Syria extends aid deliveries via Turkiye for six months

A boy walks in front of tents at a camp for displaced Syrians near the town of Maarrat Misrin in the Idlib governorate. (AFP)
A boy walks in front of tents at a camp for displaced Syrians near the town of Maarrat Misrin in the Idlib governorate. (AFP)
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Updated 13 January 2024
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Syria extends aid deliveries via Turkiye for six months

Syria extends aid deliveries via Turkiye for six months
  • The permission granted by the Assad regime for aid deliveries through the  Bab Al-Hawa crossing expires on Jan. 13
  • Syria granted another permission for aid deliveries from the Bab Al-Salam and Al Ra’ee crossings, but that will also expire on Feb. 13

BEIRUT: The Syrian regime has extended its approval for humanitarian aid to be delivered to opppsition-held parts of the country’s northwest through a border crossing with Turkiye for another six months.
The UN has been using the Bab Al-Hawa crossing from Turkiye to deliver aid to millions in northwest Syria since 2014 with authorization from the UN Security Council.
That expired in mid-2023 after the 15-member body failed to reach an agreement to extend it, and the Syrian regime then said the UN could continue using the Bab Al-Hawa crossing for another six months.

BACKGROUND

The UN has been using the Bab Al-Hawa crossing from Turkiye to deliver aid to millions in northwest Syria since 2014 with authorization from the UN Security Council.

In a diplomatic note seen by Reuters and dated Thursday, Syria’s mission to the UN said Damascus would “extend its permission granted to the United Nations to use Bab Al-Hawa crossing to deliver humanitarian assistance to the North-West of Syria for an additional period of six months until July 13, 2024.”
Damascus has also allowed the UN to send aid through two other Turkish crossings after an earthquake killed more than 50,000 people in Turkiye and Syria last year.
That authorization is set to expire on Feb. 13.
Turkiye has been seeking renewals to both sets of authorizations as interest levels and funding priorities have hampered the aid response.
Millions of people in the northwest rely on aid deliveries through Turkiye to access food, medicine, and other basic needs.
After nearly 13 years of conflict, many across the country are living in their most dire economic conditions yet, with nine out of 10 Syrians living under the poverty line.

 


Vessel reported being attacked off Yemen’s Hodeidah, UK maritime agency says

Vessel reported being attacked off Yemen’s Hodeidah, UK maritime agency says
Updated 3 sec ago
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Vessel reported being attacked off Yemen’s Hodeidah, UK maritime agency says

Vessel reported being attacked off Yemen’s Hodeidah, UK maritime agency says
  • An unmanned small craft collided with the vessel twice and two manned small craft fired at it, according to UKMTO
The United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) said on Monday it had received a report of a merchant vessel being attacked by three small craft 70 nautical miles southwest of Yemen’s Hodeidah city.
An unmanned small craft collided with the vessel twice and two manned small craft fired at it, according to UKMTO.
The vessel and crew were reported safe, and it was proceeding to the next port of call after it conducted “self protection measures,” UKMTO said.
Since November, Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi group has been launching drone and missile strikes in shipping lanes in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden. The group says these actions are in solidarity with Palestinians affected by Israel’s war in Gaza.

UN official says worst scenes of Gaza war witnessed at Nasser Medical Complex in Khan Younis

UN official says worst scenes of Gaza war witnessed at Nasser Medical Complex in Khan Younis
Updated 15 July 2024
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UN official says worst scenes of Gaza war witnessed at Nasser Medical Complex in Khan Younis

UN official says worst scenes of Gaza war witnessed at Nasser Medical Complex in Khan Younis

RIYADH: A UN official said he witnessed “one of the worst scenes he has seen in Gaza in the past nine months” during his visit to the Nasser Medical Complex in Khan Younis on Saturday.
Scott Anderson, the director of UNRWA Affairs in Gaza, said that “many of the injured were receiving treatment on the hospital floor without disinfectants due to insufficient beds and a lack of essential cleanliness equipment and supplies.” 
Nasser Medical Complex is under tremendous strain and burden, with children who are amputees, others paralyzed and deprived of medical treatment, the Saudi Press Agency quoted Anderson as saying.
The UN official also noted how parents were in despair about the conditions of their children.
He added that the United Nations team provided referral services on Saturday, along with additional tents, beds, stretchers, supplies and medications.
He also pointed out the obstacles hindering humanitarian operations prevented aid from reaching people, SPA added.


