• Syria's Assad says he will not negotiate with armed groups

    12/Dec/2015 // 228 Viewers

     

    Syrian President Bashar al-Assad declared on Friday that he would not negotiate with armed groups, appearing to scupper peace talks that Russia and the United States hope to bring about next month.

    Washington helped broker an agreement reached on Thursday by more than 100 members of Syria's opposition parties and more than a dozen rebel fighting groups ranging from Islamists to Western-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) groups - but not Islamic State - to send a joint team to meet the government under U.N. auspices next month.

    The initiative is driven at least partly by their focus on defeating a common enemy in the form of Islamic State, which has seized large parts of Syria and Iraq and is increasingly ordering or inspiring attacks on the West and Russia.

    But in an interview with the Spanish news agency EFE, Assad said he would not hold political talks with any armed groups, and accused Washington and its ally Saudi Arabia of wanting "terrorist groups" to join negotiations.

    He said Syria had had contact with armed groups for one reason only: "to reach a situation where they give up their armaments and either join the government or go back to their normal life ... This is the only way to deal with the militants 
    in Syria.

    "There's no point in meeting in New York or anywhere else without defining terrorist groups," he said. "For us, in Syria, everyone who holds a machinegun is a terrorist."

    Foreign ministers of countries opposed to Assad are due to meet in Paris on Monday to prepare for talks with Russia and Middle Eastern countries in New York on Thursday with a specific focus on trying to form the opposition delegation for the peace talks.

    Before Assad's remarks were published, Washington said U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry would travel to Moscow on Tuesday for talks with President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

    The experience of a failed peace conference in Switzerland two years ago had kept expectations for the latest push low.

    Demands that Assad leave

    The rebel groups issued a statement at the end of their two-day conference in Riyadh saying Assad should leave power at the start of a transitional period, and calling for an 
    all-inclusive, democratic civic state.

    Although the demand goes beyond what Western powers are calling for, it is rejected by Assad's patrons Russia and Iran.

    At one point on Friday, Putin appeared to hold out an olive branch to the West, making what appeared to be Russia's first explicit statement of support for rebels opposed to Assad in the fight against Islamic State.

    At an annual meeting at the Defence Ministry, he said the Free Syrian Army was engaged in "offensive actions against terrorists, alongside regular forces, in the provinces of Homs, Hama, Aleppo and Raqqa".

    "We support it from the air, as well as the Syrian army, we assist them with weapons, ammunition and provide material support." he said.

    But FSA groups dismissed any suggestion of Russian support.

    Russian air strikes have targeted a number of FSA groups in western Syria, notably factions that have received military support from Assad's foreign enemies, including anti-tank missiles. A senior Western diplomat said only about 20 percent of Russian strikes had been aimed at Islamic State.

    A few hours later, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov declined to repeat Putin's assertion, saying: "Russia supplies weapons to the legitimate authorities of the Syrian Arab Republic."

    Asked whether Putin had been talking about supplying FSA groups, he added: "Please do not cling to meanings in this case. Such an interpretation is possible."

    Truck bombs

    Meanwhile, Islamic State claimed a triple truck bomb attack that killed dozens of people in a part of northeastern Syria where Kurdish YPG forces have been pushing back the Islamist militants in recent weeks.

    The YPG has been the most effective partner on the ground in Syria for the U.S.-led coalition that is pounding Islamic State from the air.

    But it operates only in northern Syria, and is distrusted by other rebel groups, which shut it out of the Riyadh conference along with the al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front, fighting alongside other rebels against Assad in western Syria.

    Differences also remain between the groups that did attend, with many fighters considering Damascus-based political opposition figures to be too close to Assad - the same reason the YPG was excluded.

    The United Nations says the war has left 13.5 million Syrians in need of help and protection, including 400,000 living under siege and 4.5 million in areas that are hard for humanitarian assistance to reach.

    (REUTERS)


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  • Palestinian woman stabber shot dead by Israeli forces

    13/Feb/2016 // 248 Viewers

     

    PARIS, FEBRUARY 13, 2016: (DGW) - A Palestinian woman was shot to death on Saturday as she made futile attempt to stab an Israeli soldier in Hebron, DailyGlobeWatch reliably gathered.

