Report: Landmines Victims in Syria Account for World's Highest Death Toll

A fighter reacts as a landmine, planted by ISIS, is exploded by his comrades in northern Syrian. (AFP)
A fighter reacts as a landmine, planted by ISIS, is exploded by his comrades in northern Syrian. (AFP)
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Report: Landmines Victims in Syria Account for World's Highest Death Toll

A fighter reacts as a landmine, planted by ISIS, is exploded by his comrades in northern Syrian. (AFP)
A fighter reacts as a landmine, planted by ISIS, is exploded by his comrades in northern Syrian. (AFP)

The Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) documented the deaths of 86 civilians due to landmines since the beginning of 2020, including 15 children, the highest death toll in the world.

The SNHR announced in its monthly report that at least 126 civilians, including 18 children, eight women and one media worker, were documented killed in October 2020 at the hands of the parties to the conflict and the controlling forces in Syria.

Deaths among Syrian citizens caused by landmine explosions in different governorates and regions in Syria continued in October 2020, indicating that none of the controlling forces have made any significant efforts in the process of clearing landmines, or trying to determine their locations and fence them off, or warn the local population about them, as the report revealed.

The SNHR, as a member of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines – Cluster Munition Coalition (ICBL-CMC), stressed its endeavor within this international coalition to implement a comprehensive ban on the use of landmines and cluster munitions, and to ensure that this becomes a customary law.

The report stated that the crime of murder has become widespread and systematic, mainly at the hands of Syrian regime forces and their affiliated militias.

It recorded the death toll of victims killed by the parties to the conflict and the controlling forces in Syria in October 2020, particularly focusing on the victims amongst children and women, victims amongst media workers, and those who died due to torture, paying particular attention to the massacres committed by the parties to the conflict over the past month.

The beginning of 2020 was accompanied by a violent military operation led by the Syrian regime and its Russian and Iranian allies against the areas outside its control in and around Idlib.

The cities and residential neighborhoods in these areas were subjected to massive and indiscriminate bombardment, which resulted in dozens of deaths and the displacement of residents of entire cities. The first and second months of the year also saw a marked increase in the death toll.

The report revealed that the COVID-19 pandemic and the ceasefire agreement that came into effect on March 6 of 2020 may have had a major role in weakening the capabilities of the Syrian regime’s army and affiliated Iranian militias, which contributed to a decrease in the death toll this year compared to previous years.

However, the insecurity seen in most governorates, including those under the control of the Syrian regime, has caused an increase in killings, mainly through explosions and shootings by unknown persons.

The report also documented three massacres in October 2020, one at the hands of Syrian Regime forces, another at the hands of US-led coalition, and the third as a result of a car bomb of unknown origin in al Bab city in the suburbs of Aleppo governorate, with the term massacre used in this context to refer to an attack that caused the death of at least five peaceful individuals in the same incident.

It noted that ISIS and Hay’at Tahrir al Sham have both violated international humanitarian law by killing civilians, while the alliance of US-led coalition and the Syrian Democratic Forces carried out attacks that are considered violations of international humanitarian law, with the crimes of indiscriminate killing amounting to war crimes.



US: Israel Agreed to Framework for Gaza Ceasefire, Hamas Now Must Decide

A damaged building from Gaza is pictured, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, as seen from Southern Israel, March 2, 2024. REUTERS/Amir Cohen
A damaged building from Gaza is pictured, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, as seen from Southern Israel, March 2, 2024. REUTERS/Amir Cohen
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US: Israel Agreed to Framework for Gaza Ceasefire, Hamas Now Must Decide

A damaged building from Gaza is pictured, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, as seen from Southern Israel, March 2, 2024. REUTERS/Amir Cohen
A damaged building from Gaza is pictured, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, as seen from Southern Israel, March 2, 2024. REUTERS/Amir Cohen

Israel has essentially endorsed a framework of a proposed Gaza ceasefire and hostage release deal, and it is now up to Hamas to agree to it, a senior US administration official said Saturday, a day before talks to reach an agreement were to resume in Egypt.
International mediators have been working for weeks to broker a deal to pause the fighting before the Muslim holy month of Ramadan begins around March 10. A deal would also likely allow aid to reach hundreds of thousands of desperate Palestinians in northern Gaza who aid officials worry are under threat of famine.
The Israelis “have more or less accepted” the proposal, which includes the six-week ceasefire as well as the release by Hamas of hostages considered vulnerable, which includes the sick, the wounded, the elderly and women, said the official.
“Right now, the ball is in the court of Hamas and we are continuing to push this as hard as we possibly can,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity under ground rules set by the White House to brief reporters.

