Monday 19 March 2018

Jolie visit highlights Syria crisis

Rachael Alexander

UN envoy Angelina Jolie travelled to Turkey's border with Syria yesterday, sharing fruit and desserts with some of the thousands of Syrian refugees who have fled their government's bloody crackdown.

The Hollywood celebrity and goodwill ambassador for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees arrived in the Turkish province of Hatay on a private jet with boxes of toys for the refugee camps.

Actress Jolie spent two-and-a-half hours with the refugees, asking how they were in Arabic and then speaking to them through an interpreter.

She took notes, showing particular interest in the women and children.

Nearly 10,000 Syrians have sought refuge in camps in Turkey.

Protests first erupted in Syria in mid-March as part of the "Arab Spring" push toward democracy.

Syrian President Bashar Assad responded by unleashing the army to crush the demonstrations. Human rights activists say more than 1,400 Syrians have been killed and 10,000 detained.

Syrian security forces killed moreat least 16 people yesterday, including a teenage boy, as thousands of people poured into the streets across the country calling for the regime to go, activists said.

The violence also appeared to be spilling over into neighbouring Lebanon.

A senior member of a Lebanese political party allied with Syria was killed after gunmen opened fire and lobbed a grenade near hundreds of people holding a protest against the Syrian regime in northern Lebanon.

The protests in Syria came hours after Syrian troops, backed by tanks and helicopter gunships, seized control of another north-western town in the latest military operation to quell the dissent.

Refugees in Turkey offered fresh accounts of summary executions.

"I saw people who were beheaded with machine-gun fire from helicopters," and a man tortured to death when security forces "poured acid on to his body," said one.

He fled with his family as the military besieged Jisr al-Shughour, a rebellious town the government recaptured last Sunday.

Irish Independent

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