Regime Official Retracts Statements on ‘Punishing’ Returning Syrian Refugees

A view shows damaged buildings in Deir al-Zour, eastern Syria February 19, 2014. (Reuters)
A view shows damaged buildings in Deir al-Zour, eastern Syria February 19, 2014. (Reuters)
TT

Regime Official Retracts Statements on ‘Punishing’ Returning Syrian Refugees

A view shows damaged buildings in Deir al-Zour, eastern Syria February 19, 2014. (Reuters)
A view shows damaged buildings in Deir al-Zour, eastern Syria February 19, 2014. (Reuters)

After a wave of condemnation and criticism over his threat to Syrian refugees seeking to return to their homeland, Syrian regime official Issam Zahreddine retracted his statements on Tuesday.

Zahreddine, who is commander of the republican guard in Deir al-Zour, said that he “obeys the orders” of regime head Bashar Assad.

He also said that the “noble” returning Syrians will be “welcomed back into the heart of the nation.”

His statements were made in a voice recording that was addressed to the “Syrian people, who have persevered, resisted and triumphed.”

Earlier this week, Zahreddine had threatened Syrian refugees seeking to return home, advising them against doing so.

“I urge you against coming back. Even if the state forgives you, we will not forget or forgive,” he said during a televised statement.

In his retraction, Zahereddine said that his statements were manipulated by those seeking to create instability.

Opposition figures meanwhile accuse the regime official of “being responsible for several massacres committed against civilians in several Syrian regions.”

Months ago, he had published on his personal media accounts photographs of himself standing next human corpses in Deir al-Zour, they added.

He had claimed that the bodies were of members of the ISIS terrorist group, added the opposition.



WHO Says Many People in Gaza Facing ‘Famine-like Conditions’

Israeli soldiers operate inside the Gaza Strip, as seen from southern Israel, on Feb. 13, 2024. (AP)
Israeli soldiers operate inside the Gaza Strip, as seen from southern Israel, on Feb. 13, 2024. (AP)
TT

WHO Says Many People in Gaza Facing ‘Famine-like Conditions’

Israeli soldiers operate inside the Gaza Strip, as seen from southern Israel, on Feb. 13, 2024. (AP)
Israeli soldiers operate inside the Gaza Strip, as seen from southern Israel, on Feb. 13, 2024. (AP)

The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Wednesday that many people in Gaza were facing "catastrophic hunger and famine-like conditions".

"A significant proportion of Gaza's population is now facing catastrophic hunger and famine-like conditions," said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

"Despite reports of increased delivery of food, there is currently no evidence that those who need it most are receiving sufficient quantity and quality of food."

Tedros said there were more than 8,000 children under five years old who have been diagnosed and treated for acute malnutrition, including 1,600 children with severe acute malnutrition.

"However, due to insecurity and lack of access, only two stabilization centers for severely malnourished patients can operate," he added.

"Our inability to provide health services safely, combined with the lack of clean water and sanitation, significantly increases the risk of malnourished children."

The war in Gaza began on Oct. 7 when fighters led by Hamas killed 1,200 Israelis and took more than 250 hostage, according to Israeli tallies.

Israel's response has caused the deaths of more than 37,000 Palestinians, according to the Gazan health ministry, displaced most of Gaza's population of 2.3 million and caused widespread hunger and destruction.

A UN inquiry on Wednesday found that both Israel and Hamas had committed war crimes early in the Gaza war, and that Israel's actions also constituted crimes against humanity because of the immense civilian losses.

Tedros also highlighted a separate health crisis in the West Bank, where he said healthcare had been targeted by nearly 500 attacks since Oct. 7.

"While the world's focus has been on Gaza, there is also an escalating health crisis in the West Bank, where attacks on healthcare and restrictions on movement of people are obstructing access to health services," he said.

"In most areas of the West Bank, clinics are only operating two days a week and hospitals are operating at about 70% capacity."