25 dead in airstrikes, shelling in north Syria

Smoke rises from an airstrike on the southwestern part of the Syrian town of Ain al-Arab, known as Kobane by the Kurds in Sanliurfa province. (AFP file photo)
Smoke rises from an airstrike on the southwestern part of the Syrian town of Ain al-Arab, known as Kobane by the Kurds in Sanliurfa province. (AFP file photo)
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Updated 17 August 2022

25 dead in airstrikes, shelling in north Syria

25 dead in airstrikes, shelling in north Syria
  • Turkish attacks target Assad forces and Kurdish fighters in border town

JEDDAH: At least 25 people were killed in northern Syria on Tuesday after Turkey launched airstrikes and an artillery bombardment targeting Assad regime forces and Kurdish fighters near the border town of Kobane.

The Turkish shelling began overnight, when artillery salvoes hit the town and around its edges. It continued throughout the day, and at least one child was killed.
Kurdish YPG militia fighters from the Syrian Democratic Forces responded with a mortar attack on a Turkish military border post in Sanliurfa province that killed one soldier and injured four.
After the mortar attack, Turkish forces conducted retaliatory fire against targets in the Kobane area. “According to initial information in the region, 13 terrorists were neutralized. Operations in the region are continuing,” the Defense Ministry in Ankara said.

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Kurdish YPG militia fighters responded with a mortar attack on a Turkish military border post in Sanliurfa province that killed one soldier and injured four.

Dilvin, a shopkeeper in Kobane, said chaos broke out in the town when the shelling intensified on Tuesday. “People started running everywhere, cars everywhere, people asking about their friends and their family. Then the sounds started to build, the sounds were everywhere,” she said.
“There was so much screaming. So much fear. Now everyone is locked up at home.”
Later on Tuesday, 11 people died in Turkish airstrikes on a Syria border post run by Assad regime forces. It was not clear if the dead were Syrian government troops or Kurdish fighters.
Syrian regime forces have deployed in areas controlled by the SDF near the border with Turkey as part of agreements intended to stem cross-border offensives by Ankara targeting Kurdish forces it views as terrorists.
Turkey has launched a series of attacks since 2016 targeting Kurdish forces and Daesh, but they have rarely resulted in the deaths of Syrian regime fighters.
If regime forces are confirmed to be among those killed on Tuesday, the attack would be one of the largest escalations since Ankara and Damascus traded attacks in 2020 following a Syrian regime strike that killed 33 Turkish soldiers in the northwestern province of Idlib.
Turkey has stepped up its attacks in Kurdish-controlled areas of Syria since July, when President Recep Tayyip Erdogan failed to obtain a green light from regional allies Iran and Russia for a fresh offensive into northern Syria.
Turkey has been hostile to Syrian leader Bashar Assad, and backed rebels calling for his removal. But last week Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu enraged the Syrian opposition by calling for reconciliation between the regime and the rebels.


Lebanese MP storms bank demanding to withdraw her savings

Lebanese MP storms bank demanding to withdraw her savings
Updated 9 sec ago

Lebanese MP storms bank demanding to withdraw her savings

Lebanese MP storms bank demanding to withdraw her savings
  • After a sit-in lasting for several hours, Cynthia Zarazir managed to withdraw $8,500 she said she needed to pay medical bills

BEIRUT: Beirut MP Cynthia Zarazir on Wednesday joined the growing numbers of angry depositors in Lebanon who have resorted to force in an attempt to withdraw their own money, access to which has been withheld by banks since 2019 while the country faces an economic crisis.

She managed to obtain $8,500 from her deposit account, which she said she needs to pay medical bills, several hours after entering the bank and following negotiations with its management.

Her actions came less than 24 hours after George Siam — Lebanon’s former ambassador to Qatar, Turkey, Brazil and the UAE, and currently honorary consul of Ireland in Lebanon — stormed the Intercontinental Bank in Hazmieh, 6 kilometers from Beirut, where he staged a sit-in and refused to leave until he was allowed to withdraw his money.

Zarazir, one of a number of MPs who have participated in protests across Lebanon since 2019, entered the Byblos Bank branch in Antelias, 12 kilometers from Beirut, on Wednesday morning without an appointment.

