Medical and aid groups in northwest Syria fear worse conditions if aid flow from Turkiye stops

Medical and aid groups in northwest Syria fear worse conditions if aid flow from Turkiye stops
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Trucks loaded with United Nations humanitarian aid for Syria following a devastating earthquake are parked at Bab al-Hawa border crossing with Turkey, in Syria's Idlib province, on Feb. 10, 2023.(AP Photo/File)
Trucks loaded with United Nations humanitarian aid for Syria following a devastating earthquake are parked at Bab al-Hawa border crossing with Turkey, in Syria's Idlib province, on Feb. 10, 2023.(AP Photo/File)
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Medical and aid groups in northwest Syria fear worse conditions if aid flow from Turkiye stops
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Updated 13 July 2023
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Medical and aid groups in northwest Syria fear worse conditions if aid flow from Turkiye stops

Medical and aid groups in northwest Syria fear worse conditions if aid flow from Turkiye stops
  • UN Security Council has failed to renew the Bab Al-Hawa border crossing into opposition-held northwestern Syria from Turkiye
  • Russia vetoed a compromise resolution presented by Brazil and Switzerland that would renew the crossing’s mandate for nine months

IDLIB, Syria: Youssef Al-Ramadan says he always feels guilty for having to put his wife and three children to work in order to survive — and now they might not be able to get by since international aid could stop flowing from Turkiye.
Standing outside his tent in a displacement camp in northern Idlib, he is worried that their income might not be sufficient to make ends meet if the United Nations Security Council cannot renew a humanitarian border crossing that has been a critical lifeline for him and some 4.1 million people in Syria’s rebel-held northwest. The vast majority live in poverty and rely on aid to survive.
On Tuesday, the UN Security Council failed to renew the Bab Al-Hawa border crossing into opposition-held northwestern Syria from Turkiye.
Russia, a key political and military ally of President Bashar Assad, vetoed a compromise resolution presented by Brazil and Switzerland that would renew the crossing’s mandate for nine months. With the exception of China’s abstention, it was voted in favor by the majority of member states, and had the backing of humanitarian agencies and the UN Secretary General. Moscow’s rival resolution, which would renew the mandate for six months with additional requirements, failed to get the minimum of nine votes in favor, with only China giving its support.
UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric underscored Wednesday that Secretary-General Antonio Guterres “is not giving up” on trying to keep the Bab Al-Hawa crossing open, stressing that it remains “the center of gravity of the UN’s efforts to deliver aid in the northwest part of Syria.”




Workers unload bags of aid at a warehouse near the Syrian Bab al-Hawa border crossing with Turkey, on July 10, 2023. (AFP)

Like many others in Idlib, Al-Ramadan was internally displaced due to the ongoing conflict, now in its 13th year. He says he cannot go back to his hometown south of the province, because he alleges that the Syrian government and Russia confiscated his home and farmland.
“They took our land and our homes, and now they want to cut off the border crossing,” he told The Associated Press. “I’m barely able to survive with Bab Al-Hawa open, so what happens if it closes?”
Syria is still dealing with the impact of a 7.8 magnitude earthquake in February that rocked Turkiye and northern Syria in both government and opposition held areas, killing over 50,000 people.
The Security Council initially authorized aid deliveries in 2014 from Turkiye, Iraq and Jordan through four crossing points into opposition-held areas in Syria. Over the years, Russia, backed by China, had reduced the authorized crossings to just Bab Al-Hawa from Turkiye, and the mandates from a year to six months.
Russia alleges that militant groups in Idlib are taking the aid and preventing it from reaching families in need. Moscow and Beijing have been calling to phase out the UN cross-border mandate and instead route through Damascus, but Syrians in the northwest enclave say they are skeptical of the push.
The Syrian Response Coordination Group, a relief group active in northwestern Syria, slammed the Security Council’s five permanent members — France, United States, United Kingdom, Russia, and China — for what they called “strongly irresponsible actions” and “clear disregard for the fate of millions of civilians in Syria.”
International humanitarian organizations decried Russia’s veto.
“It defies reason and principle, that Security Council members would vote to not maintain all avenues of aid access for vulnerable Syrians at this time,” International Rescue Committee President David Miliband said in a statement.
Dr. Munzer Khalil, Idlib health director, told The Associated Press that he fears severe public health consequences if the Security Council cannot renew the crossing’s mandate, because many health facilities relying on UN aid will face shortages of critical medical supplies and equipment, including vaccines for children.
The recent earthquake that hit the region emphasizes “the urgency of addressing the inequitable access to aid in northwest Syria and allocating resources for both long-term and immediate recovery initiatives,” Khalil said.
 