A senior Egyptian official said mediators Egypt and Qatar are expected to receive a response from Hamas during the Cairo talks scheduled to start Sunday. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not publicly authorized to discuss the sensitive talks.


US Military Planes Airdrop About 38,000 Meals Into Gaza

Children look for salvageable items amid the rubble of a Mosque and makeshift shelters that were destroyed in Israeli strikes in Deir El-Balah in central Gaza on March 2, 2024. (Photo by AFP)
Children look for salvageable items amid the rubble of a Mosque and makeshift shelters that were destroyed in Israeli strikes in Deir El-Balah in central Gaza on March 2, 2024. (Photo by AFP)
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US Military Planes Airdrop About 38,000 Meals Into Gaza

Children look for salvageable items amid the rubble of a Mosque and makeshift shelters that were destroyed in Israeli strikes in Deir El-Balah in central Gaza on March 2, 2024. (Photo by AFP)
Children look for salvageable items amid the rubble of a Mosque and makeshift shelters that were destroyed in Israeli strikes in Deir El-Balah in central Gaza on March 2, 2024. (Photo by AFP)

US military C-130 cargo planes on Saturday dropped food in pallets over Gaza, the first American airdrop of humanitarian aid into the Palestinian enclave, three US officials said.
Three planes from Air Forces Central dropped 66 bundles containing about 38,000 meals into Gaza at 8:30 a.m. EST, according to two of the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity before a public announcement.
The airdrop is expected to be the first of many announced by President Joe Biden on Friday. The aid will be coordinated with Jordan.

White House national security spokesperson John Kirby said Friday that the airdrops were being planned to deliver emergency humanitarian assistance in a safe way to people on the ground.
The C-130 cargo plane is a widely used military jet to deliver aid to remote places due to its ability to land in austere environments and cargo capacity.
A C-130 can airlift as much as 42,000 pounds of cargo and its crews know how to rig the cargo, which sometimes can include even vehicles, onto massive pallets can be safely dropped out of the back of the aircraft.
Air Force loadmasters secure the bundles onto pallets with netting that is rigged for release in the back of a C-130, and then crews release it with a parachute when the aircraft reaches the intended delivery zone.

Other countries including France, Egypt and Jordan have carried out airdrops of aid into Gaza.

At least 576,000 people in the Gaza Strip - one quarter of the enclave's population - are one step from famine, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.


Ship Attacked by Houthis Sinks in Red Sea

A handout photo shows the British-registered cargo vessel, Rubymar, sinking after being damaged in a missile attack by the Houthis in the Red Sea off the coast of Yemen, 26 February 2024 (issued 27 February 2024).  EPA
A handout photo shows the British-registered cargo vessel, Rubymar, sinking after being damaged in a missile attack by the Houthis in the Red Sea off the coast of Yemen, 26 February 2024 (issued 27 February 2024). EPA
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Ship Attacked by Houthis Sinks in Red Sea

A handout photo shows the British-registered cargo vessel, Rubymar, sinking after being damaged in a missile attack by the Houthis in the Red Sea off the coast of Yemen, 26 February 2024 (issued 27 February 2024).  EPA
A handout photo shows the British-registered cargo vessel, Rubymar, sinking after being damaged in a missile attack by the Houthis in the Red Sea off the coast of Yemen, 26 February 2024 (issued 27 February 2024). EPA

A ship attacked by Yemen's Houthi militias has sunk in the Red Sea after days of taking on water, officials said Saturday.

The Rubymar had been drifting after the attack in February. It marks the first ship sunk by the Houthis amid their monthslong attacks on shipping in the vital waterway.

Yemen's internationally recognized government, as well as a regional military official, confirmed the ship sank. The official spoke on condition of anonymity as the information had not been cleared for publication.

A statement issued by the Yemeni Foreign Ministry on Friday urged all concerned nations and regional and international organizations tasked with preserving maritime environments to take swift practical action to save the Red Sea from an imminent environmental catastrophe.

“Leaving the ship to its fate will result in serious harm to marine ecosystems and hundreds of thousands of Yemenis who rely on fishing, as well as potential damage to desalination plants along the Yemeni coast,” said the statement.