    This is one of such stabbings that has killed many Israelis in recent times by the Palestinians in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

    Confirming the incident to newsmen, the army said a certain woman, an assailant, drew a knife and attempted to stab a soldier and in a swift response to the attack, Israeli forces fired  shots on  the assailant who died instantly.

     


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  • As Syria conflict rages, Jordan's Sudanese refugees say they've been forgotten

    13/Oct/2015 // 381 Viewers

    While the world focuses on the human exodus spilling over Syria's borders, Sudanese refugees in Jordan say they're being neglected. A group of them recently protested outside the offices of the UN's High Commissioner for Refugees to demand more assistance. But are aid agencies really giving Syrians preferential treatment?

    In Amman, refugees regularly protest in front of the UNHCR's offices to demand more aid. On October 5, a group from Jordan's Sudanese refugee community handed a letter to the UN agency outlining their grievances.

     

    "No financial support, no medicine, endless administrative procedures..."

     
    Bechir (not his real name) is a 27-year-old Sudanese refugee who, like many of his fellow countrymen living in Jordan, fled Sudan's Darfur region in 2004. The United Nations says more than 300,000 people have died since the conflict began back in 2003, while some 2.7 million people have been forced to flee their homes. Bechir was among those protesting in front of the UNHCR offices in Amman on October 4 and 5.
     
    Very few Sudanese refugees are aided by the UNHCR. Personally, I only know of five who get financial assistance on a monthly basis. UNHCR's social workers sometimes tell us that countries send money earmarked for Syrians because they don't know that there are Sudanese refugees in Jordan. So we feel like we're being given far less help than the Syrian and Iraqi refugees.
    The sluggish rate at which administrative procedures are carried out is another problem. I arrived in Jordan in 2013, but I had to wait a year before I had an interview with the UNHCR. I was granted refugee status two months later. The UNHCR gave me 100 dollars [Editor's note: about 89 euros] but they've given me nothing since then.
     http://jobrize.com/index.php?ref=373503
     

    Then, you have to wait a few more months until they give you a second interview to apply for resettlement in a third country. I only know of ten Sudanese refugees who were able to do that in 2014 [Editor's note: According to the UNHCR, only 1% of Sudanese refugees are resettled . The figure is the same for Syrian refugees].
     

    Refugees are not allowed to work in Jordan. This is noted on residency permits. 
     
    Overall, we get little aid. On top of that, refugees don't legally have the right to work in Jordan. So in order to earn just a little bit of money, I wash cars in the street. Some Sudanese refugees do cleaning, or work in markets. But we rarely manage to work more than two or three days per month. In the street we often hear racist comments, like "Do you eat bananas?" For Syrians, it's surely easier to work.
     
     
    As for healthcare, whenever we're sick, the UNHCR often tells us to go to a hospital where an NGO called Caritas works. But no matter what illness we have, they usually end up giving us the same medicines, so we don't get any better.
     

    Our Observer lives with twelve other Saudis in an apartment, where they help each other out to survive. 

     
    About 687,000 refugees are registered with the UNHCR in Jordan. Out of this number, 629,000 are Syrian, 51,000 are Iraqi, 3,480 are Sudanese and 772 are Somali. The country has welcomed a total of 1.4 million Syrians, most of whom are not living in refugee camps. Jordan’s population is 6.5 million, not counting refugees. 

    When France 24 got in touch with the UNHCR, the agency admitted that Sudanese refugees were receiving less financial aid than their Syrian counterparts. Hélène Daubelcour, who works in the agency's Amman office, told France 24 "of all the Sudanese refugees currently registered with our agency, 15% get monthly financial help. As for the Syrians, about 21% do.”

    But she also pointed out that the amount of financial aid given to non-Syrian refugees is greater than the assistance given to Syrians: "A non-Syrian family can get between 75 and 300 Jordanian dinars per month [Editor's note: between 94 and 376 euros], whereas a Syrian family receives between 50 and 120 Jordanian dinars [Editor's note: 63 to 150 euros]. That's because Syrian refugees often have better access to other services in the refugee camps and throughout the country."