Syrians vote for their next parliament, which may consider allowing Assad to extend his rule

Syrians vote for their next parliament, which may consider allowing Assad to extend his rule
Updated 15 July 2024
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Syrians vote for their next parliament, which may consider allowing Assad to extend his rule

Syrians vote for their next parliament, which may consider allowing Assad to extend his rule
  • Syrians are voting for members of a new parliament in an election that is expected to hold few surprises
  • Syrians who’ve left their country due to the war are not eligible to vote in parliamentary elections

DAMASCUS: Syrians were voting for members of a new parliament in an election Monday that was expected to hold few surprises but could pave the way for a constitutional amendment to extend the term of President Bashar Assad.
The vote is the fourth in Syria since mass anti-government protests and a brutal crackdown by security forces spiraled into an ongoing civil war in 2011.
There are 1,516 government-approved candidates running this year for the 250-seat People’s Assembly.
The number of eligible voters has not been announced. In parliamentary elections, unlike presidential elections, the millions of diaspora Syrians — whose numbers have ballooned since the civil war — are not eligible to vote.
Some 8,151 polling stations were set up in 15 voting districts in government-held areas.
In the Druze-majority southern province of Sweida, where anti-government protests have been taking place regularly for nearly a year, many called for a boycott of the polls. Videos posted online showed protesters seizing ballot boxes off a truck in an attempt to stop them arriving to polling stations.
Elsewhere, campaigning was low key and candidates’ campaigns largely revolved around general slogans such as national unity and prosperity.
Assad’s Baath Party won 166 seats in the 2020 elections, representing nearly two-thirds of its membership, in addition to 17 members from allied parties. Another 67 seats went to independent candidates.
Vladimir Pran, an independent adviser on transitional political and electoral processes, said the competitive part of the Syrian election process comes before voters go to the polls, during the Baath Party primary process, when party members vote on which candidates’ names are sent to the party’s central command to make the final list.
“Elections are really already finished... with the end of the primary process,” he said. Once the Baath party list is completed, “you can check the list and the results, and you will see that literally all of them will be in the Parliament.”
The number of incumbents who made the final list this year was relatively low, suggesting a reshuffling within the Baath party.
Maroun Sfeir, a consultant on transitional electoral and political processes, said the 169 candidates put forward by the Baath party alone is past the margin of 167 MPs needed to propose a constitutional amendment, protect the president from being accused of treason and veto legislation.
Adding to that 16 candidates from Baath-allied parties running on the same list, he said, “you’re only three MPs short of three quarters of the parliament, which is required for (passing) a constitutional amendment.”
While that leaves 65 slots open for independent candidates, Sfeir said they should not be expected to present a real opposition bloc.
“They are all pre-vetted... to ensure that they’re all loyal or without any threat,” he said.
With Assad facing term limits that would end his presidency in 2028, the next parliament is widely expected to try to pass a constitutional amendment to extend his term.


15 killed in Israel strike on UN-run school in Gaza – civil defense

15 killed in Israel strike on UN-run school in Gaza – civil defense
Updated 12 min 24 sec ago
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15 killed in Israel strike on UN-run school in Gaza – civil defense

15 killed in Israel strike on UN-run school in Gaza – civil defense
  • The Abu Araban school was housing “thousands of displaced people,” civil defense agency spokesman Mahmud Bassal told AFP, adding that most of the dead were women and children

GAZA STRIP, Palestinian Territories: The civil defense agency in Hamas-run Gaza said Sunday that 15 people were killed in a strike on a school sheltering war displaced where the Israeli military said it had targeted “terrorists.”

The strike on the UN-run Abu Araban site in central Gaza’s Nuseirat camp was the fifth on a school-turned-shelter in eight days.

The Abu Araban school was housing “thousands of displaced people,” civil defense agency spokesman Mahmud Bassal said, adding that most of the dead were women and children.

Schools in Nuseirat were the target for two of the earlier school strikes as Israel keeps up its offensive against Hamas Palestinian militants who triggered the war with their October 7 attack on Israel.

The Israeli military said its air force “struck a number of terrorists who were operating in the area of UNRWA’s Abu Araban school building in Nuseirat.”

It said the building had “served as a hideout” and base for “attacks” on Israeli troops.

AFPTV images showed the three-story complex standing, with clothes and bedding airing out over its railings. A wall bearing the UN logo had been blown out, and rooms inside were damaged.

On July 6, Israeli aircraft hit Al-Jawni school, also run by the United Nations relief agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA), in Nuseirat. UNRWA said about 2,000 people were sheltering there at the time.

