Thursday 21 June 2018

Civilians bear brunt as Assad's forces shell rebel suburbs

Syria's President Bashar al-Assad and wife Asma, left, in Homs Photo: Syrian Presidency Facebook page via AP
Syria's President Bashar al-Assad and wife Asma, left, in Homs Photo: Syrian Presidency Facebook page via AP

Dean Gray

Shelling and rocket fire in the suburbs of Damascus have killed 19 civilians, according to first responders, the day after medical evacuations saved the lives of 29 others.

The Syrian Civil Defence - volunteer rescuers also known as the White Helmets - said pro-government forces shelled the rebel-held eastern Ghouta suburbs on Saturday, killing six children and 13 adults.

On Friday, the Red Cross and Red Crescent evacuated 29 patients from the besieged suburbs to receive urgent medical care in government hospitals in the capital.

The UN says about 400,000 people are trapped under the government's siege of eastern Ghouta.

Meanwhile, it has also emerged that Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan will visit Paris on Thursday to meet his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron, with the conflict in Syria set to be high on their agenda.

Among the regional crises the two leaders plan to discuss, there would be a particular focus on Syria as well as on the Palestinian situation, a source in Mr Macron's office said, weeks after US President Donald Trump recognised Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

That move stirred concern among Western allies and outrage in the Arab world.

Mr Erdogan made some of his harshest comments earlier this week regarding Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, calling him a terrorist and saying it was impossible for peace efforts in Syria to continue if he did not leave power.

Jerusalem

Mr Macron said recently that France would push for peace talks involving all parties in the six-year-old Syrian conflict, including al-Assad, and promised "initiatives" early next year.

The Elysee source said: "The question of human rights will also be raised" when Erdogan and Macron meet. A security crackdown in Turkey after a failed coup in 2016 has drawn criticism from campaigners and the European Union, which is overseeing Ankara's halting bid to join the EU.

Dozens of Syrian militants and their families departed aboard buses from the village of Beit Jin, which is besieged by government forces, near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights on Saturday as part of a deal to clear yet another district of insurgents.

The evacuations came as government-controlled media said two mass graves were discovered in the northern province of Raqqa, where the Isil terrorist group held sway for more than three years.

Irish Independent

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