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Found 24 results

  1. Turkish and Iranian military leaders held talks on Wednesday over cooperation in the Syrian conflict and counter-terrorism, officials said, during a rare visit to NATO-member Turkey by the Islamic Republic's military chief of staff. REUTERS/Stringer ANKARA: Turkish and Iranian military leaders held talks on Wednesday over cooperation in the Syrian conflict and counter-terrorism, officials said, during a rare visit to NATO-member Turkey by the Islamic Republic's military chief of staff. Turkey's ties with Washington have been strained by US support for Kurdish fighters in Syria, and the visit by Iranian General Mohammad Baqeri is the latest sign that Ankara is increasing cooperation with other powers such as Iran and Russia. Baqeri met his Turkish counterpart on Tuesday and Turkey's Defence Minister Nurettin Canikli on Wednesday in what Turkish media said was the first visit by an Iranian chief of staff since Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution. He was due to meet President Tayyip Erdogan later on Wednesday. Turkey and Iran have supported rival sides in Syria's six-year-old conflict, with Iran-backed fighters helping President Bashar al-Assad to drive back rebels battling to overthrow him, including some supported by Ankara. Turkey is concerned that the Syrian chaos has empowered Kurdish forces who it says are closely tied to the long-running insurgency in its southeastern regions, as well as Daesh fighters who have waged attacks inside Turkey, and is working with Iran and Russia to reduce the fighting in some areas. An Iranian source said Baqeri was accompanied by the head of the ground forces of the Revolutionary Guards Corps, Iran's most powerful security entity. "There have been no such visits between the two countries for a long time, but considering regional developments and security issues ? border security and the fight against terrorism ? there was a need for such a visit," Baqeri told Iranian state television on arrival on Tuesday. The Iranian source said that, in addition to the war in Syria, the two sides would discuss the conflict in Iraq as well as dealing with Kurdish militants in the Turkish-Iranian border region, where Turkish media say Turkey has started building a frontier wall. Russian military chief Turkey, Iran, and Russia agreed in May to set up "de-escalation zones" in Syria to try to stem the fighting in some parts of the country, including the northern province of Idlib, which borders Turkey and has since been overrun by militants linked to a former al Qaeda affiliate. That has thrown into question any suggestion that the three countries could deploy a force to police the Idlib region. "The negotiations regarding the Idlib issue are still ongoing," Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told Turkish broadcaster TRT Haber on Wednesday. "After the Iranian chief of staff, the Russian chief of staff will also come to Turkey," he added. Turkey has said for months that it is close to buying an S-400 missile defence system from Russia, and Erdogan said in July that the deal had already been signed. Cavusoglu said Russia understood Turkey's sensitivities about arming Kurdish fighters better than the United States, although he said U.S. officials had informed Turkey that the most recent shipments to the YPG did not include guns. "The United States gives us reports about how many weapons they have given to the YPG every month," he said. The latest "said they gave armored vehicles and a bulldozer, but no guns". Turkey's stepped-up military talks with Iran and Russia coincide with a major oil and gas deal involving firms from the three countries. The Turkish firm Unit International said this week it has signed a $7 billion agreement with Russia's state-owned Zarubezhneft and Iran's Ghadir Investment Holding to drill for oil and natural gas in Iran. Turkey is also discussing transporting more goods through Iran to the Gulf state of Qatar, which is locked in a dispute with its neighbours Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates.
  2. Syrian basketball team players take part in a training session at a stadium decorated with portratis of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his late father Hafez al-Assad (top R). PHOTO: AFP 1 Damascus: Khalil Khoury dribbles a basketball deftly down the dilapidated gym where he and the rest of the Syrian national team train, passing it through his legs before a silky-smooth lay-up. Since Syria's conflict erupted in March 2011, Khoury's team has seen its ranks dwindle and its options for training venues shrink. But it still practises and competes, including in the prestigious FIBA Asia Cup championship to held on August 17-27 in neighbouring Lebanon. Among the league's biggest challenges has been retaining talent, with players emigrating, doing their military service, or being injured or killed in the conflict. Serbian coach Ninad Karzis (C) talks to players during a training session of the Syrian basketball team in Damascus. PHOTO: AFP One tell-tale sign of the struggle is the unusually large age gap within the current lineup. "I'm the youngest player on the team," said 19-year-old Khoury, who moved directly onto the squad from the youth league. "My teammate Michael Madanly is about 20 years older than me," he told AFP during a break from practice at Al-Fayhaa sports centre in Damascus. "Some players have gone abroad and many others to do military service, so it's natural for players to stay on until they're older," said the small forward. "But it affects physical fitness, and it will show when we play with young teams." The head of Syria's Basketball Federation, Daniel Zoalkefl, said the national league has "lost more than 120 players" who have joined the exodus from their war-battered country. Jotting down the names of the 12 players attending practice, Zoalkefl said the sport also faces other challenges. With the constant power cuts that plague Syria, he has to find fuel for the generators to ensure Al-Fayhaa -- the Syrian capital's most famous gym -- can even keep the lights on. Mortars and migrating players The gym itself is run down and its air conditioners have been out of order for months, so training sessions are usually held at night when the mercury eases to more bearable levels. Government warplanes can be heard overhead on their way to or from raids on opposition-held areas near the capital. The thud of shells fired by rebels onto nearby neighbourhoods echo through the gym during practice. "A mortar hit right where I'm standing, and another one hit over there," said Zoalkefl as he scribbled comments on the training session in a small notebook. The conflict's eruption six years ago led to the suspension of Syria's national league, which was replaced by provincial leagues until 2015 when the national competition was restored. PHOTO: AFP "Dozens of shells have landed near the centre... Things aren't easy, but we've gotten used to it. That's war." The conflict's eruption six years ago led to the suspension of Syria's national league, which was replaced by provincial leagues until 2015 when the national competition was restored. On the court, power forward Anthony Bakar fired the ball back and forth with his teammates before dunking it, helped by his imposing 199 centimetre (six foot five) height. "The situation was very tough at the beginning of the crisis. The league was suspended for a year and every province was playing by itself," said the 24-year-old. Foreign players, who numbered about a dozen, quit and fled Syria. "It had negative consequences on the league's strength. It's not easy to convince a foreign player to stay and play in a country at war," Bakar said. 'I miss the crowds' The conflict has also made life more difficult for the league's coaches, who have found their options for training limited by the violence. "It's not just players who have emigrated, but coaches too. For those who stayed, it's hard to get out to a field to train because of the security situation," said Hadi Darwish, who became head coach in December. Going to training camps abroad is virtually impossible. "There's a sort of semi-siege. There are many countries that won't let us in, and visas are difficult to obtain and take lots of time," said Darwish. "Our challenge is to build something, to build a national team that is ready to compete and represent the country in the best way possible," said Nenad Krdzic, a Serbian coach. Among the league's biggest challenges has been retaining talent, with players emigrating, doing their military service, or being injured or killed in the conflict. PHOTO: AFP There were no spectators for the evening training session, just a handful of managers and league officials. Just before practice ended, the power cut. The back-up generator was broken, so coaches were forced to wind up training early. Shooting guard Majd Arbasha knelt down, exhausted and trying to catch his breath. He pines for the glory days of the sport. "I miss my friends. I miss the crowds and the packed halls," he said. "Basketball puts a smile on your face. But today it puts a lump in our throats."