The following day, four people died in a strike on the church-run Holy Family school in Gaza City, in the territory’s north, according to the Civil Defense agency.

On Monday, Israel hit another Nuseirat school, again saying it was targeting “terrorists.”

The next day, a hospital source said at least 29 people died in a strike at the entrance to Al-Awda school in the Khan Yunis area, southern Gaza.

Israel says Hamas uses schools, hospitals and other public infrastructure for military purposes. Hamas denies the accusation.

France and Germany on Wednesday called for an investigation into the school strikes.

After the Al-Jawni strike, UNRWA spokesperson Juliette Touma told AFP that when the war began “we closed the schools and they became shelters.”

UNRWA is the main relief agency in Gaza but more than half, or 190, of its facilities have been hit — “some more than once” — in the military response to the October 7 Hamas attacks, she said.


As war rages, Palestinian culture stifled in Israel

As war rages, Palestinian culture stifled in Israel
Updated 14 July 2024
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As war rages, Palestinian culture stifled in Israel

As war rages, Palestinian culture stifled in Israel
  • About 20 percent of Israel’s 9.5 million inhabitants are Arab, and many of them identify as Palestinian

TEL AVIV: Comedian Ayman Nahas said he has kept a “low profile” since Oct. 7, fearing reprisals as an Arab artist in Israel while the country wages war in the Gaza Strip.
He is one of many Arab artists in Israel or annexed East Jerusalem who describe facing increasing hostility and harassment and fearing looming funding cuts or arrests.
“You never know where your place is, and that is not the right atmosphere to perform,” said Nahas, the artistic director at the Arabic-language Sard theater in Haifa, in Israel’s north.
He said that his theater depends on government subsidies “like 99 percent of cultural spaces” in Israel.
But he fears the money could be cut, as happened in 2015 to Al-Midan, another theater in the mixed Arab-Jewish city of Haifa, after it put on a play inspired by the story of a prisoner jailed by Israel over an attack on troops.
One 25-year-old performer, who asked to use the pseudonym Elias to avoid a backlash, said he has put acting aside and became a swimming pool attendant because he was fed up with only getting stereotyped roles.
Other Arab actors say that since the war, they can no longer find work in Israel. Elias has finally found a role in Berlin.
“I have had to go into exile to practice my art,” he said in a Tel Aviv cafe.
“I don’t wear my ‘Free Palestine’ bracelet anymore, and I take care of what I put on social media. I have friends who the police have visited.”
Nonprofit group Mossawa has documented an increase in human rights violations against Israel’s Arab minority since October, including arrests, discrimination at work, and harassment at schools, as well as curbs on the right to protest.
Singer Dalal Abu Amneh, who is also a neuroscientist, was detained for 48 hours for a social media post after Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack that said “the only victor is God.”
Abu Amneh later said she had been harassed in her Jewish-majority hometown of Afula in northern Israel. Her lawyer said she had received hundreds of “death threats.”
About 20 percent of Israel’s 9.5 million inhabitants are Arab, and many of them identify as Palestinian.
They say they are frequently the targets of discrimination by the Jewish majority, and those complaints have grown through more than nine months of war between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza.
Huda Imam, who promotes Palestinian cultural sites in Jerusalem, said that “a cultural silence has taken hold since Oct. 7.”
“There has been a shock, an inability to produce out of fear and respect” for the war’s victims, she added.
“There was a Palestinian cultural life before the war, especially in east Jerusalem,” Imam said, referring to the sector Israel captured in 1967 and later annexed in a move never recognized by most of the international community.
“Now people don’t go out.”
And it is primarily exiles “who give a voice to Palestine,” said Imam, highlighting the rapper Saint Levant, who played at the Coachella music festival in the US in April, and the European-based singer and flute player Nai Barghouti.
Palestinians still express themselves through their “living heritage, like drinking coffee or dancing dabkeh,” a traditional dance, said artist Hani Amra.
Some artists wondered about the relevance of their work now.
“You turn on the television, and you see the war live. The reality is more powerful than any artistic work,” Amer Khalil, the director of east Jerusalem’s Al-Hakawati, also known as the Palestinian National Theater.
The theater, founded in 1984, “has been closed more than 200 times in 40 years” and is again in the crosshairs of Israeli authorities, said Khalil.
“Running a theater is always difficult, but after Oct. 7 things became even more complicated,” he said, adding that Al-Hakawati was preparing a play about that day.
“It is a game, like censorship. It comes and goes.”