Turkiye’s Erdogan in rare Iraq visit to discuss water, oil, security

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Turkiye’s Erdogan in rare Iraq visit to discuss water, oil, security

Turkiye’s Erdogan in rare Iraq visit to discuss water, oil, security
  • Erdogan is scheduled to meet with Iraqi Prime Minister Mohamed Shia Al-Sudani and President Abdel Latif Rashid in Baghdad
  • Trip comes as regional tensions spiral, fueled by the Israel-Hamas war in the Gaza Strip and attacks between Israel and Iran
Baghdad: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is due Monday in neighboring Iraq for his first state visit there in years, with water, oil and regional security issues expected to top the agenda.
Erdogan is scheduled to meet with Iraqi Prime Minister Mohamed Shia Al-Sudani and President Abdel Latif Rashid in Baghdad before visiting officials in Irbil, the capital of northern Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan Region.
“Iraq and Turkiye share a history and have similarities, interests and opportunities, but also problems,” Sudani said during an event at the Atlantic Council on the sidelines of a recent visit to Washington.
“Water and security will be at the top of the agenda,” he said of the upcoming meeting with Erdogan, who last visited Iraq in 2011.
The trip comes as regional tensions spiral, fueled by the Israel-Hamas war in the Gaza Strip and attacks between Israel and Iran.
Farhad Alaaldin, foreign affairs adviser to Sudani, told AFP that the main topics Erdogan will discuss with Iraqi officials include “investments, trade... security aspects of the cooperation between the two countries, water management and water resources.”
Alaaldin expects the signing of several memoranda of understanding during the visit.
The sharing of water resources is a major point of contention, with Baghdad highly critical of upstream dams set up by Turkiye on their shared Tigris and Euphrates rivers, which have worsened water scarcity in Iraq.
Erdogan said the issue of water would be “one of the most important points” of his visit following “requests” made by the Iraqi side.
“We will make an effort to resolve them, that is also their wish,” he said.
Iraqi oil exports are another point of tension, with a major pipeline shut down for over a year over legal disputes and technical issues.
The exports were previously independently sold by the autonomous Kurdistan region, without the approval or oversight of the central administration in Baghdad, through the Turkish port of Ceyhan.
The halted oil sales represent more than $14 billion in lost revenue for Iraq, according to an estimate by the Association of the Petroleum Industry of Kurdistan which represents international oil companies active in the region.
Majid Al-Lajmawi, Iraq’s ambassador to Turkiye, hopes for “progress on the water and energy issues, and in the process of resuming Iraqi oil exports via Turkiye,” according to a statement published by the Iraqi foreign ministry.
The ambassador also expects the signing of a “strategic framework agreement” on security, economy and development.
Also on the agenda is a $17 billion road and rail project known as the “Route of Development” which is expected to consolidate economic ties between the two neighbors.
Stretching 1,200 kilometers (745 miles) across Iraq, it aims to connect by 2030 the northern border with Turkiye to the Gulf in the south.
In the first quarter of 2024, Iraq was Turkiye’s fifth-largest importer of products, buying food, chemicals, metals and other products.
Regional security is another topic expected to be thrashed out during Erdogan’s meetings in Iraq.
For decades, Turkiye has operated from several dozen military bases in northern Iraq against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has waged a decades-long insurgency against the Turkish state and is considered a “terrorist” group by Ankara and its Western allies.
Both Baghdad and the Kurdish regional government have been accused of tolerating Turkiye’s military activities to preserve their close economic ties.
But the operations, which sometimes take place deep into Iraqi territory, have regularly strained bilateral ties while Ankara has sought out increased cooperation from Baghdad in its fight against the PKK.
However, in a televised interview in March, Iraqi Defense Minister Thabet Al-Abbasi ruled out “joint military operations” between Baghdad and Ankara.
He said they would establish a “coordination intelligence center at the appropriate time and place.”
Alaaldin, the Iraqi prime minister’s adviser, said security issues will be “highly featured in this trip.”
“There will be some sort of agreement... and perhaps arrangements to safeguard the borders between Iraq and Turkiye where no attacks and no armed groups infiltrate the border from both sides,” he said.
“It is something that will be discussed but the exact details have to be worked out.”