  3. Interior view of the Baron Hotel July 14, 2017 ALEPPO: On the terrace of the Baron Hotel in Aleppo, the owner's widow, Roubina Tashjian, sorted through old photographs of its happier past in a more peaceful Syria. Founded by an Armenian family in 1911, the Baron played host to adventurers, writers, kings, aviators, Bedouin chiefs and presidents until war forced it to close five years ago. Tashjian sees the Baron as part of a Syria that values religious and ethnic diversity, openness to the outside world, culture and respect for the country's great antiquities. "A Syrian is a mixture of all these ethnic groups and cultures ... this is a big pot and it's all mixed up. But we cook the same kibbeh," she said, referring to a Levantine dish. Trying to revive that vision of Syria amid a war that has aggravated social fractures would involve reconciliation between political opponents, religious sects and economic classes. But with hundreds of thousands dead, more than half the country's pre-war population displaced and fighting ongoing, there seems little hope of that for now. A view of the hotel's bar July 14, 2017 For the Baron, whose business depended on stability, safety and the draw of Syria's cultural treasures, the 2011 uprising was a catastrophic assault on everything that allowed it to thrive. During most of the fighting, Aleppo's government-held western districts were subjected to shellfire, an influx of refugees and shortages of water, electricity and food. East Aleppo, held by rebels until December when the army swept through it after months of siege and air raids, was left all but a wasteland. The Baron, in west Aleppo near the front line, was hit by mortar bombs, including one that sprayed shrapnel across an upper floor and another that crashed through the window of its "Oriental Room" onto delicate floor tiles but failed to explode. The tail fin from that round now sits in the Baron's cabinet of curiosities alongside such relics as pottery given by visiting archaeologists and TE Lawrence's hotel bill. In the upstairs room she always took during her frequent stays in Aleppo stands the glass-topped wooden desk where Agatha Christie wrote part of Murder on the Orient Express. Secular or Sectarian? For supporters of President Bashar al-Assad it is the fault of rebels they describe as terrorists, viewing them as militants who despise diversity and criminal gangs who loot cultural treasures. A view of a damaged room at the Baron Hotel July 14, 2017 Assad has cast his state as a secular protector of Syria's minorities and cultural heritage against rebels backed by hostile foreign states whose ranks include many hardliners. It was a view shared by some of the audience at a concert in an Old City church, fluttering fans in the summer heat of the open basilica, its roof ruined by shelling, as they listened to Mozart's Mass in C Minor. But any characterisation of Assad's Syria as diverse, secular, open and tolerant is rejected by the opposition, as well as some Western countries and rights groups. Critics say Syria's government has long been one of the most oppressive in the Middle East and this was a root cause of the war. The privileged position of Assad's Alawite sect under him and his father, the late President Hafez al-Assad, fed grievances among many in the Sunni Muslim majority even as other Sunnis including urban elites backed the government. While the government has promoted the idea of a secular Syria throughout the war, the conflict's sectarian edge has been hard to miss. In the city, the conflict's socio-economic dimensions are readily apparent. Areas where the rebellion was strongest included places bypassed by economic growth and poor quarters to which rural people flocked. One west Aleppo resident, who had driven through devastated eastern districts after the fighting ended, said the inhabitants had brought ruin upon themselves by consorting with rebels. "Those people were the cause. Yes, it's sad, but..." the person said. The entrance of Baron Hotel July 14, 2017 Refugee families In the Baron, the wood-panelled dining room, the bar stocked with antique bottles, the pink furniture of the high-ceilinged smoking room and the bedrooms all seem worn and tired. It stopped taking paying guests in 2012 ? bar a few old friends ? when Syria's civil war came to Aleppo and mortars and sniper fire began to plague the streets around. Tashjian, a 66-year-old former teacher, chases away street kittens that creep through broken french windows into the dining room and tries to keep the mostly deserted hotel from falling further into disrepair in a city with little electricity or water. Her husband, Armen Mazloumian, the grandson of the hotel's founder, died in 2016, two years after they married following a 30-year friendship. The Baron now belongs to his sisters, who left Syria years earlier, she said. On the terrace from which Egypt's nationalist leader Gamal Abdel Nasser once addressed a huge crowd, the boxes of old photographs were surrounded by other detritus recently hauled from a basement after the fighting abated. Kilims, antique sewing machines, a set of 1950s towels, and moldering linen imported from Europe and embroidered with the hotel's name, cascaded from large rattan trunks. During the fighting, the hotel took in refugee families from east Aleppo. While they were there they used so much water cleaning the floors of their rooms each morning that the elegant geometric tiles were damaged, Tashjian said. In the late afternoon heat, the hotel is cooled by a breeze that drifts in through broken windows on the ground floor and up the grand staircase. "Syria was the most comfortable, the most secular country in the Arab world," said Tashjian. "It was embarrassing if people asked if you were a Christian or a Muslim."
  4. A handout picture ? taken on July 21, 2017, and released on July 28, 2017, by FOUR PAWS ? shows members of a rapid response team of FOUR PAWS transporting a lioness (L) and a tiger (R) in Cobanbey, after it was rescued from the destroyed Magic World amusement park near Aleppo. AFP/Four Paws/Ahu Savan An ISTANBUL: An international animal welfare charity was on Friday completing the evacuation of a dozen animals stranded in a neglected zoo in the conflict-torn Aleppo province of northern Syria. The Four Paws group was seeking to move two lions and two domestic dogs from the "Magic World" zoo and amusement park in Syria over the border into Turkey and then to an animal protection centre in the north of the country, a spokesman for the charity told AFP. The convoy with the animals crossed the Syria-Turkey border late Friday and was now on their way to the animal protection facility in Karacabey, outside the northwestern Turkish city of Bursa, said spokesman Martin Bauer. In an initial operation, Four Paws said it had on July 21 evacuated nine animals ? three lions, two tigers, two Asian black bears, and two hyenas ? from the "neglected" Magic World. After a one-day journey, they arrived safely at their new home, the animal protection facility in Karacabey. "The nine animals currently [being] treated in Karacabey are doing fine. The last years have taken quite a toll on them but they're on their way to recovery," said Bauer. The spokesman confirmed that with the evacuation of the last four animals Friday, "there will be no more animals left at the zoo in the Magic World amusement park". Once all the rescued animals are out of Syria, the organisation will decide where their final homes should be, partially based on their health. "Four Paws has some very good options with its own animal sanctuaries, including in Jordan, South Africa and the Netherlands," said the charity's veterinarian and head of the mission Amir Khalil. "We will individually decide which place is most suitable for each animal."
  5. BEIRUT: The Syrian army has reached the last Daesh-held town on the road to its besieged garrison in the east, a monitoring group said on Friday. Government forces are on the outskirts of Al-Sukhna, some 70 kilometres northeast of the famed ancient city of Palmyra, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. The town is the last on the desert road to the eastern city of Deir Ezzor, where a government garrison has held out under siege by Daesh since early 2015. Al-Sukhna and the oil and gas fields in the surrounding countryside have been held by Daesh since 2015. "Heavy fighting is ongoing between the two sides, with regime artillery and rocket fire," Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said. He said Russian warplanes were supporting the government advance. Daesh commanders fled into the surrounding mountains as the army neared the town, he added. Since May, the army has been conducting a broad military campaign to recapture the vast desert that separates the capital Damascus from Deir Ezzor and other towns along the Euphrates Valley. Already defeated in its Iraqi bastion of Mosul, Daesh is facing multiple assaults in Syria. The US-backed Syrian Defence Forces now control more than half of its most important remaining stronghold Raqqa.