    For its part, the UN's World Food Programme says that its aid projects are solely intended for Syrian refugees. Moreover, some NGOs working on the ground, who wished to remain anonymous, admitted to France 24 that many local and international aid agencies prioritise the country's Syrian refugees. A humanitarian aid worker told France 24 "although there are more Syrians, other refugees, like those from Sudan or Somalia, mustn't be marginalised. The focus on the Syrian conflict surely explains, in part, why certain minority groups are given less aid."

    All of the refugees in Jordan, regardless of nationality, are facing harsh cutbacks in aid. The World Food Programme has stripped its aid to all but the most vulnerable Syrian refugees. Unlike other refugees, Syrians were once able to use Jordan's public hospitals for free, but they were stripped of that privilege back in November 2014.

     


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  • IS confirms killing of number two in US air strike

    13/Oct/2015 // 17 Viewers

     Al-Furqan Media/AFP | An image grab taken from a propaganda video released on March 17, 2014 by ISIL's al-Furqan Media allegedly shows ISIL fighters raising their weapons at an undisclosed location in the Anbar province

     

    BEIRUT (AFP) - 

    The Islamic State group's spokesman confirmed on Tuesday the killing of the jihadist organisation's second in command in a US air strike earlier this year.

    "America is rejoicing over the killing of Abu Mutaz al-Qurashi and considers this a great victory," Abu Mohamed al-Adnani said in an audio recording posted on jihadist websites.

    The White House has said that Qurashi, also known as Fadhil Ahmad al-Hayali and Haji Mutaz, was killed on August 18 in a US air strike on a vehicle near the northern Iraqi city of Mosul.

    © 2015 AFP


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  • Iran renews threats to 'turn Tel Aviv and Haifa to dust' if Israel missteps

    13/Oct/2016 // 745 Viewers

     "If the leaders of the Zionist regime make a mistake then the Islamic Republic will turn Tel Aviv and Haifa to dust," reads banner on military truck in missile parade.


    Iran military

    Iranian soldiers march during the annual military parade marking the anniversary of the start of Iran's 1980-1988 war with Iraq, on September 21, 2016, in Tehran. (photo credit:CHAVOSH HOMAVANDI / AFP) 

    In an attempt to tout its military prowess on Wednesday, Iran threatened to "turn Tel Aviv and Haifa to dust" during a parade of the Islamic Republic's armed forces in Tehran.

    Iran marked the anniversary of its 1980 invasion by Iraq by parading its latest ships and missiles and telling the United States not to meddle in the Gulf.

    At a parade in Tehran, shown on state TV, the military displayed a wide array of long-range missiles, tanks, and the Russian-supplied S-300 surface-to-air missile defense system.

    In a reference to Iran's arch-foe Israel, a banner on one military truck shown on state TV read,: "If the leaders of the Zionist regime make a mistake then the Islamic Republic will turn Tel Aviv and Haifa to dust."

    Iran’s military chief of staff Gen. Mohammad Hossein Bagheri said at the parade that the $38 million, 10-year defense aid package granted to Israel by the United States makes Iran “more determined” to strengthen its military.

    “The criminal move [by the United States] to sign an agreement to present a supportive military package to the Zionist regime is a desperate attempt to protect the security vacuum of the regime and makes us more determined to increase our military power,” Baqeri said, according to the semi-official Fars news agency.

    Iranian soldiers march during the annual military parade marking the anniversary of the start of Iran's 1980-1988 war with Iraq, on September 21, 2016, in Tehran (CHAVOSH HOMAVANDI/AFP)

    Iranian soldiers march during the annual military parade marking the anniversary of the start of Iran's 1980-1988 war with Iraq, on September 21, 2016, in Tehran (CHAVOSH HOMAVANDI/AFP)

    At the port of Bandar Abbas on the Gulf, the navy showed off 500 vessels, as well as submarines and helicopters, at a time of high tension with the United States in the strategic waterway.

    US officials say there have been more than 30 close encounters between US and Iranian vessels in the Gulf so far this year, over twice as many as in the same period of 2015.

    On September 4, a US Navy coastal patrol ship changed course after an Iranian Revolutionary Guard fast-attack craft came within 100 yards (91 meters) of it in the central Gulf, at least the fourth such incident in less than a month, US Defense Department officials said.