Iran-backed Hezbollah downs Israeli drone in southern Lebanon

Iran-backed Hezbollah downs Israeli drone in southern Lebanon
Updated 22 April 2024
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Iran-backed Hezbollah downs Israeli drone in southern Lebanon

Iran-backed Hezbollah downs Israeli drone in southern Lebanon
  • Hezbollah said the drone was an Israeli Hermes 450, a multi-payload drone made by Elbit Systems, an Israel-based weapons manufacturer

AMMAN: Iran-backed Lebanese group Hezbollah said on Sunday it downed an Israeli drone that was on a combat mission in southern Lebanon.
The drone that was brought down above the Al Aishiyeh area in southern Lebanon was “waging its attacks on our steadfast people,” a statement said by the group said.
Israeli forces and Lebanon’s armed group Hezbollah have been exchanging fire for over six months in parallel to the Gaza war, in the most serious hostilities since they fought a major war in 2006.
Hezbollah said the drone was an Israeli Hermes 450, a multi-payload drone made by Elbit Systems, an Israel-based weapons manufacturer.
The fighting has fueled concern about the risk of further escalation.
At least 370 Lebanese, including more than 240 Hezbollah fighters and 68 civilians, have been killed in the fighting according to a Reuters tally. Eighteen Israelis, including soldiers and civilians, have been killed on the Israeli side of the border, according to Israeli tallies.

 


UK PM discusses Gaza developments with Jordan’s king

UK PM discusses Gaza developments with Jordan’s king
Updated 22 April 2024
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UK PM discusses Gaza developments with Jordan’s king

UK PM discusses Gaza developments with Jordan’s king
  • Sunak told the king that the UK’s ultimate goal is to achieve a workable two-state solution for Israelis and Palestinians

LONDON: British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Sunday made a phone call to Jordan’s King Abdullah to discuss developments in the Gaza Strip, 10 Downing Street announced.
During the call, Sunak renewed the UK’s support for Jordan’s security and that of the region, saying a significant escalation is “not in anyone’s interests.”
He added that the UK’s focus remains on finding a solution to the conflict in Gaza.
The UK continues to work toward an immediate humanitarian truce to bring in much larger amounts of aid and return the Israeli hostages held by Hamas safely to their families, “leading to a longer-term sustainable ceasefire,” Sunak said.
The two leaders “discussed joint efforts to significantly step up aid to Gaza, with the UK taking part in Jordanian-led aid drops and a humanitarian land corridor to Gaza, as well as the maritime aid corridor from Cyprus,” Downing Street said.
Sunak told the king that the UK’s ultimate goal is to achieve a workable two-state solution for Israelis and Palestinians. 
The two leaders “agreed on the importance of supporting a reformed Palestinian authority to deliver stability and prosperity across the Palestinian territories,” Downing Street said.
King Abdullah warned of the danger of regional escalation, which he said threatens international peace and security, Jordan’s official Petra news agency reported.
He renewed his call for the international community to intensify efforts to reach an immediate and permanent ceasefire in Gaza to alleviate the worsening humanitarian catastrophe in the besieged Palestinian territory, and warned of the dangerous consequences of an Israeli assault on Rafah.
The king stressed the need to protect civilians in Gaza and ensure the delivery of humanitarian aid. 
He pointed to the importance of continuing to support the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees to enable it to provide its humanitarian services in accordance with its UN mandate.