She waited until another customer was leaving and forced her way in but, unlike some other angry customers who have confronted staff at banks across the country, she was not armed with a weapon or flammable material.

Such desperate actions are no longer confined to retired soldiers, merchants or people with limited incomes whose deposits are frozen in banks while they face demands for school or university fees for their children, debt repayments, or medical bills.

Zarazir, who was elected in May, was accompanied at the bank by lawyers and later joined by fellow MP Halima Kaakour. Zarazir said she had acted as an “ordinary citizen” and “relinquished her immunity” as an MP when she entered the bank. She said she needed the money she demanded to pay her insurance company for surgery.

Lawyer Sharif Suleiman, an attorney representing MPs, including Zarazir, who are demanding action to address the financial crisis, told Arab News that management at the bank insisted that Zarazir sign an agreement not to disclose what happened inside the bank as a condition of giving her the money she required.

“When Zarazir left the bank she tore up the pledge and said it was illegal, and challenged the bank’s management to go to court and sue her,” Suleiman said.

“What Zarazir did shows that she is just like the rest of the Lebanese people. She did not act like an MP, to prevent any future political blackmailing.”

The desperate action being taken against banks by growing numbers of depositors is in part a response to the continuing failure of politicians to develop and implement a strategic plan and timeline for the release of bank deposits, three years after they were seized.

In the southern suburbs of Beirut for example, depositor Hussein Chokr, a retired security officer, staged a protest in a branch of Credit Libanais and demanded he be allowed to access his savings to pay his children’s university fees.

Some of the incidents have turned violent. A customer fired a weapon at a Bank of Beirut branch in the northern city of Byblos after a security guard refused to let him enter because he did not have an appointment.

The depositor, a Lebanese citizen, took a machine gun from his car and fired at the bank, causing material damage. Police have launched an investigation.

Hassan Moghnieh, head of the Association of Depositors in Lebanon, told Arab News: “I expect the depositors’ protests to increase and the situation to further deteriorate. I am not proud of it.

“Closing the banks will not solve the crisis. What is needed is the formation of a crisis committee that will set priorities because up until now nobody has tried to solve the crisis. The protests taking place will continue and might escalate.”

In comments posted on social media some people said that Zarazir’s actions will encourage other bank customers similarly to take the law into their own hands. Others questioned whether, as an MP, Zarazir received special treatment from the security forces, given that they let her go while other people in similar situations have been arrested.

Meanwhile, a group of people staged a protest in Beirut outside the country’s central bank, during which tires were set on fire. The protesters were swiftly surrounded by police amid an altercation.

Moghnieh said incidents such as the one at the central bank are different from individual protests by depositors because “they are politically motivated and the participants are affiliated with the president’s party, which is demanding the dismissal of the governor of the Central Bank, accusing him of corruption.”

Lebanese banks accuse the country’s political class of “having withdrawn from the central bank the amount of $62.670 billion, which was wasted on maintaining subsidies, fixing the exchange rate, the high-interest rates, the electricity sector and the state’s import needs, among other things.”

Depositors accuse the banks of transferring their money abroad and say banks share with politicians the responsibility and blame for the lack of access to deposits.
 


Yemen govt has ‘fully’ implemented UN-brokered truce, says FM

Yemen govt has ‘fully’ implemented UN-brokered truce, says FM
Updated 39 min 38 sec ago

Yemen govt has ‘fully’ implemented UN-brokered truce, says FM

Yemen govt has ‘fully’ implemented UN-brokered truce, says FM
  • The country has experienced the longest cessation of hostilities and violence in eight years over the last six months, resulting in a significant drop in civilian deaths

AL-MUKALLA: Yemen’s internationally recognized government has carried out all of its obligations under the UN-brokered truce and has made “major” concessions to clear the way for its renewal and the end of the war, Yemen’s foreign minister said on Wednesday.

Ahmed Awad bin Mubarak told reporters in the Moroccan capital Rabat that the Houthis have imposed numerous restrictions and conditions to thwart attempts to extend the truce.

He added that the Iran-backed militia has refused to pay public employees in the areas they control despite having made millions of dollars from the sale of oil ships that entered Hodeidah port during the truce.

