Syria says Israel attacked Aleppo airport, no casualties

Syria says Israel attacked Aleppo airport, no casualties
Israel has carried out hundreds of strikes on targets inside government-controlled parts of Syria in recent years, including attacks on the Damascus and Aleppo airports. (AFP file photo)
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Updated 22 March 2023

Syria says Israel attacked Aleppo airport, no casualties

Syria says Israel attacked Aleppo airport, no casualties
  • Attack causes material damage in the second attack on the facility this month
  • Airport has been one of the main channels for the flow of aid into the country after the Feb. 6 earthquake

DAMASCUS: An Israeli airstrike early Wednesday targeted the international airport of the northern Syrian city of Aleppo, causing material damage in the second attack on the facility this month, state media report.
State news agency SANA, quoting an unnamed military official, did not mention if the strike caused any deaths or injuries. It said warplanes fired the missiles toward Aleppo, Syria’s largest city and once commercial center, while flying over the Mediterranean.
The airport has been one of the main channels for the flow of aid into the country after the Feb. 6 earthquake hit Turkiye and Syria, killing over 50,000 people, including more than 6,000 in Syria.
On March 7, an Israeli airstrike put the airport out of service for several days and flights were rerouted to two other airports in the war-torn country until the damage was fixed.
Israel has carried out hundreds of strikes on targets inside government-controlled parts of Syria in recent years, including attacks on the Damascus and Aleppo airports, but it rarely acknowledges or discusses the operations.
Israel has acknowledged, however, that it targets bases of Iran-allied militant groups, such as Lebanon’s Hezbollah, which has sent thousands of fighters to support Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces.
Israel has targeted airports and seaports in the government-held parts of Syria in an apparent attempt to prevent arms shipments from Iran to militant groups backed by Tehran, including Lebanon’s Hezbollah.


Two wounded in 'security incident' along Israel-Egypt border -Israeli media

Two wounded in 'security incident' along Israel-Egypt border -Israeli media
Updated 12 sec ago

Two wounded in 'security incident' along Israel-Egypt border -Israeli media

Two wounded in 'security incident' along Israel-Egypt border -Israeli media

Two wounded in 'security incident' along Israel-Egypt border -Israeli media


UN agency for Palestinian refugees raises just a third of $300m needed to help millions

UN agency for Palestinian refugees raises just a third of $300m needed to help millions
Updated 03 June 2023

UN agency for Palestinian refugees raises just a third of $300m needed to help millions

UN agency for Palestinian refugees raises just a third of $300m needed to help millions
  • UNRWA chief grateful for the new pledges but they are below the funds needed to keep over 700 schools and 140 clinics open from September through December

UNITED NATIONS: Despite a dire warning from the UN chief that the UN agency for Palestinian refugees “is on the verge of financial collapse,” donors at a pledging conference on Friday provided just $107 million in new funds — significantly less than the $300 million it needs to keep helping millions of people.
Philippe Lazzarini, commissioner general of the agency known as UNRWA, said he was grateful for the new pledges but they are below the funds needed to keep over 700 schools and 140 clinics open from September through December.
“We will continue to work tirelessly with our partners, including host countries — the refugees’ top supporters — to raise the funds needed,” he said in a statement.
At the beginning of the year, UNRWA appealed for $1.6 billion for its programs, operations and emergency response across Syria, Lebanon, the Israeli-occupied West Bank and east Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip and Jordan. That includes nearly $850 million for its core budget, which includes running schools and health clinics.
According to UNRWA, donors on Friday announced $812.3 million in pledges, but just $107.2 million were new contributions. The countries pledging new funds were not announced.
Lazzarini told a press conference Thursday that UNRWA needs $150 million to keep all services running until the end of the year, and an additional $50 million to start 2024 without liabilities. In addition, he said, the agency needs $75 million to keep the food pipeline in Gaza operating and about $30 million for its cash distribution program in Syria and Lebanon.
UNRWA was founded in the wake of the creation of the state of Israel in 1948 to provide hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who fled or were forced from their homes with education, health care, social services and in some cases jobs. Today, their numbers — with descendants — have grown to some 5.9 million people, most in the Gaza Strip and West Bank, as well as neighboring countries in the Middle East.
UNRWA has faced a financial crisis for 10 years, but Lazzarini said the current crisis is “massive,” calling it “our main existential threat.”
“It is deepening, and our ability to muddle through is slowly but surely coming to an end,” he said. “The situation is even more critical now that some of our committed donors have indicated that the will substantially decrease their contribution to the agency.”
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a speech read by his chief of staff at the start of the pledging conference that “when UNRWA’s future hangs in the balance so do the lives of millions of Palestine refugees relying on essential services.”
Those services include education for over half a million girls and boys, health care for around 2 million people, job opportunities for young people in Gaza and elsewhere, psycho-social support for hundreds of thousands of children, and a social safety net for nearly half a million of the poorest Palestinians, he said. More than 1.2 million Palestinians also receive humanitarian assistance.