Rockets fired from Iraq at US-led coalition base in Syria

Rockets fired from Iraq at US-led coalition base in Syria
Updated 22 April 2024
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Rockets fired from Iraq at US-led coalition base in Syria

Rockets fired from Iraq at US-led coalition base in Syria
  • The Iraqi military said its forces found the vehicle used by "outlaws" in the attack in northern Nineveh province
  • War monitor said the Islamic Resistance in Iraq, a loose alliance of Iran-backed groups, was behind the attack

BAGHDAD: Rockets were fired late Sunday from northern Iraq at a military base in Syria housing a US-led coalition, according to Iraqi security forces.
In response, the Iraqi forces launched a major search operation in northern Nineveh province and found the vehicle used in the attack, they said in a statement.
It is the first major attack against the coalition forces in several weeks.
It comes days after Israel reportedly responded to an Iranian attack with a drone strike on the Islamic republic, amid tensions fueled by the Gaza war.
The statement from the Iraqi security forces accused “outlaw elements of having targetted a base of the international coalition with rockets in the heart of Syrian territory,” at around 9:50 p.m. (1850 GMT).
The security forces burned the vehicle involved in the attack, the statement added.
Rami Abdel Rahman, director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor, said several rockets had been fired “from Iraqi territory at the Kharab Al-Jir base” in northeast Syria, where US forces are stationed.
He accused the Islamic Resistance in Iraq, a loose alliance of Iran-backed groups, of staging the attack.
The group has claimed most of the attacks on US forces carried between mid-October and early February.
Following a series of rocket attacks and drone strikes by pro-Iran armed factions against US soldiers deployed in the Middle East over the winter, there had been several weeks of calm.

*The Islamic Resistance in Iraq has said it is acting in solidarity with Palestinians and out of anger at US support for Israel in the Gaza war.
A January 28 drone attack killed three US soldiers in the Jordanian desert on the Syrian border.
In response, the US military struck dozens of targets in Syria and Iraq, aiming for pro-Iran forces, and drawing criticism from the governments of both countries.
The United States has around 2,500 soldiers stationed in Iraq and nearly 900 across the border in Syria as part of an international coalition created in 2014 to fight the Daesh group (IS).
Sunday night’s rocket attack came against the background of increasing tension in the region, with a flare-up between Iran and Israel.
Early on Saturday, an explosion at an Iraqi military base killed one person and wounded eight others.
Security forces said the blast hit the Kalsu military base in Babylon province south of Baghdad, where regular army, police and members of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces, or Hashed Al-Shaabi, are stationed.
CENTCOM, the US military command in the region, denied involvement in a strike there. The Israeli army refused to comment.
 


Israel’s brutal tactics blamed for Palestinians’ financial crisis

Israel’s brutal tactics blamed for Palestinians’ financial crisis
Updated 21 April 2024
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Israel’s brutal tactics blamed for Palestinians’ financial crisis

Israel’s brutal tactics blamed for Palestinians’ financial crisis

JERUSALEM: The Gaza war is speeding up Israel’s “annexation” of the Palestinian economy, say analysts, who argue it has been hobbled for decades by agreements that followed the Oslo peace accords.

While the Israel-Hamas war raging since Oct. 7 has devastated swaths of Gaza, it has also hit the public finances and wider economy of the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

Israel is tightening the noose on the Palestinian Authority, which rules parts of the West Bank, by withholding tax revenues it collects on its behalf, said economist Adel Samara.

Palestinian livelihoods have also been hurt by bans on laborers crossing into Israel and by a sharp downturn in tourism in the violence-plagued territory, including a quiet Christmas season in Bethlehem.

Samara said that “technically speaking, there is no Palestinian economy under Israeli occupation — Israel has effectively annexed our economy.”

The Palestinian economy is largely governed by the 1994 Paris Protocol, which granted sole control over the territories’ borders to Israel and, with it, the right to collect import duties and value-added tax for the Palestinian Authority.

Israel has repeatedly leveraged this power to deprive the authority of much-needed revenues.

But the Gaza war has further tightened Israel’s grip, Samara said, with the bulk of customs duties withheld since Hamas sparked the war with the Oct. 7 attack on Israel.

“Without these funds, the Palestinian Authority struggles to pay the salaries of its civil servants and its running costs,” said Taher Al-Labadi, a researcher at the French Institute for the Near East.