  6. US President Donald Trump looks at French President Emmanuel Macron before a family photo. REUTERS/Carlos Barria US President Donald Trump will discuss Syria and counterterrorism when he meets with French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris later this week, a White House official said on Tuesday. Trump was invited to France to celebrate July 14 Bastille Day festivities. During his trip, Trump and Macron will also hold a bilateral meeting and participate in a joint news conference. "I would characterise the relationship between the two of them as being very positive," the White House official said. "There are some issues where we see the world a little bit differently, but many issues where we see the world more or less the same."
  7. US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson headed Wednesday to Hamburg, Germany, ahead of this week's G20 summit - AFP WASHINGTON: The United States is willing to work with Russia on establishing "no-fly zones" in Syria as part of a joint effort to stabilise the war-ravaged country, the top US diplomat said Wednesday, ahead of President Donald Trump's first face-to-face with Vladimir Putin. In a wide-ranging statement, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Russia had a "special responsibility" to help create stability on the ground -- or risk hobbling the fight against Daesh. Citing past cooperation in creating deconfliction zones in Syria, Tillerson made a strong case for both countries -- in spite of their "unresolved differences on a number of issues" -- to work together in Syria. "The United States is prepared to explore the possibility of establishing with Russia joint mechanisms for ensuring stability, including no-fly zones, on the ground ceasefire observers, and coordinated delivery of humanitarian assistance," he said. Daesh "badly wounded" in Syria Tillerson issued his statement before joining Trump in Europe, where the US leader will meet Putin for the first time on Friday on the sidelines of a G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany. Syria will loom large in their discussions. It also came as US-backed fighters inched forwards in Raqa's Old City, in what Washington sees as a milestone in the campaign to defeat the Daesh militant group in its de facto Syrian capital. "ISIS has been badly wounded, and is could be [sic] on the brink of complete defeat in Syria if all parties focus on this objective," Tillerson said, according to the written statement issued by the State Deparment. "In order to complete the mission, the international community, and especially Russia, must remove obstacles to the defeat of ISIS." "We call upon all parties, including the Syrian government and its allies, Syrian opposition forces, and Coalition forces carrying out the battle to defeat ISIS, to avoid conflict with one another and adhere to agreed geographical boundaries for military de-confliction and protocols for de-escalation." Russia, Turkey and Iran -- without the United States -- agreed in May to establish four "de-escalation" zones in Syria. These are supposed to include no-fly areas, where no warplanes can fly so as to guarantee the safety of civilians on the ground. But on Wednesday those countries said they had failed to agree on the details, such as the boundaries of the zones and who will police them. "Rebuild confidence" Tillerson also said Moscow as a key backer of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had the responsibility of preventing his regime from further use of chemical weapons. The United States launched a cruise missile attack on a Syrian air base in April in response to what it said was a government chemical weapons attack on civilians. Tillerson, speaking later to Fox News aboard the flight to Europe, said US officials "have been engaged with Russia for some time" to identify areas "that we should have mutual interest in." Syria is "a very complex situation," especially transitioning from defeating Daesh to stabilising the country and starting the "lengthy process" of finding political solutions for the Syrian people. US officials are at "the very beginning" of an effort "to rebuild confidence between ourselves and Russia at the military-to-military level, but also at the diplomatic level," he said. "At this point it's difficult to say exactly what Russia's intentions are in this relationship." He added that it was important for Trump and Putin to "have a good exchange... over what they both see as the nature of this relationship between our two countries."
  8. MOSCOW: Two Russian warships and a submarine in the Mediterranean have fired missiles at Daesh targets in Syria, the defence ministry said Friday. It said that Turkish and Israeli military "were informed in a timely manner of the missile launches through communication channels," but it did not mention the United States. Russia has suspended its communication channel with the US on military operations in Syria after a US jet shot down a Syrian warplane on Sunday, with Moscow accusing Washington of failing to issue a warning. The defence ministry said that Russia´s Admiral Essen and Admiral Grigorovich warships and the Krasnodar submarine fired six Kalibr missiles at command centres and weapons stores in Syria´s Hama region. "As a result of the surprise mass missile strike, command points were destroyed and also large stores of weapons and ammunition of the IS terrorists in the area of Aqirbat in the Hama province," it said. The ministry added that Russian planes then carried out aerial strikes that "destroyed the remainder of the Daesh fighters and their facilities." The ministry released video footage of missiles being fired from underwater by the submarine and from the ships as well as aerial footage of the missiles striking two-storey buildings in what appeared to be semi-desert areas. The most recent such strikes from ships and submarines were announced by the ministry on May 31, aimed at targets around Palmyra. The defence ministry said Friday that Daesh fighters have been moving forces into Hama province this week under cover of night and using large buildings there as command points and weapons stores. It said the fighters were trying to move out from Raqqa towards Palmyra.
  9. File Photo - Australian Defence Minister Marise Payne reacts during a media conference, regarding Indonesia?s military suspension with Australia, in Sydney, Australia, January 5, 2017. REUTERS Australia said on Tuesday it had suspended air strikes into Syria following the US downing of a Syrian military jet and Russia's subsequent threat against US-led coalition aircraft. Russia said on Monday it would treat US-led coalition aircraft flying west of the River Euphrates in Syria as potential targets and track them with missile systems and military aircraft, but stopped short of saying it would shoot them down. "As a precautionary measure, Australian Defence Force (ADF) strike operations into Syria have temporarily ceased," Australia's Department of Defence said in a statement. Russia made clear it was changing its military posture in response to the US downing of a Syrian military jet on Sunday, something Damascus said was the first such incident since the start of the country's conflict in 2011. "ADF personnel are closely monitoring the air situation in Syria and a decision on the resumption of ADF air operations in Syria will be made in due course," Australia's Department of Defence said, adding its operations in Iraq would continue as part of the coalition. "Australian Defence Force protection is regularly reviewed in response to a range of potential threats," it said.
  10. TEHRAN: Iran has targeted militants in Syria with missiles in retaliation for deadly attacks in Tehran. Late Sunday, the elite Revolutionary Guards launched six missiles from western Iran into Syria´s mostly Daesh held Deir Ezzor province, hitting their command base, the Guards said. The strike was "revenge" for twin attacks in Tehran on June 7 that killed 17 people in the first Daesh claimed attacks inside Iran, a Guards spokesman added. As well as punishing "terrorists", it was intended to show that Iran is capable of projecting military power across the region, officials and experts said. Sunday´s strike was the first known missile attack launched from Iran into foreign territory since the Iran-Iraq war of 1980-88. "The missile attacks were only a small part of Iran´s punitive power against terrorists and enemies," Guards spokesman General Ramezan Sharif said Monday. "International and regional supporters of the terrorists must realise the warning message of the missile operation." Iran has long accused the United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia of backing "terrorists". US President Donald Trump meanwhile accuses Iran of backing terrorism, a charge it denies and has threatened to tear up a 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and major powers.