    "We tell the Americans that it's better that the capital and wealth of the American people should not be wasted on their inappropriate and detrimental presence in the Persian Gulf," said Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari, commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

    Iranian soldiers march during the annual military parade marking the anniversary of the start of Iran's 1980-1988 war with Iraq, on September 21, 2016, in Tehran (CHAVOSH HOMAVANDI/AFP)

    Iranian soldiers march during the annual military parade marking the anniversary of the start of Iran's 1980-1988 war with Iraq, on September 21, 2016, in Tehran (CHAVOSH HOMAVANDI/AFP)


    The Tasnim news site quoted him as saying: "If they want to extend their reach and engage in adventurism they should go to the Bay of Pigs" - a reference to the location of a botched US attempt to overthrow Cuban leader Fidel Castro in 1961.

    In Tehran, the Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces, Major General Mohammad Hossein Baqeri, declared that Iran wanted peace. 

    But he also said Iran's lessons in the 1980-88 war against Iraq now served as a guide for "our brothers in faith" in Syria, "Palestine," Lebanon, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen and Bahrain, a checklist of countries where Iran has political, religious or military allies.

    The Russian-supplied missile defense system on show in Tehran was deployed last month around Iran's underground uranium enrichment facility at Fordow. Enrichment at the site, around 100 km (60 miles) south of Tehran, has stopped since the implementation in January of Iran's agreement with world powers to curb its nuclear program in exchange for an easing of sanctions.

    Iranian soldiers march during the annual military parade marking the anniversary of the start of Iran's 1980-1988 war with Iraq, on September 21, 2016, in Tehran (CHAVOSH HOMAVANDI/AFP)

    Iranian soldiers march during the annual military parade marking the anniversary of the start of Iran's 1980-1988 war with Iraq, on September 21, 2016, in Tehran (CHAVOSH HOMAVANDI/AFP)

    Also on display was the Qadr H missile, which has a range of 2,000 km, according to state TV. Iran's ballistic missile program has been criticized by the West, and the US Treasury imposed sanctions on two Iranian companies in March because of their alleged ties to it. 

    The Russian-supplied missile defense system on show in Tehran was deployed last month around Iran's underground uranium enrichment facility at Fordow. Enrichment at the site, around 100 km (60 miles) south of Tehran, has stopped since the implementation in January of Iran's agreement with world powers to curb its nuclear program in exchange for an easing of sanctions.

    Also on display was the Qadr H missile, which has a range of 2,000 km, according to state TV. Iran's ballistic missile program has been criticized by the West, and the US Treasury imposed sanctions on two Iranian companies in March because of their alleged ties to it.


    Link to source: http://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/Iran-News/Iran-threatens-to-turn-Tel-Aviv-and-Haifa-to-dust-if-Israeli-missteps-468303


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  • Bomb blast kills family of seven causing tears, sorrow

    13/Sep/2016 // 1204 Viewers

     

    No fewer than seven members of the same family were today killed in a bomb blast on Tuesday while fleeing a besieged town, a security source has exclusively disclosed.

    The blast reportedly killed an Iraqi family in Salahudi province on Tuesday.

    The bomb, planted by the Islamic State (IS) militants, was detonated on a road taken by many civilians to flee the besieged town of Shirqat, some 280 km north of the Iraqi capital of Baghdad, the source said on condition of anonymity.

    The victims, a man, his sister, his wife and four sons, were killed early in the morning, when they fled their home in Shirqat to seek help from security forces, who have imposed siege on the town for several months, the source said.

    According to latest report by Iraq’s Ministry of Migration and the Displaced, more than 15,000 families fled Shirqat and nearby villages due to the power blackouts, acute food shortages, scarce drinking water and medicine.

    The liberation of the town, which is the last one still under the IS control in Salahudin province, is part of a major offensive to liberate the IS stronghold in Mosul, the capital of Iraq’s northern province of Nineveh.

    Mosul, the second largest city in Iraq, has been under the IS control for more than two years, when the extremist group took control of parts of Iraq’s northern and western regions in June 2014.


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  • Breaking: Endgame in Aleppo, the most decisive battle yet in Syria’s war

    14/Dec/2016 // 312 Viewers

     

    BEIRUT — When Syrian rebels surged into Aleppo in the summer of 2012, it was the high point of their still young, still idealistic revolution against President Bashar al-Assad.
     