Palestinian Authority Hopes for Gaza Ceasefire by Ramadan

Palestinians inspect the destroyed Al Bokhari mosque following an Israeli airstrike in Deir Al Balah, southern Gaza Strip, 02 March 2024. EPA/MOHAMMED SABER
Palestinians inspect the destroyed Al Bokhari mosque following an Israeli airstrike in Deir Al Balah, southern Gaza Strip, 02 March 2024. EPA/MOHAMMED SABER
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Palestinian Authority Hopes for Gaza Ceasefire by Ramadan

Palestinians inspect the destroyed Al Bokhari mosque following an Israeli airstrike in Deir Al Balah, southern Gaza Strip, 02 March 2024. EPA/MOHAMMED SABER
Palestinians inspect the destroyed Al Bokhari mosque following an Israeli airstrike in Deir Al Balah, southern Gaza Strip, 02 March 2024. EPA/MOHAMMED SABER

The Palestinian Authority hopes a ceasefire can be agreed in the Gaza war in time for Ramadan, its foreign minister, Riyad al-Maliki, said on Saturday.

Speaking at a news conference at a diplomatic forum in Antalya, Türkiye, Maliki said the PA would be "the only legitimate authority" to run Gaza after the war.

The PA, which exercises limited self-rule in parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank, lost control of Gaza to Hamas in 2007.

Israel and Hamas have been negotiating through mediators over a possible ceasefire in Gaza, with the aim of halting fighting in time for Ramadan, the Muslim fasting month, due to begin this year on March 10.


Gaza Ceasefire Talks to Resume in Cairo on Sunday, Egyptian Security Sources Say

A general view shows Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt July 13, 2020. (Reuters)
A general view shows Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt July 13, 2020. (Reuters)
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Gaza Ceasefire Talks to Resume in Cairo on Sunday, Egyptian Security Sources Say

A general view shows Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt July 13, 2020. (Reuters)
A general view shows Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt July 13, 2020. (Reuters)

Gaza ceasefire negotiations are due to resume in Cairo on Sunday, two Egyptian security sources said on Saturday.

The parties have agreed on the duration of a Gaza truce, as well as hostage and prisoner releases, they said.

The completion of the deal still requires an agreement on the withdrawal of Israeli forces from northern Gaza and a return of its residents, they added, according to Reuters.

The sources said that an incident on Thursday incident in which more than 100 Palestinians seeking aid were killed by Israeli fire according to Gazan authorities, had not slowed down the talks, but instead pushed negotiators to hasten in order to preserve progress.


Israeli Strike Kills 3 Hezbollah Fighters in Lebanon

A view shows an Israeli tank and military vehicles near Israel's border with Lebanon in northern Israel, October 9 - REUTERS
A view shows an Israeli tank and military vehicles near Israel's border with Lebanon in northern Israel, October 9 - REUTERS
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Israeli Strike Kills 3 Hezbollah Fighters in Lebanon

A view shows an Israeli tank and military vehicles near Israel's border with Lebanon in northern Israel, October 9 - REUTERS
A view shows an Israeli tank and military vehicles near Israel's border with Lebanon in northern Israel, October 9 - REUTERS

An Israeli drone strike killed three Hezbollah fighters in south Lebanon on Saturday, security sources in Lebanon said, the latest to die in months of cross-border hostilities that have been fought in parallel to the Gaza war.

The men were killed when the car they were in was targeted on a coastal road near the town of Naqoura, the sources said. The Israeli army said it was checking reports on the incident, The Associated Press reported.

Israeli strikes since October have killed more than 200 Hezbollah fighters and some 50 civilians in Lebanon, while attacks from Lebanon into Israel have killed a dozen Israeli soldiers and five civilians. Tens of thousands of Israelis and Lebanese have fled villages on both sides of the frontier.

Hezbollah signalled this week that it would halt its attacks if Israel's Gaza offensive stops, but it is also ready to keep on fighting if the Gaza war continues. On Friday, Hezbollah announced the deaths of four members killed in Lebanon.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant last Sunday indicated that Israel planned to increase attacks on Hezbollah in the event of a Gaza ceasefire, but was open to a diplomatic deal to withdraw Hezbollah fighters from the border.

Lebanon's caretaker prime minister Najib Mikati told Reuters on Thursday a halt to fighting in Gaza as early as next week would trigger indirect talks to end hostilities at the border.