  11. [Image: (L-R) Khuram Shazad Butt, Rachid Redouane and Youssef Zaghba] A third man arrested for carrying out Saturday´s deadly attack in London is an Italian-Moroccan who was arrested last year on suspicion of trying to reach Syria, Italian sources said Tuesday. The mayor of Valsamoggia, a town near Bologna, said that Youssef Zaghba, 22, was the son of an Italian mother and a Moroccan father who had separated, and was registered as an Italian living overseas. "In fact he never lived here," said the mayor, Daniele Ruscigno. "The only member of the family that lived here was the mother, who was known but has not been seen around for some time," he told reporters. Zaghba had lived mainly in Morocco but had recently spent time working in Britain, most recently at a London restaurant, according to Italian media reports. The AGI news agency said Zaghba was intercepted at Bologna airport last year as he was about to board a plane for Turkey. Italy´s anti-terrorist force DIGOS believed he was trying to join Daesh militants in Syria. He was detained carrying only a small backpack, his passport and a one-way ticket to Istanbul. Police reportedly found Daesh propoganda videos on his cellphone, but after an investigation, they failed to find sufficient evidence of links to terrorism to justify prosecuting him. As a holder of an Italian passport he was not liable for expulsion under the kind of administrative order Italy routinely uses against suspected religious militants from Morocco and Tunisia, and so he was released. According to AGI, the British and Moroccan authorities were notified of Zaghba´s status as a potential militant by DIGOS. But British police have said Zaghba was "not a police or MI5 subject of interest". According to the reports, Zaghba was born in Fez, Morocco, in January 1995. His mother was said to have told police last year that he had asked her for money to travel to Rome before he left on his attempted trip to Syria. British Police name two London attackers as Khuram Butt and Rachid Redouane Butt was 27 and a British citizen born in Pakistan, while Redouane was 30 and claimed to be Moroccan and Libyan Khurram Butt had visited Pakistan twice in 23 years, says uncle Butt was known to his friends as The Met's Counter Terrorism Command earlier today released the name and photograph Zaghba. All three men involved in the attack were confronted and shot dead by armed officers within eight minutes of the first call. The other two were named on June 5 as Pakistani-born British citizen Khuram Shazad Butt, 27, and Rachid Redouane, 30, from Barking, had claimed to be Moroccan and Libyan. He also used the name Rachid Elkhdar, with a different date of birth of 31.7.91. Italy´s main newspapers said Zaghba´s mother was from Bologna and his father was Moroccan.
  12. For the past six years, Syria has been left hanging and secluded from the rest of the world, with a tag of ‘war-torn’ country pasted on it. The residing families and children are constantly under the fear of being the prime targets of deadly terror attacks. Whether they will live to narrate their ordeal the next day is a doubt that harbors in everyone’s minds especially the young children, who have seen nothing but wars till now. What once was a beautiful and picturesque location has now turned into a place that reeks of wreckage, devastation, loss and blood. However, while on one hand some extremist groups are trying to wreck havoc in the country, one good samaritan has turned into their messiah, and is trying to provide every possible help that’s within his jurisdiction. © Facebook Abdullateef Khaled is an aid worker who set out on a mission to put a smile on the faces of Syrian children. Right from teaching those young kids, providing them with medical aid to distributing free food ; Khaled and his team have left no stone unturned in offering help. Khaled is also the founder of One Solid Ummah, a non-profit organization that has been actively doing humanitarian work in Syria since 2012. One look at Khaled’s Facebook page and you will know how he is working towards his goal. Here is one such heartwarming video where Khaled distributes Iftar meals to children and in the process gets to witness one of the most beautiful moments – the smiling faces of those kids. We need more people like Khaled to keep pushing humanity, which has been slowly slipping out from the hands of the world. Syrian children and families have already experienced the death of their loved ones, many have been subjected to the brutal wrath of terrorism, and millions of people have displaced from their homes. It’s time that we join forces with humanity to provide help to them in every way possible. Although Khaled’s efforts might appear small, even the smallest gesture is a huge help.
  13. BEIRUT: Dozens of relatives of Daesh fighters were killed on Friday in new US-led strikes on Syria, just hours after the UN urged nations striking the militants to protect civilians. Bombing raids by the US-led coalition have pounded Daesh positions across Iraq and Syria since the militant group claimed responsibility for the devastating bombing of a concert in Manchester on Monday. Scores of civilians, many of them families of Daesh members, have been killed in bombing raids in recent days on the eastern Syrian town of Mayadeen, held by Daesh since 2014. Early Friday, at least 80 relatives of Daesh fighters were killed in US-led coalition bombardment, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. "The toll includes 33 children. They were families seeking refuge in the town?s municipal building," said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman. "This is the highest toll for relatives of IS (Daesh) members in Syria," he told AFP. Coalition strikes on the town killed 37 civilians on Thursday night after 15 had been killed on Wednesday, according to the Britain-based Observatory. The US military on Friday confirmed that it had struck "near Mayadeen" on May 25 and 26, but said it was "still assessing the results of those strikes", according to Pentagon spokesman Eric Pahon. The US military insists that it takes every precaution to avoid hitting civilians, but the United Nations on Friday urged parties bombing Daesh to do more. Army seizes strategic route UN human rights chief Zeid Ra?ad Al Hussein said "all states" whose air forces are active in the anti-Daesh missions needed "to take much greater care to distinguish between legitimate military targets and civilians". The Observatory gathered its information from civilian and medical sources on the ground in Daesh-held Mayadeen. The town has seen an influx of displaced families from Daesh-held territory in Iraq and Syria, including its bastion Raqa. It is in Syria?s oil-rich east near the border with Iraq -- a region considered a prize by many of Daesh?s enemies including the Syrian army. Troops loyal to President Bashar al-Assad have been waging a multi-pronged offensive east to reach the strategic border territory. They scored a key victory this week by linking the capital Damascus to the UNESCO World Heritage city of Palmyra in central Syria. It was the first time the government was in full control of the Damascus-Palmyra highway since 2014, according to Abdel Rahman. With backing from Russian air strikes, regime fighters "pushed IS fighters out of desert territory amounting to more than 1,000 square kilometres (390 square miles)," he said on Friday. A decades-old ally of Damascus, Moscow has been carrying out air strikes in support of Assad?s troops since September 2015 -- a year after the American-led coalition began targeting Daesh in Syria. The coalition is now backing twin ground offensives against Daesh?s last main bastion cities -- Raqa in northern Syria and Mosul in neighbouring Iraq. ?Annihilate? Daesh The 68-member coalition began bombing Daesh in Iraq in the summer of 2014, and expanded operations to Syria on September 23 that year. On Thursday, a Pentagon investigation concluded that at least 105 civilians died in an anti-militant air strike on an Daesh weapons cache in Mosul in March. Before the new revelation, the US military had said coalition air strikes in Iraq and Syria had "unintentionally" killed 352 civilians since 2014. Rights groups put the number much higher, and the Observatory this week reported the highest monthly civilian death toll for the coalition?s operations in Syria. It said between April 23 and May 23, coalition strikes killed 225 civilians in Syria, including dozens of children. Reports of civilian casualties in the air campaign have swelled in recent days. On May 20, US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis said US President Donald Trump had instructed the Pentagon to "annihilate" Daesh in Syria in a bid to prevent escaped foreign fighters from returning home. The president has "directed a tactical shift from shoving Daesh out of safe locations in an attrition fight to surrounding the enemy in their strongholds so we can annihilate Daesh," Mattis said. But the Pentagon has denied that its rules of engagement have changed and insists that the coalition continues to strike only "military-appropriate targets".