“We carried out everything in the armistice agreement and made major concessions. The Houthis erected new roadblocks at every stage of the talks,” the Yemeni minister said, noting that Houthi artillery, explosive-rigged drones, snipers and landmines had killed or injured 1,400 government soldiers and officers, as well as 94 civilians during the truce.

The minister said that the government would only pay public employees in Houthi areas if the militia group would deposit earnings from Hodeidah port into the central bank in accordance with the UN-brokered Stockholm Agreement in 2018.

“The Houthis plundered more than 45 billion Yemeni riyals ($18 million) prior to the armistice and have not paid a single riyal in public employee salaries since the signing of the Stockholm Agreement.”

He accused Iran of using the Houthis to further its expansionist goals, vowing to oppose Iran’s attempts to seize control of the country’s resources, including oil.

“The Houthi group imposed the war in order to carry out Tehran's expansionist agenda in the region,” he said. “We will utilize our constitutional right to defend our nation and people, and we won’t let Iran take control of Yemen’s oil riches.”

The international community’s efforts to end the war in Yemen took a major hit this week when the Iran-backed Houthis refused to renew the truce and threatened to target oil ships transporting the country’s oil exports from government-controlled areas.

The Houthis rejected a suggestion to partially ease their siege of Taiz by opening at least one main road leading into and out of the city, and they told UN Yemen envoy Hans Grundberg that they would agree to renew the truce only if the Yemeni government paid public servants in areas under their control.

The country has experienced the longest cessation of hostilities and violence in eight years over the last six months, resulting in a significant drop in civilian deaths.

With the truce, which went into effect on April 2 and has been renewed twice, thousands of passengers have been able to fly from Sanaa airport, and more than 50 fuel ships have entered the port of Hodeidah, ending severe fuel shortages in the Houthi-controlled areas.

Similarly, the EU mission in Yemen has blamed the Houthis’ “maximalist demands” for undermining international efforts to renew the truce and has urged warring factions, particularly the Houthis, to cooperate with the UN’s Yemen envoy and de-escalate.

“We urge in particular the Houthis to moderate their demands and to engage constructively with UN special envoy Grundberg so that the truce can continue and develop into an effective ceasefire, paving the way for a comprehensive process leading to peace in Yemen,” the EU mission said in a statement.


Italian judges’ association condemns Iran for crackdown on protesters

Italian judges’ association condemns Iran for crackdown on protesters
Updated 05 October 2022

Italian judges’ association condemns Iran for crackdown on protesters

Italian judges’ association condemns Iran for crackdown on protesters
  • The Court of Auditors Magistrates Association rarely takes a stance on political issues, but in a communique, it criticized the Iranian regime’s tough response to demonstrations
  • Amini, 22, died at the hands of Iran’s morality police, the Gasht-e Ershad, after being held for allegedly breaching strict dress codes imposed on women

ROME: A top Italian judges’ association has condemned Iran for its crackdown on protests over the death in custody of Mahsa Amini.

The Court of Auditors Magistrates Association rarely takes a stance on political issues, but in a communique, it criticized the Iranian regime’s tough response to demonstrations taking place throughout Iran.

Amini, 22, died at the hands of Iran’s morality police, the Gasht-e Ershad, after being held for allegedly breaching strict dress codes imposed on women.

Her death has since sparked protests in almost every province of Iran over the policing of personal freedoms.

In its statement, the association expressed its “deep solidarity and closeness to Iranian women, who are demonstrating in many ways to claim their freedom and against an oppression that has lasted for 40 years, putting their own lives at risk.”

Association president, Paola Briguori, described Tehran’s actions as “horrible and unacceptable,” adding that “when fundamental rights are undermined one cannot remain silent waiting for everything to calm down.”

Briguori said the crackdown on demonstrators reflected “the legacy of a regime that constantly violates human rights and freedom of expression, repressing and nullifying women’s rights. It is time to give voice to the disapproval and to say enough.”

President of the Italian National Press Federation, Beppe Giulietti, took part in a demonstration outside the Iranian Embassy in Rome. He said the media had an important role to play in highlighting the situation in Iran and urged news organizations to “give space to those who have no voice today.”


