Death toll from Syria migrant shipwreck rises

Update Death toll from Syria migrant shipwreck rises
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Rescuers search for victims and survivors off the coast of Syria’s southern port city of after a boat carrying migrants from Lebanon capsized in the Mediterranean Sea. (AFP)
Update Death toll from Syria migrant shipwreck rises
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Ambulances are seen during the rescue process of migrants in the port of Tartous, Syria on Thursday in this picture obtained from social media. (Reuters)
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Updated 23 September 2022

Death toll from Syria migrant shipwreck rises

Death toll from Syria migrant shipwreck rises
  • Syria’s health minister: The number of victims from the shipwreck has reached 73 people
  • Tripoli has emerged as a illegal migration hub, with most migrant boats departing from its shores

DAMASCUS: At least 73 migrants drowned when a boat they boarded in Lebanon sank off Syria’s coast, Syria’s health minister said Friday, the deadliest such shipwreck from Lebanon in recent years.

Lebanon, which since 2019 has been mired in a financial crisis branded by the World Bank as one of the worst in modern times, has become a launchpad for illegal migration, with its own citizens joining Syrian and Palestinian refugees clamouring to leave the country.

Around 150 people, mostly Lebanese and Syrians, were on board the small boat that sank Thursday in the Mediterranean Sea off the Syrian city of Tartus.

“The number of victims from the shipwreck has reached 73 people,” Syria’s Health Minister Hassan Al-Ghabash said in a statement, adding that 20 survivors were being treated in hospital in Tartus.

Of those rescued, five were Lebanese, Lebanon’s caretaker transport minister Ali Hamie said.

“I am discussing with Syria’s transport minister a mechanism to retrieve the corpses from Syria,” Hamie said. 

Tartus is the southernmost of Syria’s main ports, and lies some 50 kilometers (30 miles) north of the northern Lebanese port city of Tripoli, where the passengers had boarded.

“We are dealing with one of our largest ever rescue operations,” Sleiman Khalil, an official at Syria’s transport ministry said.

“We are covering a large area that extends along the entire Syrian coast,” he added, saying high waves made their work challenging.

Many of the boat’s Lebanese passengers hail from impoverished regions in the country’s north including the city of Tripoli, Lebanon’s poorest.

Tripoli has emerged as a illegal migration hub, with most migrant boats departing from its shores.

Wissam Al-Talawi, a Tripoli resident who hails from the northern Akkar region, was among the survivors and is being treated in hospital, his brother Ahmad said.

But the corpses of Wissam’s two daughters, aged five and nine, had been returned to Lebanon where they were buried early on Friday, Ahmad said.

“They left two days ago,” he added.

“(My brother) couldn’t afford his daily expenses, or the cost of enrolling his children in school,” he added, saying Wissam’s wife and two sons remain missing.

Other relatives said they had arrived at Syria’s border to check on their relatives.

Last year Lebanon saw a spike in the number of migrants using its shores to attempt the perilous crossing in overcrowded boats to reach Europe.

In April, the sinking of an overcrowded migrant boat pursued by the Lebanese navy off the northern coast of Tripoli killed dozens of people, sparking anger in the country.

The circumstances of that incident were not entirely clear, with some on board claiming the navy rammed their vessel, while officials insisted the smugglers attempted reckless escape manoeuvres.

Many of the bodies were never recovered.

On September 13, Turkey’s coastguard announced the death of six migrants, including two babies, and rescued 73 people trying to reach Europe, off the coast of the southwestern province of aft.

They had reportedly boarded from Tripoli in Lebanon in an attempt to reach Italy.

Most of the boats setting off from Lebanon head for European Union member Cyprus, an island 175 kilometers away to the west.


Iran indicts 14 in top nuclear scientist’s assassination

Iran indicts 14 in top nuclear scientist’s assassination
Updated 29 sec ago

Iran indicts 14 in top nuclear scientist’s assassination

Iran indicts 14 in top nuclear scientist’s assassination
  • Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was killed in attack on his car outside Tehran that Iran has blamed on Israel

TEHRAN: Iran has pressed charges against 14 people for their alleged role in the November 2020 assassination of top nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, local media reported Sunday.
Fakhrizadeh, who had been under US sanctions for his role in Iran’s nuclear program, was killed in an attack on his car outside Tehran that the Islamic republic has blamed on Israel.
Tehran’s chief prosecutor Ali Salehi announced that “14 people were indicted” in the case, according to Tasnim news agency, without naming them.
The charges against them include “corruption on earth,” aiding “espionage for the Zionist regime,” “colluding with the purpose of disrupting national security” and “actions against national security,” Salehi said.
Iran claims that the bombing and shooting attack that killed Fakhrizadeh was carried out by a remote-controlled machine gun.
Israel has never commented on the killing. In 2018, former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu charged that Fakhrizadeh had led Iran’s efforts to build an atomic bomb, a claim Iran has always vehemently denied.