Turkiye: Erdogan to be sworn in for third term as president

Turkiye: Erdogan to be sworn in for third term as president
Updated 03 June 2023

Turkiye: Erdogan to be sworn in for third term as president

Turkiye: Erdogan to be sworn in for third term as president
  • Erdogan’s inauguration in parliament will be followed by a lavish ceremony at his palace in Ankara

ANKARA: President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is set to be sworn in on Saturday as head of state after winning a historic runoff election to extend his two-decade rule for another five years as Turkiye’s economic woes worsen.
The inauguration in parliament will be followed by a lavish ceremony at his palace in the capital Ankara attended by dozens of world leaders.
Turkiye’s transformative but divisive leader won the May 28 runoff against a powerful opposition coalition, and despite an economic crisis and severe criticism following a devastating February earthquake that killed more than 50,000 people.
Erdogan won 52.18 percent of the vote while his secular rival Kemal Kilicdaroglu 47.82 percent, official results show.
Turkiye’s longest-serving leader faces immediate and major challenges in his third term driven by a decelerating economy and foreign policy tensions with the West.
“From a geopolitical point of view, the election will reinforce Turkiye’s recent pursuit of an independent foreign policy,” said Matt Gertken, chief geopolitical strategist at BCA Research.
“This policy aims to extract maximum economic and strategic benefits from eastern and autocratic states while still preventing a permanent rupture in relations with western democracies,” he said.
“Tensions with the West will likely increase again, within that framework, now that Erdogan has a new mandate.”
Addressing the country’s economic troubles will be Erdogan’s first priority with inflation running at 43.70 percent, partly due to his unorthodox policy of cutting interest rates to stimulate growth.
Late on Saturday the president is due to unveil his new cabinet with media speculating that former finance minister Mehmet Simsek, a reassuring figure with international stature, could play a part.
A former Merrill Lynch economist, Simsek is known to oppose Erdogan’s unconventional policies.
He served as finance minister between 2009 and 2015 and deputy prime minister in charge of the economy until 2018, before stepping down ahead of a series of lira crashes that year.
“Erdogan’s government looks like it will pursue an orthodox stabilization program,” said Alp Erinc Yeldan, professor of economics at Istanbul’s Kadir Has University.
“What we see now is that the news about Mehmet Simsek and his team is greeted with enthusiasm by the markets,” he said.
Turkiye’s new members of parliament started being sworn in on Friday in a first session after the May 14 election, also attended by Erdogan.
His alliance holds a majority in the 600-seat parliament.
Erdogan’s victory came against a unified opposition coalition led by Kilicdaroglu, whose future as leader of the CHP party remains in doubt following the defeat.


UNSC condemns Sudan violence, calls on parties to honor ceasefire agreements

UNSC condemns Sudan violence, calls on parties to honor ceasefire agreements
Updated 03 June 2023

UNSC condemns Sudan violence, calls on parties to honor ceasefire agreements

UNSC condemns Sudan violence, calls on parties to honor ceasefire agreements
  • Council members urge Burhan and Dagalo to honor Jeddah Declaration and African Union Roadmap
  • More than 700 Sudanese have died and thousands have been injured in six weeks of clashes

NEW YORK: The UN security council on Friday expressed concern over the continued fighting in Sudan between the Sudanese Armed Forces and the Rapid Support Forces and condemned attacks on civilians and UN and humanitarian workers, as well as on medical workers and facilities, and the looting of humanitarian aid. 

In a statement issued after a meeting on Sudan late on Friday afternoon, council members called on the warring parties to grant humanitarians safe and unimpeded access across the country, in line with international law and UN principles. 

According to the UN, at least 730 people have been killed and 5,500 injured since the outbreak of hostilities last month. The actual toll could be much higher. 

Clashes between military leader Gen. Abdel Fattah Burhan’s Sudanese Armed Forces, or SAF, and the Rapid Support Forces, or RSF, a paramilitary group led by Gen. Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, have continued across several parts of the country, including in the capital Khartoum, and in Zalingi, Central Darfur, Al-Fasher, North Darfur and Al-Obeid. 

Security Council members stressed the need for an immediate ceasefire to allow for humanitarian access, and to arrange for a permanent ceasefire as well as “resume the process toward reaching a lasting, inclusive, and democratic political settlement in Sudan.” 

Their statement reaffirmed the council’s support of the United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan, or UNITAMS, and urged its continued engagement in the war-ravaged country. 