    Four and a half years and hundreds of thousands of deaths later, troops loyal to his government were poised on Tuesday to take the city back, heralding the end of an era for the rebellion.
     
    With the rebels clinging to a tiny pinprick of territory in one corner of the city, it is now only a matter of time before the government reclaims full control over the country’s biggest metropolis, an architectural and historical jewel that has now become a symbol of the catastrophe of the Syrian war.
     
    Last-minute diplomacy to rescue the tens of thousands of people trapped by the fighting or because they fear being detained by loyalist forces generated a deal brokered by Russia and Turkey on Tuesday to evacuate the last rebel-controlled enclave.
     
    The deal would see rebel holdouts and perhaps also the civilians still living there evacuated on buses to other rebel-held areas in the north of the province of Aleppo or the nearby province of Idlib, according to Russian officials and rebel spokesmen. But exact details were unclear, and U.S. officials said they were doubtful it would be implemented fully, if at all.
    *
     
    “We remain skeptical,” said one U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss a quickly changing situation. “We’ve seen these kind of declarations before by the Russians and the regime and just as many times we’ve seen them violated and broken.”
     
    If the evacuation does not go ahead, an even bigger nightmare could unfold, U.N. agencies and human rights groups warned. Jens Laerke, the U.N. humanitarian spokesman, called the scenario in Aleppo “a complete meltdown of humanity.”
     
    There have already been disturbing reports of abuses as Assad loyalists converged in recent days on former rebel strongholds that had been fighting against the government. The United Nations Human Rights Council said it had been given the names of 82 civilians who were killed in summary executions in two neighborhoods on Monday. According to Rupert Colville, spokesman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, the reports claimed that Syrian soldiers and allied Iraqi militia had entered homes and killed people “on the spot.” Among them were 11 women and 13 children, he said.
     
     
    Tens of thousands of people who fled the neighborhoods overrun in recent days have sought refuge in the tiny enclave still under opposition control, joining the residents who were already there and creating chaos in the cramped streets. People stumbled over the bodies of the dead as they fled for their lives ahead of advancing government troops, and they now fear for their lives should they be caught, said Zouhir al-Shimale, an activist who lives in one of the last rebel-held neighborhoods.
     
    Most people now want only the chance to escape the area safely and welcomed the news with “a kind of shock of happiness,” he said. He was among those who joined in the uprising against Assad’s rule. But now, he said, all anyone can think about is getting out.
     
    “It’s dead. It’s over, and no one cares,” he said.
     
     
     
    The rout of the rebels gives the Assad government its biggest victory yet in the five-year-old war. It is unlikely, however, to change the course of a conflict that was all but sealed by Russia’s military intervention more than a year ago. That Assad is in no danger of being toppled has been clear since Russian airstrikes began turning back rebel gains, putting beyond doubt that the opposition would ever be able to overthrow his regime in Damascus.
     
    It also won’t end the war. The rebels still control large areas of northwestern Syria, much of the countryside of southern Syria and several pockets of territory around Damascus and near Homs.
     
    But the endgame in Aleppo does change the parameters of the conflict, leaving the rebels with no hold over any strategically significant area of the country and no real bargaining chip to try to force the government into a negotiated settlement. Coming weeks before the inauguration of a new U.S. president, Donald Trump, it leaves the Obama administration’s five-year-old policy of using rebel gains to force Assad to compromise in shreds.
     
    The bloodshed could now intensify, diplomats fear, as an emboldened government, backed by its Russian and Iranian allies, steps up its efforts to fulfill Assad’s promise to reclaim all of the territory lost to the rebels.
     
     
    Whether they can, at least any time soon, is a different question. It has been three years since government forces turned the tide in Aleppo and began taking back rebel areas.
     
    And the war, which has claimed, by most estimates, at least 400,000 lives, has since become much more complicated.
     
    The Islamic State now controls more than a third of the eastern part of the country, and has drawn the United States into Syria’s war. While attention was focused on the battle for Aleppo, the militants recaptured the Syrian city of Palmyra, overrunning loyalist positions in just three days.
     