  14. Syrian girls act in an English-language adaptation of "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" at a school in the rebel-held town of Douma, on the eastern outskirts of Damascus. Photo: AFP DOUMA: To escape the nightmare of life in their besieged hometown near Syria´s capital, 13 young girls sought refuge in a fairytale performance of "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs". The all-girl cast spent months memorising lines from the classic Brothers Grimm fable before performing in front of a packed audience this week in the elementary school in Douma. "It was really hard, but I memorised all my lines in English," said proud 10-year-old Afnan, who played the story´s lead antagonist, the Queen. "When I act, I forget the war that we´re living through in Douma and I feel happy and hopeful," she said. Afnan´s hometown is the de facto capital of the Eastern Ghouta region, the last remaining rebel enclave near Damascus and besieged by government troops since 2012. Until this month, Eastern Ghouta had been regularly targeted by air strikes and artillery as part of a government offensive chipping away at rebel territory. The bombardment would often wound or kill children as they headed to street markets, played outside, or walked to school. But the skies have been quiet since a landmark deal earlier this month to create four "de-escalation zones" in Syria, where more than 320,000 people have been killed since conflict broke out in 2011. ´Bombing is their normal´ On-stage, her character is consumed by a search for youthful beauty, but Afnan said her own ambitions in life lie elsewhere. "The lesson from the play is that beauty is in your heart and your soul, not in your looks! I want to be a doctor -- I want to be brave and treat sick people," Afnan said. With the glittering stage decorations and nervous murmurs of young students, the evening could have almost taken place in any school around the world. But halfway through the performance, two distant booms shook the room -- rockets that hit the edge of the town, residents later said. "These children don´t know what it´s like not to have shelling. For them, bombing is their normal," a female stagehand told AFP. Earlier this year, international aid group Save the Children warned that a whole generation of war-scarred Syrian children may be "lost to trauma and extreme stress". For the school´s director of extracurricular activities, Yasser al-Assaad, theatre is one of the most effective ways to offset years of traumatic experiences -- for the young students and their mentors alike. For the lead actress Rayhana Noaman, who played Snow White, said her favourite part of the story was escaping a tragic fate. Photo: AFP "I get my rehab from a student´s smile, and that student draws her psychotherapy from the teacher that came to her school to motivate her," Assaad told AFP. It is his third fairytale performance: in 2015, he helped put on "Little Red Riding Hood", and last year his students performed "Beauty and the Beast". "We want to send a message to all of humanity that Syrian children can create, that we are open to all civilisations," he said. ´Flowers can grow´ Despite efforts to leave Douma´s devastation behind, death seemed to touch the cast of Snow White. Just days before the final performance, the director´s husband was killed by a stray bullet from intra-rebel clashes in the town. And the play´s rosy-cheeked narrator, Dania, recalled how her own school had been bombed just a year and a half ago. "It was all blood and (the bodies of) girls in front of me," the 11-year-old told AFP. Even lead actress Rayhana Noaman, who played Snow White, said her favourite part of the story was escaping a tragic fate. "The witch wanted to kill me, but the charming prince saved me from death!" she said with a shy smile. Slender Amal al-Kurdi burst onto the stage with an explosive introduction: "A-a-achoo! I´m Sneezy!" The eight-year-old actress donned a white felt beard and brown shirt like her fellow dwarfs. "I really liked acting because we learned how to be brave and how not to be afraid to speak in front of an audience," she said. As his students prepared to raise the curtain, Assaad said the performance was a sign that "flowers can grow amid rocks of pain." "Every household in Douma has lost someone and tasted the anguish of pain, war, and siege. Despite this, we can build Syria anew," he said.
  15. Up to 5,000 ethnic Uighurs from China's violence-prone far western region of Xinjiang are fighting in various militant groups in Syria, the Syrian ambassador to China said on Monday, adding that Beijing should be extremely concerned about it. China is worried that Uighurs, a mostly Muslim people who speak a Turkic language, have gone to Syria and Iraq to fight for militants there, having traveled illegally via Southeast Asia and Turkey. Daesh claimed responsibility for the killing of a Chinese hostage in 2015, highlighting China's concern about Uighurs it says are fighting in the Middle East. Hundreds of people have been killed in Xinjiang in the past few years, most in unrest between Uighurs and ethnic majority Han Chinese. The government blames the unrest on religious militants who want a separate state called East Turkestan. Syria's ambassador in Beijing, Imad Moustapha, told Reuters on the sidelines of a business forum that while some of the Uighurs were fighting with Daesh, most were fighting "under their own banner" to promote their separatist cause. "Our estimated numbers, because of the numbers we fight against, we kill, we capture, we wound, would be around 4-5,000 Xinjiang jihadists," he said. "China as well as every other country should be extremely concerned." Beijing has never given a number for how many Uighurs it believes are fighting in the Middle East, but has repeatedly warned they pose a serious threat to China. It is not possible to independently verify the number of Uighurs in Syria. Rights groups and Uighur exiles say many Uighurs have fled to Turkey simply to escape Chinese repression at home, accusations Beijing denies. Moustapha said China did not pick favourites with rebel groups, like Western countries, and China and Syria were cooperating to fight the threat. "They don't have a mixed message," he said, referring to China. "They understand the true nature of the…doctrine of these groups. Yes, we do exchange information and a little bit more than information regarding these terrorist groups," he said, without elaborating. 'Right time' Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, in an interview with the Hong Kong-based Phoenix Television in March, praised "crucial cooperation" between Syria and Chinese intelligence against Uighur militants. He said ties with China were "on the rise". Syria is trying to woo back Chinese investment, with a group of about 30 Syrian businessman meeting about 100 Chinese representatives over two days in Beijing. Moustapha said he would be attending next week's summit on China's new Silk Road plan, which aims to expand links between Asia, Africa and Europe underpinned by billions of dollars in infrastructure investment. Aboud Sarrouf, chairman of the Sarrouf Group and member of the Syria-China Business Council, said they were hoping to get Chinese investment to help repair war-damaged infrastructure. "They are preparing and waiting for the right time. They are a little bit reluctant and hesitating," he told Reuters, referring to Chinese companies. "But we're coming here to start preparing the foundation." Syria may have difficulty encouraging back Chinese companies. Paul Liu, chief executive of Chinese steel products firm Sino Sources, said he wanted to hear about opportunities in Syria but was concerned about security. "If the government thinks things are not dependable, then we'll first plan and then execute later," Liu said.
