported.

Announcing the results of the investigation into the gas leak tragedy, Jordanian Interior Minister Mazen Al-Faraya said that the reason behind the accident was the incompatibility of the metal wire that carried the gas tank with its weight.

During a press conference on Sunday, Al-Faraya said that the weight of the tank was “three times more than the cable load capacity.”

Al-Faraya also said that the required safety procedures in dealing with such hazardous material were not in place while loading the gas tank on the truck.

The minister said that the safety attendant was not present on the ship to check the loading and unloading protocols and procedures.

Al-Faraya said that the report into the Aqaba gas leak would be referred to the prosecutor-general for further investigation.

Faisal Shboul, minister of state for media affairs, said that the state institutions’ response to the incident was “professional and immediate,” which resulted in the gas leak being contained and the situation being brought under control.

He also commended the “high efficiency” of the health care system in Aqaba, saying that only eight injured in the accident were currently receiving treatment.

Prime Minister Bishr Al-Khasawneh said that, as per the recommendations of the investigation team, the Cabinet had approved the termination of the services of the directors of the Jordan Maritime Commission and the Aqaba Company for Port Operation and Management and other officials.

Chairing a Cabinet meeting on Sunday, Khasawneh also blamed the absence of the required safety measures for the gas leak.

In a statement to Arab News, the premier said that the “government’s professional and rapid response to the incident has greatly helped mitigate the disaster and its consequences on the port city and its residents.”

He said that the government had implemented the king’s directives to embark on a comprehensive investigation into the incident.

Jordan’s King Abdullah II has called for those responsible for the deadly gas leak to be held accountable.

Chairing a meeting last Tuesday at the National Center for Security and Crisis Management, the king “stressed the need to provide transparent explanations to the public after investigations conclude, as well as identifying shortcomings and holding those responsible to account by law.”

Following the gas leak tragedy, employees at the port of Aqaba have been staging a sit-in, demanding better safety measures at their work sites and better living conditions.


Minister stresses importance of continuing to develop Bahrain-UK partnership

Minister stresses importance of continuing to develop Bahrain-UK partnership
Updated 03 July 2022

Minister stresses importance of continuing to develop Bahrain-UK partnership

Minister stresses importance of continuing to develop Bahrain-UK partnership
  • British Minister of State for Asia and the Middle East Amanda Milling is on a visit to Manama
  • Bahrain’s minister of finance and national economy affirmed the depth of UK-Bahraini relations

RIYADH: Bahrain’s finance minister has stressed the importance of continuing to develop the partnership between his country and the UK in order to create more ambitious investment opportunities, Bahrain News Agency reported on Sunday.

Minister of Finance and National Economy, Sheikh Salman bin Khalifa Al-Khalifa, also affirmed the depth of UK-Bahraini relations which has strengthened economic cooperation and partnership between the two countries.

The minister also highlighted the importance of building on fruitful cooperation between the two countries and opening up new horizons so as to achieve common aspirations and goals.

The comments were made during the British Minister of State for Asia and the Middle East Amanda Milling’s visit to Manama.

Milling said she was delighted to visit Bahrain and pleased to meet with British embassy officials to learn more about the “on-going work with the Bahrain government.”


2 women killed in shark attacks off Egypt’s Red Sea coast

2 women killed in shark attacks off Egypt’s Red Sea coast
Updated 14 sec ago

2 women killed in shark attacks off Egypt’s Red Sea coast

2 women killed in shark attacks off Egypt’s Red Sea coast
  • The Environment Ministry said it has formed a committee to investigate the attacks

CAIRO: Two women were killed over the weekend in shark attacks off Egypt’s Red Sea coast, a tourist hotspot.

The first victim was a 68-year-old Austrian woman who lost an arm and a leg due to a shark attack yet managed to swim to shore to seek help.

She immediately received medical attention and was taken to an ambulance, where she died minutes later. She had been living in Egypt for the past few years with her Egyptian husband.

The second victim, a middle-aged Romanian tourist, was found dead hours after the first attack. Her identity is yet to be revealed. 

The two attacks occurred around 600 meters away from each other, and resulted in authorities suspending any activities in the area. The Environment Ministry said it has formed a committee to investigate the attacks.

The state has been trying to revive tourism since the industry was hit by the coronavirus pandemic. Tourism accounts for around 12 percent of Egypt’s gross domestic product.


Austrian, Egyptian FMs hold talks in Cairo

Austrian, Egyptian FMs hold talks in Cairo
Updated 03 July 2022

Austrian, Egyptian FMs hold talks in Cairo

Austrian, Egyptian FMs hold talks in Cairo
  • Topics discussed include terrorism, immigration, Russia-Ukraine war, global food crisis

CAIRO: Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg and his Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shoukry held talks in Cairo, discussing the fight against terrorism, illegal immigration, the Russia-Ukraine war and the resulting global food crisis.

At a joint press conference, Schallenberg stressed the importance of resolving the global food crisis resulting from the conflict.

Shoukry said the war has impacted all the world’s countries, adding: “Egypt is the largest importer of wheat in the world, but we have enough reserves for our people and we are working to provide other quantities.”

He said Egypt is in contact with all parties, and its goal is to restore stability and end the conflict.

Shoukry received Schallenberg at the Egyptian Foreign Ministry headquarters. They discussed ways to enhance cooperation between Egypt and Austria, especially in the political, economic and investment fields.


Egypt’s House of Representatives approves Saudi PIF deal

Egypt’s House of Representatives approves Saudi PIF deal
Updated 03 July 2022

Egypt’s House of Representatives approves Saudi PIF deal

Egypt’s House of Representatives approves Saudi PIF deal
  • The agreement aims to encourage, support and protect PIF investments in Egypt

CAIRO: Egypt’s House of Representatives, the lower house of Parliament, has approved an agreement signed in March between Cairo and Riyadh regarding Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund.

The agreement aims to encourage, support and protect PIF investments in Egypt, enhance bilateral trade, and expand both countries’ investments in other countries regionally and internationally.

The PIF, established in 1971, is one of the largest sovereign wealth funds in the world, with assets estimated at $620 billion.