France Demands Justice after Shooting of Palestinians in Gaza

France's President Emmanuel Macron, surrounded by officials, attends the inauguration ceremony of the Paris 2024 Olympic village in Saint-Denis, north of Paris, Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024. (Ludovic Marin, Pool via AP)
France's President Emmanuel Macron, surrounded by officials, attends the inauguration ceremony of the Paris 2024 Olympic village in Saint-Denis, north of Paris, Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024. (Ludovic Marin, Pool via AP)
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France Demands Justice after Shooting of Palestinians in Gaza

France's President Emmanuel Macron, surrounded by officials, attends the inauguration ceremony of the Paris 2024 Olympic village in Saint-Denis, north of Paris, Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024. (Ludovic Marin, Pool via AP)
France's President Emmanuel Macron, surrounded by officials, attends the inauguration ceremony of the Paris 2024 Olympic village in Saint-Denis, north of Paris, Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024. (Ludovic Marin, Pool via AP)

French President Emmanuel Macron said on Friday he was angered by what Gaza authorities said was the shooting of more than 100 Palestinians seeking humanitarian aid and demanded "truth and justice" regarding the role of Israeli soldiers in the incident.
Gaza health authorities said Israeli forces on Thursday shot dead more than 100 Palestinians as they waited for an aid delivery.
Israel blamed the deaths on crowds that surrounded aid trucks, saying victims had been trampled or run over. An Israeli official also said troops had "in a limited response" later fired on crowds they felt had posed a threat. He dismissed the casualty toll given by Gaza authorities but gave no figure himself.
"Deep indignation at the images coming from Gaza where civilians have been targeted by Israeli soldiers. I express my strongest condemnation of these shootings and call for truth, justice, and respect for international law," Macron said in a post on X.
He said it was imperative for an immediate ceasefire in the war to be put in place.
Speaking on France Inter radio on Friday, Foreign Minister Stephane Sejourne said Paris would back the United Nations' call for an independent investigation.
"The humanitarian situation has been catastrophic for several weeks now and what happened is indefensible and unjustifiable. Israel needs to be able to hear it and it needs to stop," Sejourne told France Inter.
"We have gone a step further, people are fighting for food and there are riots. I heard the request from the Secretary General of the United Nations to open an independent investigation.”

France would not apply "double standards" to the Mideast conflict, Sejourne said, adding: "France calls things by their name".

"This applies when we designate Hamas as a terrorist group, but we must also call things by their name when there are atrocities in Gaza."

If an investigation should conclude that the Israeli shooting was a war crime, "then obviously this becomes a matter for the judiciary", he said.

Sejourne also said the thought of people dying of hunger in Gaza was "unbearable" for France.


Google Maps Sends UNIFIL Patrol into Hezbollah Trap

A patrol for the UNIFIL forces near the border with Israel (Reuters)
A patrol for the UNIFIL forces near the border with Israel (Reuters)
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Google Maps Sends UNIFIL Patrol into Hezbollah Trap

A patrol for the UNIFIL forces near the border with Israel (Reuters)
A patrol for the UNIFIL forces near the border with Israel (Reuters)

UN peacekeepers from the Indonesian battalion were "briefly detained" on Thursday night by locals associated with Hezbollah in the southern suburbs of Beirut, Lebanon’s capital.

Initial reports suggested the patrol entered the suburb accidentally. Locals associated with Hezbollah took them to a security committee headquarters for questioning.

The Lebanese army later intervened and relocated them to one of its bases nearby.

“The patrol was traveling from the south to Beirut and relied on Google Maps, which directed them through the suburb due to traffic,” a Lebanese security source, who requested anonymity, told Asharq Al-Awsat.

Candice Ardell, deputy director of the UNIFIL media office, said that the peacekeeping vehicle was on a routine logistical tour when it ended up on an unplanned route.

“The vehicle was stopped, and local individuals detained peacekeepers who were later released,” she was quoted by the National News Agency as saying.

“We are looking into the circumstances of what happened, but peacekeepers were not harmed,” Ardell said, without mentioning the number of peacekeepers involved in the incident.

“We emphasize that, in addition to freedom of movement inside UNIFIL’s area of operations, peacekeepers have the freedom and authorization from the Lebanese government to move throughout Lebanon for administrative and logistical reasons,” she noted.

The incident underscores the delicate situation in southern Lebanon, where UN forces face increasing risks amid escalating tensions between Hezbollah and Israel.

According to a source close to UNIFIL, UN patrols in southern areas face challenges due to security risks and increased military activities between Hezbollah and Israel.