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday rejected a request from Gen. Abdel Fattah Burhan to remove his office’s special envoy, Volker Perthes, who serves as the special representative for Sudan and head of UNITAMS. Guterres said that the Security Council had the final say on the fate of the mission. 

The 15-member body, tasked with the maintenance of international peace and security, underscored the need for “strengthened international coordination and continued collaboration,” and reiterated its support for African Union, or AU, efforts to establish mechanisms to address the conflict. 

They also welcomed UN and Arab League efforts toward a viable peace process and the resumption of the transition to democracy in Sudan. They also backed the AU Roadmap toward those goals. 

The Security Council statement welcomed the May 11 signature in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, by the SAF and RSF, of the Declaration of Commitment to Protect the Civilians of Sudan — or the “Jeddah Declaration” — and called on both parties to implement its provisions. 

Council members encouraged international support for the 2020 Juba Peace Agreement, which “remains binding for all its signatories (and) must be implemented in full, in particular its provisions on a permanent ceasefire in Darfur.” 

The statement concluded by reaffirming the Security Council’s “strong commitment to the sovereignty, unity, independence, and territorial integrity of the Republic of Sudan in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations and the principle of good neighborliness, non-interference and regional cooperation.”


After Daesh and bombs, refugee sisters sing of Kurdish sorrow

After Daesh and bombs, refugee sisters sing of Kurdish sorrow
Updated 03 June 2023

After Daesh and bombs, refugee sisters sing of Kurdish sorrow

After Daesh and bombs, refugee sisters sing of Kurdish sorrow
  • They have twice been driven from their family home in northern Syrian town of Kobani
  • Kurdish folk songs are our favorite type of music. They tell the plight of the Kurds, the wars, the tragedy of displacement and the killings

IRBIL: When the Syrian Kurdish sisters Perwin and Norshean Salih sing about loss, it comes from the heart.

Aged in their early 20s, they have twice been driven from their family home in the northern Syrian town of Kobani — once by the Daesh group, and again by the threat of Turkish bombs.
Now they have found a safe haven in northern Iraq’s Kurdish region, where they carve out a living by performing the often melancholy music of their people in a restaurant.
“Kurdish folk songs are our favorite type of music,” said Perwin Salih, 20, who plays the santoor, tambourine and Armenian flute. “They tell the plight of the Kurds, the wars, the tragedy of displacement and the killings.” The Kurds, a non-Arab ethnic group of between 25 million and 35 million people, are spread mainly across Turkiye, Syria, Iraq and Iran, with no state of their own.
They have long complained of oppression but endured special horrors during Syria’s 12-year civil war, especially the Daesh onslaught.
When the jihadists attacked Kobani in late 2014, and heavy fighting turned the town into a symbol of Kurdish resistance, the sisters fled across the border to Turkiye.
After several unhappy months in Istanbul, they moved to the mainly Kurdish city of Diyarbakir in Turkiye’s southeast where they continued their music studies.
They moved back home in 2019, after Syrian Kurdish-led forces drove Daesh out of their last territorial stronghold, with US backing. Turkiye has kept targeting parts of northern Syria in what Ankara says is a fight against Kurdish militants.
Once, the sisters say, mortar shells hit their family home, thankfully without exploding.
Late last year, when Turkiye launched major air and artillery strikes, the Salih sisters fled once more, this time to Iraq, where they and two more siblings now rent a modest two-room house in Irbil.
The two women said they grew up in a household of music lovers, with their mother singing to them before bedtime while their father played the tambourine.
But the trauma they have endured since has left deep scars.
“A vision of Daesh still haunts me,” said Perwin. “Men in black clothes, holding black flags, on a quest to turn life itself black.”
At a recent concert, Perwin played the flute while Norshean, 23, captivated the audience with a Kurdish folk tune about displacement.
“I am a stranger,” she sang softly. “Without you, mother, my wings are broken. I am a stranger, and life abroad is like a prison.”
Norshean, a classical music afficionado, also plays the piano, guitar and kamanja, an ancient Persian string instrument, and dreams of making it as a violinist.
But for now she has recurring nightmares of the jihadists.
“The Daesh still haunts my dreams,” she said. On their latest escape from Kobani, the sisters faced another nightmare.
At the border, Syrian soldiers demanded that they play, warning that they would confiscate the instruments if they didn’t like the music. “We cried while we played, and when we were done they smiled and said: now you can pass,” recounted Norshean.
The sisters now mainly perform at a restaurant called Beroea, an ancient name for the once-vibrant Syrian city of Aleppo.
Co-owner Riyad Othman said he was not surprised by the dangers the women have had to face.
A Syrian Kurd himself, he said his people “spend their entire life fleeing, estranged and suffering.”