Friday 23 February 2018

Nine children among 47 killed in strikes on Syria

A girl pushes a boy on a bicycle past damaged buildings in Damascus, Syria. Photo: Reuters/Bassam Khabieh
A girl pushes a boy on a bicycle past damaged buildings in Damascus, Syria. Photo: Reuters/Bassam Khabieh
Russian President Vladimir Putin. Photo: AP

Noah Browning in Riyadh

NINE children were among at least 47 people killed in air strikes believed to be carried out by Russian warplanes on a town in eastern Syria, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has revealed.

The raids on Khasham, near the city of Deir al-Zor on Saturday, were among a series of strikes that also hit two other towns killing scores of people.

On the orders of President Vladimir Putin, Russian jets have been bombing around Deir al-Zor as Syrian pro-government forces clash with Isil fighters, who control most of the province. The group has besieged remaining government-held areas of the city since last March and last week launched new attacks.

Meanwhile, a Saudi-led coalition air strike killed a Yemeni judge and seven members of his family in the capital Sanaa on Sunday, as an aid convoy delivered food to a besieged southern city for the first time in months.

A coalition led by Saudi Arabia has been bombing the Iran-allied Houthis, who have controlled the capital since March. Nearly 6,000 people have been killed, around half of them civilians, according to UN figures.

The bomb partially destroyed the home of Yahya Rubaid, a judge appointed by the Houthis to a national security court who had prosecuted cases against militant groups like al-Qa'ida but had also presided over treason cases against President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi and other ousted foes of the Houthis.

All of Rubaid's family, except one of his sons, were also killed in the blast, which destroyed the two-storey home, residents said. President Hadi, driven out of Sanaa last year by Houthi fighters that Arab neighbours say are backed by Iran, has returned to lead a government from the southern port of Aden, recaptured in July by troops from the Saudi-led coalition.

Pro-Hadi and Gulf Arab forces have pushed up toward the capital but have been bogged down in mountainous battlefronts for months, especially in the southwestern city of Taiz. Residents of the city, Yemen's third largest, have been caught in the crossfire and cut off from humanitarian aid for nine months, which many residents call a "siege" imposed by the Houthis.

The United Nations World Food Programme said on Sunday it was able to send 12 trucks laden with food into some of the worst-affected districts of Tai, providing enough aid to feed 3,000 families for a month.

The delivery followed weeks of intense lobbying by international aid groups with the Houthis to relieve stricken civilians in the city, one of the country's worst war zones. The Yemeni prime minister and his Cabinet returned yesterday to the volatile southern port city of Aden, months after he was targeted in a suicide bombing that forced them to leave the country.

Yemen has been torn by conflict since 2014, when Shiite rebels known as Houthis and allied with a former president captured large swathes of the country, including the capital, Sanaa, which they took in September that year.

In March 2015, a coalition of mainly Gulf Arab countries led by Saudi Arabia launched airstrikes against the Houthis and later, a ground operation to retake ground from the rebels. More than 5,800 people have been killed and over 80pc of Yemen's population is in dire need of food and aid.

Irish Independent

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