Hayashi meets Egyptian foreign affairs minister

Hayashi meets Egyptian foreign affairs minister
Updated 9 min 47 sec ago

Hayashi meets Egyptian foreign affairs minister

Hayashi meets Egyptian foreign affairs minister

DUBAI: HAYASHI Yoshimasa, minister of foreign affairs of Japan, and Sameh Shoukry, minister of foreign affairs of Egypt, held a foreign ministers meeting discussing efforts to tackle climate change, methods of controlling the international food crisis, and further enhancing the bilateral relations between both countries on Sept. 22.

The COP27, a conference discussing the current climate situation, will be taking place in Egypt and HAYASHI expressed his hope to collaborate with the government of Egypt to extend efforts to hinder climate change. 

The Japanese minister argued that the root of the existing global food crisis stems from the Russian aggression against Ukraine.

Both ministers agreed that cooperation between Japan and Egypt is mandatory to stop the current international food crisis as well as sustaining and enhancing the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.

Minister Shoukry extended his condolences on the passing of the former prime minister and in return HAYASHI expressed his appreciation to the Egyptian president for sending a presidential envoy to attend the state funeral.

The two ministers shared a mutual agreement that both nations are vital partners for each other and encouraged further enhancement of the bilateral relationship. 

Originally published in Arab News Japan


Mahsa Amini faced torture, abuse before police custody death: Cousin

Mahsa Amini faced torture, abuse before police custody death: Cousin
Updated 29 min 49 sec ago

Mahsa Amini faced torture, abuse before police custody death: Cousin

Mahsa Amini faced torture, abuse before police custody death: Cousin
  • ‘By the time she reached hospital she was already dead from a medical point of view’

LONDON: Mahsa Amini, the 22-year-old woman whose death in police custody has sparked nationwide protests in Iran, faced torture and psychological abuse before dying, her cousin told Sky News in an exclusive interview.
Erfan Mortezaei, a political activist and Kurdish fighter based in Iraq, told Sky News that Amini had become the “voice of the anger of the Iranian people,” urging the international community to respond appropriately to the regime in Tehran.
In the lead-up to her death on Sept. 16, Amini had been shopping in Tehran with family. Mortezaei said a confrontation occurred with local morality police: “When they saw Mahsa and others they decided her hijab was not correct. Ashkan (Amini’s brother) tried to explain to them they were not in their home city, and were strangers in Tehran, so asked to please take that into consideration and pleaded not to be taken away.
“In the struggle the police officers pepper-sprayed Ashkan in the face and forced Mahsa into the van and took her to the morality police station.” He added: “During the journey to the police station she was tortured and insulted.”
Mortezaei said the physical toll of the torture inflicted during the journey caused Amini to lose her vision and pass out, with an ambulance taking 90 minutes to transport her to a local hospital.
“There is a report from Kasra hospital that says effectively by the time she reached the hospital she was already dead from a medical point of view. She suffered a concussion from a blow to the head,” he added.
Mortezaei said his family had been pressured by regime officials to appear on state TV to deny their claims of torture and abuse. 
But steps by the regime to curtail public anger failed, with “Mahsa’s death becoming a spark for this protest movement across Iran and Kurdistan.”
President Ebrahim Raisi said Iran must “deal decisively with those who oppose the country’s security and tranquility.”
The country’s police chief Hossein Ashtari also sent out a public message warning against demonstrations.


Egyptian controversial cleric revered by Muslim Brotherhood dies at 96

Egyptian controversial cleric revered by Muslim Brotherhood dies at 96
Updated 38 min 18 sec ago

Egyptian controversial cleric revered by Muslim Brotherhood dies at 96

Egyptian controversial cleric revered by Muslim Brotherhood dies at 96

DUBAI: Youssef al-Qaradawi, an Egyptian controversial cleric who was seen as the spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood group, has died at the age of 96, his official website said Monday. 

He died in Qatar, where he had been living in exile since 2013. Al-Qaradawi had been tried and sentenced to death in absentia in Egypt. 


Germany summons Iranian ambassador for talks on protests

Germany summons Iranian ambassador for talks on protests
Updated 36 min 45 sec ago

Germany summons Iranian ambassador for talks on protests

Germany summons Iranian ambassador for talks on protests

BERLIN: Germany summoned the Iranian ambassador in Berlin on Monday over a crackdown on nationwide protests that were sparked by the death of a woman in custody, a German foreign ministry spokesperson said.
Asked about the possibility of further sanctions on Tehran in response to the unrest, the spokesperson said “we will consider all options” with other European Union states.
Last week, the United States imposed sanctions on Iran’s morality police over allegations of abuse of Iranian women, saying it held the unit responsible for the death of the 22-year-old in custody.