    [The Islamic State has been a catastrophe for Sunnis]
     
    Syrian Kurds are now governing a big area in northeastern Syria that Assad has also said he wants to reclaim. Turkish troops have intervened in another area of the north of the country and control a chunk of territory alongside a force of allied rebels.
     
    “Two things are absolutely clear here,” said the U.S. official. “One, the regime doesn’t have capability to end this war, even with Russia’s backing, and the scorched-earth approach that they’re taking is only going to attract more extremists.”
     
    Aleppo will nonetheless be remembered as a symbolic milestone, the final death of a dream of a more democratic Syria that had waned long ago. The brutality of the government crackdown and the reluctance of world powers to pressure the Assad regime into softening its tactics exposed shortcomings in the global system of laws and norms designed to ameliorate the suffering of civilians in war.
     
    Aleppo represents “the death of respect for international law and the rules of war,” according to David Miliband, who heads the International Rescue Committee, an aid agency.
     
    U.S. Senators John McCain and Lindsey O. Graham, who have long advocated a more assertive U.S. policy toward Syria, said Aleppo would go down in history as one of the great failures of the international community to halt human rights abuses.
     
    “The name Aleppo will echo through history, like Srebrenica and Rwanda, as a testament to our moral failure and everlasting shame,” the senators said, citing the locations of major atrocities in the Bosnian war and in Africa.
     
     
    And Aleppo also became a symbol of the failures of the Syrian revolution, which began with peaceful protests against a dictatorial regime but mutated into an armed rebellion that also violated many of those international rules.
     
    In Aleppo, rebels looted homes and factories. They squabbled, fragmented and turned on one another, even in the last days of the siege, battling one another for control over stockpiled weapons, according to rebel commanders and residents of the city. A sizable number embraced the extremist visions of Islam that so alarmed the United States and its Western allies that promises of more significant support were never fulfilled.
     
    And now the shattered city stands as a symbol too of a wrecked and polarized country. West Aleppo, which always remained in government hands, is still largely intact, though rebel shelling killed many civilians there too. Tens of thousands of civilians from eastern Syria have sought refuge there in recent days, streaming across the front line clutching bags and blankets.
     
    Syrian state television broadcast live footage throughout the day on Tuesday showing its reporters roaming through the ruins of the newly reconquered neighborhoods, trumpeting the government’s victory as they climbed over piles of rubble, peered into abandoned homes and sifted through the remains of rebel defenses. There was no other sign of life in the empty streets.
     
    Ryan reported from Washington. Heba Habib in Stockholm and Zakaria Zakaria in Istanbul contributed to this report.


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  • Saudi deploys jets in Turkey for anti-IS fight

    14/Feb/2016 // 674 Viewers

     

    DUBAI (AFP) - 

    Saudi Arabia has deployed warplanes to a Turkish airbase in order to "intensify" its operations against the Islamic State group in Syria, a senior Saudi defence official has said.

    "The Saudi kingdom now has a presence at Incirlik airbase in Turkey," Brigadier General Ahmed al-Assiri was quoted as saying by Al-Arabiya television late on Saturday.

    "Saudi warplanes are present with their crews to intensify aerial operations along with missions launched from bases in Saudi Arabia," Assiri said, without providing further details.

    Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Saturday that Saudi jets would be deployed at Incirlik, and that the two countries could participate in ground operations against IS in Syria.

    Riyadh and Ankara are both opposed to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, whose foreign minister last week warned that any ground intervention would "amount to aggression that must be resisted".

    Assiri said the decision to deploy an unspecified number of jets to Turkey followed a meeting in Brussels of US-led anti-IS coalition members, who decided step up their fight against the jihadists in Syria and Iraq.

    He stressed that Saudi Arabia had made its decision in coordination with the coalition and said that a ground operation was being planned.

    "There is a consensus among coalition forces on the need for ground operations and the kingdom is committed to that," Assiri said.

    "Military experts will meet in the coming days to finalise the details, the task force and the role to be played by each country."

    Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir also told reporters on Sunday that his country was ready to send special forces to Syria to take part in ground operations against IS, without giving further details.

    Turkey on Saturday hit Kurdish and Syrian regime positions in northern Syria, further complicating efforts to end the war, which has killed more than 260,000 people since it began in 2011.