UAE continues to strengthen domestic labor rights

UAE continues to strengthen domestic labor rights
Updated 05 October 2022

UAE continues to strengthen domestic labor rights

UAE continues to strengthen domestic labor rights
  • The decree law stipulates the right of domestic workers to be paid annual leave of no less than 30 days

ABU DHABI: The UAE has issued a new federal law to strengthen domestic labor rights.

Decree Federal Law No.9 for 2022 covers all aspects of domestic labor law and guarantees the rights of all parties in a relationship, whether workers, employers or recruitment agents, in line with clear standards and frameworks, the Emirates News Agency (WAM) reported on Wednesday.

The decree law covers working hours, weekly breaks and leave for domestic workers and affirms the right of domestic workers to a paid day off per week, according to the law’s executive regulations.

The executive resolutions issued by the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratization are responsible for working hours and leaves.

The decree law stipulates the right of domestic workers to be paid annual leave of no less than 30 days, said WAM.

If the service period is less than a year and more than six months, workers are entitled to two days leave every month, and the employer can specify the start date of the annual leave.

Moreover, the decree law says if domestic workers wish to travel to their home countries on annual leave, employers must cover the cost of their return tickets once every two years.

The decree law affirms the right of domestic workers to sick leave for a period not exceeding 30 days during a contractual year, whether continuous or intermittent if the need for this leave can be proven by a medical report issued by an approved national health authority.

Furthermore, the decree law affirms the right of domestic workers to change their employer based on the requirements set in their contracts and if they have fulfilled their obligations to the original employer, according to the conditions and procedures included in the resolution of the ministry.

The decree law stipulates that the employer will inform the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratization about any violations committed by a domestic worker against applicable laws.

Recruitment agents must administer the necessary medical examinations for domestic workers within a period not exceeding 30 days before their entry into the country, the decree law confirmed.

They must treat domestic workers in a humane way, not expose them to violence, and raise their awareness of the relevant authorities they must contact if their rights are violated, stressed the decree law.

The law also prohibits recruiting or temporarily hiring domestic workers without obtaining a license from the ministry, according to the executive regulation of the decree law and the ministry’s resolutions.

If domestic workers are recruited or employed on a temporary basis, they cannot be discriminated against based on by race, religion, nationality, social class or disability. Sexual harassment, whether physical or verbal, is prohibited, along with people being forced to work or do any actions that fall in the category of human trafficking.

The law, which was issued on Sept. 9, will come into force three months after the date of its publication in the Official Gazette.


Iranian girls heckle member of feared paramilitary force

Iranian girls heckle member of feared paramilitary force
Updated 34 min 11 sec ago

Iranian girls heckle member of feared paramilitary force

Iranian girls heckle member of feared paramilitary force
  • Basij militia used to suppress widespread protests in Iran

RIYADH: Iranian teenage girls have heckled a member of the regime’s feared Basij paramilitary force, in a protest stemming from the death of a young woman at the hands of Iran’s morality police.

A video shared on social media shows the girls waving their headscarves in the air and chanting “get lost, Basiji” at the man who was meant to address a crowd of demonstrators. Unconfirmed reports said the video was taken in Shiraz on Tuesday.

The protest came in the third week of unrest over the death of Mahsa Amini, 22, days after she was arrested by morality police, the Gasht-e Ershad, in Tehran for allegedly wearing an incorrect headscarf. Her family say she was beaten in custody. Authorities claim she had a heart attack.

The Basij is a wing of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps that has been designated as a terrorist organization by several states, including Saudi Arabia. Its members have been used against the ongoing protests, in which scores of people have died.

Many of the demonstrations are being led by women and girls, who have been flouting the law on compulsory headscarves in a symbolic show of their opposition to the regime.

A second video posted online this week showed a man yelling “death to the dictator” as girls, who had removed their headscarves, walked through traffic in the northwestern city of Sanandaj. An elderly woman was seen clapping in solidarity as the girls chanted “freedom.”

In a third clip, a teacher appeared to threaten students with expulsion if they did not cover their heads as they took part in a sit-down protest in a schoolyard.

Footage reportedly shot in Karaj meanwhile showed girls chasing a man, believed to be a member of the security forces, as he rode a motorcycle.