“UNIFIL leaders understand the situation’s sensitivity and handle it responsibly,” confirmed the source, who refused to be named.

It is worth noting that these attacks are not isolated incidents. They reflect broader tensions between international forces and local populations, adding strain to an already volatile region.


Yemen Renews Plea to Avert Sinking of ‘Rubymar’

Yemen’s Houthis have mobilized tens of thousands of recruits since the beginning of the war in Gaza (AFP)
Yemen’s Houthis have mobilized tens of thousands of recruits since the beginning of the war in Gaza (AFP)
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Yemen Renews Plea to Avert Sinking of ‘Rubymar’

Yemen’s Houthis have mobilized tens of thousands of recruits since the beginning of the war in Gaza (AFP)
Yemen’s Houthis have mobilized tens of thousands of recruits since the beginning of the war in Gaza (AFP)

As Western airstrikes persist in weakening Houthi attacks on ships in the Red Sea, the Yemeni government urged the international community to act to prevent an environmental disaster in those waters.

A statement issued by the Yemeni Foreign Ministry on Friday urged all concerned nations and regional and international organizations tasked with preserving maritime environments to take swift practical action to save the Red Sea from an imminent environmental catastrophe.

The appeal follows a Houthi attack on the Belize-flagged cargo ship Rubymar, which now faces the threat of sinking after being hit by missiles 12 days ago.

As Yemeni authorities work to salvage Rubymar, they expressed dismay over airstrikes hitting a Yemeni fishermen’s boat near the stranded vessel, causing casualties and damage.

The government warned that this second attack complicates rescue efforts and poses a significant environmental threat.

“The government emphasizes that this second targeting undermines rescue efforts and threatens to cause a widespread environmental disaster,” said the Foreign Ministry’s statement.

Rubymar, laden with hazardous cargo of fertilizers and oils, risks sinking near Yemeni shores, potentially harming marine life and livelihoods.

“Leaving the ship to its fate will result in serious harm to marine ecosystems and hundreds of thousands of Yemenis who rely on fishing, as well as potential damage to desalination plants along the Yemeni coast,” added the statement.

In related news, fresh Western airstrikes hit Houthi targets in Hodeidah province on Friday, according to the Iran-backed group’s media, which acknowledged two strikes they described as “American and British” targeting the Jabana area west of Hodeidah city.

These airstrikes follow four raids the day before, also confirmed by the Houthis, targeting areas in the Salif and Durayhimi districts, north and south of Hodeidah.


Tunisia Raises Drinking Water Prices by Up to 16% due to Drought

A general view shows the dry ground of the Chiba dam in the Nabeul Governorate, as the country battles with a drought, Nabeul, Tunisia April 1, 2023. REUTERS/Jihed Abidellaoui/File Photo Purchase Licensing Rights
A general view shows the dry ground of the Chiba dam in the Nabeul Governorate, as the country battles with a drought, Nabeul, Tunisia April 1, 2023. REUTERS/Jihed Abidellaoui/File Photo Purchase Licensing Rights
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Tunisia Raises Drinking Water Prices by Up to 16% due to Drought

A general view shows the dry ground of the Chiba dam in the Nabeul Governorate, as the country battles with a drought, Nabeul, Tunisia April 1, 2023. REUTERS/Jihed Abidellaoui/File Photo Purchase Licensing Rights
A general view shows the dry ground of the Chiba dam in the Nabeul Governorate, as the country battles with a drought, Nabeul, Tunisia April 1, 2023. REUTERS/Jihed Abidellaoui/File Photo Purchase Licensing Rights

Tunisia has raised its drinking water prices by up to 16%, the official gazette said on Friday, in response to a drought that has lasted five years.

After years of drought, average rainfall has increased in recent months but government officials said this week that Tunisian dams have only reached 35% of their stock capacity.

The North African country last year imposed a quota system for drinking water and a ban on its use in agriculture. Since last summer, it has been cutting off water supplies at night.

The price of water will be unchanged for small consumers, according to Reuters.

Those whose consumption exceeds 40 cubic metres face about 12% increase to 1.040 Tunisian dinars ($0.33) per cubic metre and consumers of between 70 and 100 cubic metres per quarter will pay 13.7% more at 1.490 dinars per cubic metre with immediate effect.

The highest increase is for those whose consumption exceeds 150 cubic metres and for tourist facilities, for which the price per cubic metre has increased by 16% to 2.310 dinars.