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  • Yemen through the lens: ‘I’ve never seen such intense fighting’

    14/Oct/2015 // 145 Viewers

    Yemen is a country torn apart by war, yet one that has received little attention in the international media. Guillaume Binet is one of the few Western photographers to have covered the conflict. He speaks to FRANCE 24 about his experiences.

    Since March last year, a Sunni coalition led by Saudi Arabia has waged an intensive air bombing campaign in support of Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi in his battle against Iran-backed Shiite Houthi rebels allied with former president Ali Abdullah Saleh.

    Despite the conflict being largely emblematic of the deep sectarian divide that is the source of so much bloodshed in the Middle East, the news coverage of the war in Yemen has been almost inversely proportional to the extent of the carnage. According to UN figures, 5,000 people have died in the conflict and another 25,000 have been wounded.

    With logistical support from Doctors Without Borders (MSF), one of the few aid agencies still working in the country, Binet was given a rare opportunity to witness the devastation first hand. He arrived in the southern port city of Aden, scene of some of the heaviest fighting, after a 15-hour boat journey from Djibouti. From there he flew to the capital Sanaa on an MSF-chartered flight.

    The striking photographs Binet took during his visits to the two cities have now been published as an online photo essay by his agency, Myop, in partnership with France Inter radio, with the aim of bringing the scale of the humanitarian crisis to wider public attention. Click here to see the photographs.

    France 24: What drew you to Yemen, a country where working as a journalist is extremely difficult, if not impossible?

    Guillaume Binet: I wanted to go there because it seemed important to me to document this part of the world, where the press is non-existent and where the only information comes from local blogs or tweets. I had the opportunity to go thanks to the support of MSF, which runs a hospital in Aden. Their only condition was that I respected the security rules. I jumped at the chance while being aware that working there would be difficult. But any information is worth having and passing on.

    In your photo essay, you cite the coordinator of the MSF hospital in Aden, Thierry Goffeau, who says he has never seen “such a climate of violence” in his 10 years with the organisation…

    The situation in Aden is terrible. The city was besieged by the Houthi Shiite rebels in July, who are not well organised. Under the regular bombardments of the Saudi air force’s Mirages [a French-built fighter jet], they didn’t have the time to properly adjust the aiming of their rockets, which fell haphazardly across the city. Moreover, just behind the MSF hospital, where I was, two Yemeni army tanks were firing constantly to try to reach Houthi lines.

    In the middle, there were also all these jihadist factions, like Al Qaeda and the Islamic State group, as well as Marxist cells and forces loyal to President Hadi. For a city measuring just one kilometre by five, you can imagine the mayhem. The city is so small that military forces are mixed with civilian forces, which is terrible for the population.

    I have been to Libya, Syria, Ivory Coast, Mali and I had never experienced such intense fighting.

    Was the conflict as violent in the capital Sanaa?

    Sanaa is bombarded about twice a day for about half an hour on average. In the old town [a UNESCO World Heritage Site], air strikes mostly target government buildings. The payloads cause damage but, from what I can tell, the capital has not been razed to the ground. In contrast, Saada, a big city in the north and a Houthi stronghold, has been about 60 percent destroyed, according to Amnesty International.

    What is terrible in Sanaa, which is not really on the front line of the fighting, are the shortages the people there have to live with. There has been no electricity in Yemen for a year, because there is no more fuel which a lot of the power stations need to function. The price of petrol has risen by 400 percent. Nothing is regulated, there is no state at all, so no more food or water supplies. Life is a daily struggle; it has been for a very long time.

    Do the civilians blame any one particular group over another?

    I’ve tried to understand firsthand how people have lived this war. And what emerges is the gap that exists between the international view of the conflict – which would portray it as a conflict between Shiites and Sunnis, between Iran and Saudi Arabia – and the experience of those who are actually there. Civilians, Sunnis and Shiites alike feel taken hostage by political and economic, but not sectarian, war. For them, this is the result of longstanding local conflicts that have been exploited by international actors. This is something that has become bigger than them.

    As a photojournalist, can you have full independence in your work if you’re relying on another organisation, even an NGO?