  16. Russia, Iran and Turkey on Thursday signed an agreement to set up four safe zones in Syria that the United Nations described as a promising step to wind down the brutal six-year war. The United States however gave an extremely cautious welcome, citing Iran's role as a guarantor even as it expressed hope that the deal could set the stage for a settlement. Several members of the rebel delegation left the room shouting in protest as the signing ceremony got underway in the Kazakh capital Astana, angry at regime ally Iran, an AFP reporter saw. The plan for the "de-escalation zones" was discussed on Tuesday by US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin during a telephone conversation that the White House described as a "very good one." The agreement provides for a ceasefire, a ban on all flights, rapid deliveries of humanitarian aid to the designated areas and the return of refugees. Russia and Iran, which back Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces in the war, and Turkey, a supporter of rebel forces, hope to build on a ceasefire deal they reached in December. The Syrian government and rebel delegations are not signatories to the deal. "We are not supporting this agreement. It is an agreement between the three countries," said Usama Abu Zeid, a rebel spokesman. "We do not at all agree that Iran .. is a guarantor of this accord." UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said in a statement that UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was encouraged by the agreement. Guterres "welcomed the commitments to ceasing the use of all weapons, particularly aerial assets" and to quickly deliver medical aid and basic necessities, said the spokesman. The United Nations will support de-escalation, said the spokesman but he did not elaborate. UN envoy Staffan de Mistura, who was in Astana as an observer, described the agreement as "an important promising positive step in the right direction" toward de-escalation. A working group will be set up within two weeks to resolve technical issues and the three countries agreed to set up the four areas by June 4. The first zone included the whole of Idlib province along with certain parts of neighbouring Latakia, Aleppo and Hama provinces. The second will encompass certain parts in the north of Homs province and the third will be comprised of some areas of Eastern Ghouta, outside of Damascus. The fourth zone will include parts of the Deraa and Quneitra provinces in southern Syria, according to the memorandum seen by AFP. US doubts about Iran The UN envoy said the deal would be quickly put to the test and that success on the ground could pave the way to a new round of political talks in Geneva later this month. "There will be a period not longer than two weeks in which all this will be seriously put to the test and we want that test to succeed," he said. In Washington, the State Department, which had dispatched an observer to the talks, said it appreciated Russian and Turkish efforts but called into doubt Iran's role. "We continue to have concerns about the Astana agreement, including the involvement of Iran as a so-called 'guarantor'," State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said. "Iran's activities in Syria have only contributed to the violence, not stopped it, and Iran's unquestioning support for the Assad regime has perpetuated the misery of ordinary Syrians." "We nonetheless hope that this arrangement can contribute to a de-escalation of violence, end the suffering of the Syrian people, and set the stage for a political settlement of the conflict," she said. Russia's envoy Alexander Lavrentiev said the zones would remain in place for six months, a period that could be extended. It remained unclear whether there would be any international monitoring of the safe zones. Putin said Wednesday that ways to monitor the zones would be an issue for separate talks. Lavrentiev said Moscow was ready to send observers to the zones. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in comments published Thursday that the plan for the "de-escalation zones" would "50 percent" solve the six-year conflict. Damascus supports the Russian plan, Syrian state news agency SANA reported. Syrian rebels said earlier Thursday that they had resumed participation in the talks after having suspended their involvement a day earlier over air strikes against civilians. More than 320,000 people have been killed in Syria since the country's war began with anti-government protests in March 2011.
  17. Salman Khan and Katrina Kaif starrer ‘Ek Tha Tiger’ was a huge hit both commercially and critically, and no matter how much we love or hate Salman personally, we can’t deny that he did a good job in that movie. For those who don’t remember the plot (though the chances are bleak) let us refresh your memory. The movie focused on two agents who fell in love and fled from their respective organizations to get married and live together. Some of you would feel that the chances of something like this happening in real life are rare, but we actually found a real-life ‘Tiger’ couple, although their story took a different turn. This is not a new movie plot folks, it actually happened in the year 2014 where an FBI employee with a top-secret security clearance, took off to Syria to get married to an ISIS terrorist she had been assigned to investigate. © Flickr Now this is a really dangerous and embarrassing scenario for the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation), which is considered to be the top security service of the United States. The employee in question has reportedly been identified as Daniela Greene and her lover was Denis Cuspert, a German rapper turned ISIS terrorist who also goes by the name Abu Talha al-Almani. Now that’s what you call a drastic shift of interest and profession. According to a report in CNN, Cuspert had been influencing and recruiting (online) ‘violent jihadists’. He had been on the radar of the counter-terrorism forces for quite some time. In fact, it was Cuspert who released a song praising Osama bin Laden, where he also threatened former President Barack Obama of dire consequences with a throat-cutting gesture. © BCCL Daniela, a 38-year-old woman, was recruited as a contract linguist in the year 2011 and was assigned Cuspert’s case in January 2014. We don’t know to what extent she was blinded by love or whatever, but she lied to FBI about her whereabouts or the destination she was traveling to and married Cuspert and had reportedly even warned him about being under the investigation radar. But, things weren’t merry at all in their haven because within weeks of marrying him, she fled back to the US and got arrested. Reportedly, she realized that she had made a big mistake and now that the damage is done, she can only come back and be found guilty of her felonies. Daniela agreed to cooperate with authorities and was sentenced to two years in federal prison in August 2014, for making false statements involving international terrorism. © Facebook As per the CNN report, Thomas Gillice, a prosecutor in the National Security section of the US Attorney’s office said Greene had “violated the public trust, the trust of the officials who granted her security clearance, and the trust of those with whom she worked and, in doing so, endangered our nation’s security.” He further said, “She endangered our national security by exposing herself and her knowledge of sensitive matters to those terrorist organizations.” Just like it’s deadly to enter in an ISIS zone, getting out from the area is equally risky and dangerous, and the fact that Greene managed to come out unharmed is a surprise and it seems Gillice thought the same. “Her escape from the area unscathed, and with apparently much of that knowledge undisclosed, appears a stroke of luck or a measure of the lack of savvy on the part of the terrorists with whom she interacted.” Greene was reportedly released last summer and it is hard for us to not think of the leniency she has been shown. Receiving two years of imprisonment for a security breach is way too less for anyone, especially when the offence is related to lying and marrying an ISIS terrorist, despite being at an important position. Reportedly, Greene was already married to an American guy before marrying Cuspert and said that she was going to see her parents in Munich, Germany. After spending a month in Syria, she managed to leave the place and return to the United States. This entire account has left us stunned and now even shows like ‘Homeland’ will not surprise us anymore. Source: CNN
  18. WASHINGTON: Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin discussed steps to ease Syria's civil war and a possible first face-to-face meeting, during what the White House described as a "very good call" Tuesday. The US and Russian leaders spoke by telephone, focusing on the six-year-old Syrian conflict, which has pitched Moscow and Washington into rival camps. "President Trump and President Putin agreed that the suffering in Syria has gone on for far too long and that all parties must do all they can to end the violence," the White House said. Trump aides also said "the conversation was a very good one" that included "discussion of safe, or de-escalation, zones" in Syria "to achieve lasting peace for humanitarian and many other reasons." The White House said the two leaders also spoke about "how best to resolve the very dangerous situation in North Korea." And the Kremlin added that both men were "in favor" of meeting at a G20 summit in Germany this July. That meeting is sure to be closely watched in the United States, where Trump has come under sustained criticism over his campaign's ties to Russia and his praise of Putin. US intelligence agencies believe that Putin approved of a wide-ranging campaign to tilt the 2016 election in Trump's favour, prompting US sanctions imposed by former president Barack Obama. The FBI is still investigating possible collusion between the campaign and Moscow. Trump has been muted in his criticism, but tensions between the White House and the Kremlin have resurfaced after the suspected use of the chemical agent sarin against civilians prompted Trump to strike a Syrian regime airbase also used by Russia. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the call -- which he sat in on -- was "very productive" with "a lot of detailed exchanges." "We'll see where we go from here." No details were given about the possible safe zones, which have long been discussed, but faltered as Bashar al-Assad's regime and assorted groups of rebels, Kurds, Iranian-backed militias, Al-Qaeda and Islamic State fighters have kept-up a bloody war that has killed an estimated half million people. The Kremlin, meanwhile, said "the emphasis was put on the potential for coordination of actions by the United States and Russia in the fight against terrorism." The State Department earlier announced that it would send a junior minister to Russian-backed peace talks in Astana later this week.