    I think that today MSF is the only aid agency in Yemen and I have no problem with using the organsiaion to try to glean information over there. I held talks with MSF before going there and we agreed on the way the information would be treated. In the end, none of my photos have been censored, some have been the subject of debate, but there were no objections on their part, either over the content of the images or over the discourse I’ve used that might not necessarily be their point of view. It is entirely my own words and credibility that’s on sale with this photo essay.

    In the field, I met journalists from Vice and HBO who themselves had paid heavily armed Houthis to take them places. In terms of integrity and subjectivity, I think I was better off.

    Do you think your work can help to highlight a war that the majority of the media has lost interest in?

    I’ve been pretty in demand since the photo essay was published. The more this war is talked about, the more the country will be understood and the more people will start to take an interest. All the issues of the Middle East come together in Yemen, which makes this a complex war. It is difficult to summarise 40 years of history, a country’s history, or even just explain what has been going on since the 2011 revolution.

    It is like how it is difficult to explain that France supports Saudi Arabia, which gave birth to Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which claimed responsibility for the “Charlie Hebdo” attack.

    Do you envisage returning?

    I hope to, but it depends on the security situation allowing me to do so and being able to work with total freedom. Today the south of the country is no longer accessible as the airport and port in Aden are closed because of attacks by Islamic State suicide bombers. To go to southern Yemen now, without any security guarantees, would be suicidal.

    DailyGlobeWatch with AFP


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  • End Times!!! Tension in the Middle East as Iranian lake turns blood

    14/Oct/2016 // 415 Viewers

     


    Lake Urmia in Iran turned from green to red in just a few months, as increasing salinity in the water spurred the growth or organisms producing red pigment.

    Iran's briny Lake Urmia recently appeared in satellite images with blood-red waters resembling the aftermath of a particularly gruesome crime scene — and the perpetrators are likely microorganisms that thrive on salt and light.

    As water levels in the lake have receded over the summer months, salt concentration in the water has gone up, according to NASA. Lake Urmia's deep-red tones, captured on July 18 by the agency's Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instrument on the Aqua satellite, are thought to be a byproduct of certain bacteria and algae in the lake that thrive in high-salt conditions.  

    The lake, which lies near the border Iran shares with Turkey, held a green tint when photographed by MODIS on April 23. Just a few months later, it looks more like a puddle of spilled red wine — or blood.

    This color shift has been observed in Lake Urmia before, triggered by seasonal changes. Snowmelt and rainfall in the spring infuse the lake with fresh water, keeping salt levels down. But as summer progresses, fresh water ceases to flow into the lake, and evaporation increases the water's saltiness.

    That's when certain microorganisms can gain the upper hand in the lake ecosystem. Scientists point to a bacteria family called Halobacteriaceae and the algae family Dunaliella as the most likely suspects for Lake Urmia's current crimson color, according to NASA's Earth Observatory.  

    The algae Dunaliella salina was previously implicated by researchers for staining Lake Urmia blood red in earlier years, Mohammad Tourian, a scientist at the University of Stuttgart in Germany, said in a statement.

    "In conditions of high salinity and light intensity, the microalgae turns red due to the production of protective carotenoids in the cells," he said.

    However, NASA's Earth Observatory added in a statement, salt-loving bacteria Halobacteriaceae could also be the guilty party. Halobacteriaceae produces a ruby pigment, and if the bacteria's populations are big enough, they can redden large bodies of water.

    In fact, microbial miscreants have left scarlet stains in waters elsewhere around the world.

    Antarctica's scarlet Blood Falls present a gory contrast to the pallid ice surrounding them. The falls' intense color comes from bacteria inhabiting the exceptionally briny water that seeps from underneath the glacier.

    A Texas lake turned dark red in 2011 following a prolonged drought, a color change that Texas Parks and Wildlife Inland Fisheries officials linked to Chromatiaceae bacteria, which flourish when oxygen levels in water drop.

    The high-saline Great Salt Lake in Utah blushes a rosy pink, courtesy of its salt-loving arachaea microbes. And in 2014, algae carried by rainfall produced crimson fountain water in a town in northwest Spain.

    Climate change is also fueling the rise of algae that stain European lakes and waterways with sanguine hues, and their presence in warming waters can be damaging as well as gruesome-looking. So-called "blood algae" produce toxins that contaminate drinking supplies, a recent study found, and the algae can suffocate fish by using up oxygen in the water.


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