  19. DAMASCUS: An Israeli attack on a Syrian camp for pro-government forces killed three fighters near the Golan Heights on Sunday, an official from the forces said. The official told AFP that two fighters were also wounded in the attack on the Al-Fawwar camp near Quneitra in southwestern Syria, adding that it was unclear whether the damage was inflicted by an air strike or shelling. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group confirmed the early Sunday attack but had no further details. Israel´s army on Friday said it targeted positions inside Syria in retaliation for mortar fire that hit the northern part of the Golan Heights. Syria´s official news agency SANA said Israel had struck a Syrian army position in the province of Quneitra on the Golan plateau, "causing damage". The Syrian government labels rebel groups and jihadists fighting the regime as "terrorists" and accuses Israel of backing them. Israel seized 1,200 square kilometres (460 square miles) of the Golan from Syria in the Six-Day War of 1967 and later annexed it in a move never recognised by the international community. Around 510 square kilometres of the Golan are under Syrian control. The two countries are still technically at war, although the border remained largely quiet for decades until 2011, when the Syrian conflict broke out. The Israeli side is hit sporadically by what are usually deemed to be stray rounds, and Israel has recently taken to opening fire in retaliation.
  20. NEW DELHI: The United Nations must prioritise millions of children caught up in conflict and protect refugee children from being trafficked into slavery, Nobel Laureate and child rights activist Kailash Satyarthi said on Friday. Satyarthi, who was jointly awarded the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize with Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai, said television images of Syrian children gasping for breath after a chemical attack on April 4 had prompted him to speak out. "I was always concerned - and have spoken about the refugee crisis, and in particular, children living in conflict areas like Syria," Satyarthi told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. "But the recent chemical attack has shaken my conscience. What else could be more heinous? I thought it was important to raise a voice - and also suggest some form of action to better protect children in armed conflict and child refugees." Nearly 250 million children - one in nine worldwide - live in countries affected by war including Syria, Afghanistan, Yemen and Nigeria, according to the UN children's agency UNICEF. Many lack access to medical care, schooling and nutrition. Those fleeing are at risk of being trafficked and sold into forced labor in farms, homes, hotels and even brothels. Some refugee girls are married off by parents who think a husband will be better able to protect their daughter. The number of conflicts lasting more than five years is growing, says UNICEF. Fifteen new conflicts have broken out or reignited in the past five years - with a devastating impact on children. In Syria, more than 3 million children are internally displaced, and 2 million Syrian children are refugees in Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan, Egypt, Iraq and beyond, according to UNICEF. Satyarthi, credited with rescuing over 80,000 children from India's brick kilns, stone quarries, carpet factories, circuses, sweatshops and farms, said he was deeply disturbed after visiting refugee camps in Turkey, Germany and Italy. "I met parents in camps who feel it better to marry their young daughters to much older men for their own protection," he said. "I heard of children trafficked as prostitutes or for their organs. Some radicalised and prepared as suicide bombers." The 63-year-old activist urged the UN Security Council to take action. "The conventional approach such as having a special rapporteur on children in conflict is not working. We have to take bolder steps and that is possible through the direct intervention of the Security Council," said Satyarthi. "The Security Council should appoint a high-level panel to report periodically on children in conflict - including refugee children. Based on the findings of the panel, resolutions would be framed by member states and put before the Security Council." Satyarthi said he was lobbying other world leaders, former presidents, ex-prime ministers and fellow laureates to support his plea and hoped to meet with UN chief Antonio Guterres in September during the General Assembly in New York. He said UN resolutions on children in conflict would create more awareness, and encourage powerful countries such as the United States to keep their borders open to child refugees. "These children are the victims of crimes they did not commit. So every single heart, every single door, every single border should be open to them," he said. "Power does not lie in firing missiles and dropping bombs, power lies in compassion."
  21. Thousands of Syrians were evacuated from besieged towns on Wednesday with tight security in place after a weekend bombing against those leaving government-held areas killed dozens, including nearly 70 children. The evacuations are part of a deal between government and opposition representatives to relieve thousands from suffocating sieges imposed by the regime and rebels. A large convoy of buses set out from the government-held towns of Fuaa and Kafraya in Idlib province on Wednesday morning, carrying 3,000 people to the rebel-held transit point of Rashidin near Aleppo, an AFP correspondent said. At the same time, 11 buses carrying around 300 people left rebel-held Zabadani, Serghaya and Jabal Sharqi in Damascus province, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor said. Evacuees finally reached the government-controlled district of Ramussa south of Aleppo on Wednesday evening, the Observatory said. Security was tight throughout the day, AFP's correspondent said, after a devastating bomb attack on evacuees in Rashidin on Saturday that according to the Observatory killed 126 people, including 68 children. Most of the dead were from the two towns, with a handful of aid workers and rebels guarding the convoy also killed. Dozens of wounded were taken to hospitals in nearby rebel-held territory, while others were taken to Aleppo, which government forces regained full control of late last year. When the exchange is complete, a total of 8,000 people should have left Fuaa and Kafraya, with another 2,500 civilians and rebels leaving opposition areas. 'Everything in God's hands' Armed rebels were standing guard at Rashidin on Wednesday and carefully inspecting vehicles arriving in the area. "We chose a different location as the gathering point for fighters from Fuaa and Kafraya with their families, because we are obliged to protect them until they leave here," said rebel fighter Abu Obeida al-Shami. Buses were parked in a semi-circle, forming a makeshift barrier around an area in the centre of a lot where evacuees including dozens of children milled. "Where do I even start? It would have been easier if we had just died. Death is so much easier than this humiliation," said elderly evacuee Abu Ahmad. He told AFP he was preparing himself never to see his hometown of Fuaa again. "Someone like me, who is already 85 years old -- I'm going to die tomorrow or the day after." Pro-government militiamen among those being evacuated from Fuaa and Kafraya squatted next to one bus, smoking cigarettes. Standing nearby, 55-year-old Um Joud from Fuaa said it was difficult to describe how she felt. "I'm not afraid, because everything is in God's hands," she told AFP. "Of course I would have preferred to stay in my home, but I left for the sake of my children and their lives and futures." The deal was brokered late last month by Qatar, a longtime opposition supporter, and Iran, a key regime ally, but its implementation had been repeatedly delayed. Zabadani and neighbouring Madaya "are now empty of any rebel presence," said Mayyada al-Aswad, a member of the coordinating committee for the operation on the government side. Wednesday's evacuations mark the end of the first stage of the deal, with a second phase due to begin in June. Fuaa and Kafraya will be emptied entirely, with residents and fighters heading to Aleppo and then on to government-held Latakia or Damascus. All rebels are expected to leave Madaya, Zabadani, and other nearby oppositions-held areas, but civilians who want to remain may do so. Those leaving rebel-held areas will head to Idlib province, which is held by an opposition alliance. 30,000 to be evacuated In all, up to 30,000 people are expected to leave under the deal. President Bashar al-Assad says evacuation deals are the best way to end the six-year war, but the opposition says they amount to forced relocation after years of bombardment and siege. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Saturday's bombing, which was condemned by Syria's opposition, including the powerful Ahrar al-Sham rebel group. The government blamed "terrorists" -- a catch-all term for its opponents. Syrian state television on Wednesday reported another bomb blast in Aleppo that killed six people. A local medic told AFP that 32 people were wounded in the blast. The United Nations says 600,000 Syrians live under siege, mostly by the Syrian army, but also by rebels or the Islamic State group. The war has killed more than 320,000 people since it began with anti-government protests in March 2011. More than half of the population have been forced from their homes. View the full article
  22. The groundbreaking victory of Donald Trump, America’s 45th President, left the entire world stunned and if the rumours are to be believed then there some divine or psychic forces behind his electoral triumph. While the man from Southampton got his claim to fame back then, this time around there’s another mystic who has asserted that he accurately foretold Donald Trump’s presidency. According to a report published in the Daily Star, Mystic Horacio Villegas prophesied Trump’s victory way back in the year 2015 and also predicted that will become the “Illuminati king” who will “bring the world into World War 3”. Had someone taken this guy seriously at that time, things might have been different for America and the world. Facebook Villegas who calls himself the ‘messenger of God’ also foretold that Trump will attack Syria and will bring Russia, North Korea and China into the conflict; which partly came out to be true. Spooky eh? Well, wait till you hear this – recently, he said he had a dream where he saw “balls of fire falling from the sky and hitting the earth”. Believe it or not peeps, but it looks like he is hinting at World War 3. He further mentioned that he saw people running around everywhere, trying to hide from the destruction and believes that these were symbols of nuclear missiles falling on cities across the world. Trusting these prophesies is one’s personal choice, but when we hear claims like these, it beats the sh*t out of us. Twitter This mystic’s predictions have smashed the prophesies of Baba Vanga, the renowned blind Bulgarian mystic woman predicted who predicted 9/11, the rise of ISIS and 2004’s tsunami. Reportedly, he said that D-Day will fall on the 100th anniversary of the visitation of Our Lady of Fatima – the Virgin Mary, which is May 13, of this year. If we go by the story, Our Lady of Fatima’s visitation ended on October 13, 1917 and she said, “The war is going to end, and the soldiers will soon return to their homes.” Hence, Villegas claims that on October 13, this war will come to an end. Wikimedia Commons He warned people with a message that the war will happen and will be over with much devastation, shock and death and that people need to be prepared between May 13th and October 13, 2017. He further predicted that before the war, several attacks will happen between April and May and Syria and North Korea might be involved. Further, Villegas has also said that the president of Syria, Assad might get bombed and killed which will further trigger the war. Woah! Now, that’s some serious stuff and given North Korea’s recent attempts at launching a ballistic missile and growing tensions in Syria, it’s becoming harder for us to not believe this prediction. Facebook Furthermore, how much of it will be true is also something hard for us to believe, given that a similar false alarm was raised in 2012 as well. I was so petrified by the news that I quit my job and went for a vacation so I can enjoy the world before it crumbles down. But, by January 2013, I found myself looking for a job. The only good thing that happened was to the directors of the movie '2012', who raked in huge amounts of money just by making the movie. What do you think, peeps? Are these predictions really true? If World War 3 will really end by October, then there’s no point making any New Year or Christmas plans. We wonder what will happen to movies that release post Diwali? Original Story Link: DailyMail
  23. During any war, it usually takes a picture of an innocent child as a victim for the world to actually pay attention to what is happening. And with everything going on in Syria, this has happened time and time again. This time it was in the aftermath of chemical attack on the northern Syrian town of Khan Sheikhoun. Pictures of a Syrian father clutching the lifeless bodies of his 9-month old twins, Aya and Ahmed, emerged and they were heart-breaking. In the video, 29-year-old Abdul-Hamid Alyousef can be seen asking his cousin Alaa to record his emotional farewell to his kids. Choking back tears, he says, “Say goodbye, baby, say goodbye.” © Twitter The horrific attack killed around 72 people, including Alyousef’s wife, two of his brothers, two nephews, a niece, neighbours and friends, along with his kids. “I was right beside them and I carried them outside the house with their mother,” Alyousef, a shopkeeper, told the AP, recalling the moments after the airstrike occurred. “They were conscious at first, but 10 minutes later we could smell the odour.” © Twitter When he brought them to the paramedics, he assumed that they would be fine since they got medical attention, but he was soon informed that his wife and kids were not able to survive. “I couldn’t save anyone, they’re all dead now,” the bereaved father said. “Abdel Hameed is in very bad shape,” his cousin Alaa added. He is being treated for exposure to the toxin, but that’s not the worst of it, she told the AP. “He’s especially broken down over his massive loss.” © Twitter In 2015, it was the picture of a lifeless 3-year-old boy who washed ashore on a Turkish beach that made everyone tear up all around the world. He, along with his family, were hoping to find a better life in Europe, but he did not make it there. Aylan Kurdi’s picture perfectly showed the realities of the refugee crisis Syria is facing. © Twitter The year after that, it happened again. Journalists captured footage of Omran Daqneesh, a young Syrian boy, sitting in the back of an ambulance after an airstrike in his rebel-held Qaterji neighbourhood. The video showed him calmly wiping blood and dust off his face, his silence indicating that how such events have become so ordinary for the children of Syria. © Twitter How many innocent children have to suffer and die before something is done about this?
  24. Syria has been abandoned, it seems. Along with that, humanity has also been abandoned. Chemical attacks have left the place looking like a post-apocalyptic scene. Maybe this is the apocalypse—the death of humanity. 13.5 million people in Syria have been displaced and are in desperate need of basic humanitarian aid. At least half of these displaced are children. A majority of refugees—nearly 5 million in number—are struggling to meet the most basic needs, having left everything behind. I mean, aren’t you tired of reading about the death of innocent kids who haven’t even started walking on their own two feet yet? Would you ever be able to imagine yourself in that situation—all limbs in perfect unison? If you were to ever have children of your own—whether you actually do, is a different scene—would you ever be able to sleep peacefully at night, knowing that hundreds of kids are losing their lives just because they exist in a certain place? How is that right? Forget right; how on Earth is that even human? © ABC News True, we’re living thousands of miles away from them. But, does that mean we remain oblivious to their condition; one that they have been living with for about five years now? Do we really need to see images of dying children and parents sobbing over the lives they created with hopes and dreams? Yes, we may not all be politicos, business tycoons, philanthropists. But, aren’t we human? Can we not, in some way or the other—however small that way may be—help those in Syria? Maybe we can… There are various different places—both online and offline—where we can donate to the victims of Syria. Here are a few listed out: 1. The UN Refugee Agency: The agency is “helping the most vulnerable with cash for medicine and food, stoves and fuel for heating, insulation for tents, thermal blankets and winter clothing" and they are providing aid to Syria. You can donate here: UN Refugee Agency 2. CARE: The chemical attacks, President Trump’s refugee ban and the latest attack on Syria by the US has threatened the stable future of innocent Syrian lives and put thousands of them in limbo. CARE is working towards sustaining these lives in any and every way that they can. The organization has various CARE packages to enable donors to contribute in any way that is within reason to them. Here’s where you can donate: CARE © ABC News 3. Save The Children: A global action fund that has launched a special campaign for the children of Syria, the organization informs you about the realities of children in the war-torn area and enlightens you on the ways you can help by sponsoring a child, or more. You can make a one-time donation, or sign up for a membership. You can choose the categories of children you’d wish to sponsor based on children’s stories recorded on their website. Here’s how to sponsor a child: Save The Children 4. Islamic Relief USA: The community has been actively serving more than 9.3 million Syrians in need, in Syria and neighbouring countries by providing items like food, medical aid, water, blankets, mattresses, plastic sheeting, plastic mats, shoes, jackets, hats, sweatshirts, gloves, waterproof coats, socks and other necessities. They have a series of projects that they undertake and even have a regularly updated progress report that is up for review by users. You can donate, create a campaign of your own and keep yourself updated on the number of donations being made, according to the website. Here’s how you can donate: IRUSA © BBC 5. ActionAid: The community has been working continuously since 2013 on the ongoing—and subsequently worsening—situation in Syria. They have been providing food, shelter, blankets, school supplies, and other urgent materials; alongside continual support towards the children and their families across affected areas, providing emergency supplies and helping children who have been traumatized by the conflict. Here’s where you can make your donation: ActionAid