Syrian rebel groups reject Russian-sponsored Sochi conference

Ahmad Tohmeh (C), head of the rebel delegation, attends the session of Syria peace talks in Astana, in this December 22, 2017 photo. (AFP)
Updated 26 December 2017

Syrian rebel groups reject Russian-sponsored Sochi conference

AMMAN: Syrian rebel groups on Monday rejected Russia’s planned Sochi conference on Syria, saying Moscow was seeking to bypass a UN-based Geneva peace process and blaming Russia for committing war crimes in the war-torn country.
In a statement by around 40 rebel groups who include some of the military factions who participated in earlier rounds of Geneva peace talks, they said Moscow had not put pressure on the Syrian government to reach a political settlement.
“Russia has not contributed one step to easing the suffering of Syrians and has not pressured the regime that it claims it is a guarantor by move in any real path toward a solution,” the rebel statement said.
Russia, which has emerged as the dominant player in Syria after a major military intervention over two years ago, received backing from Turkey and Iran for holding a Syrian national dialogue congress in the Russian city of Sochi on Jan. 29-30.
“Russia is an aggressor country that has committed war crimes against Syrians... It stood with the regime militarily and defended its politically and over seven years preventing UN condemnation of (Syrian President Bashar) Assad’s regime,” the statement said.
Moscow says it targets militants but rebels and residents say the Russian air strikes conducted since a major aerial campaign over two years ago has caused hundreds of civilian casualties in indiscriminate bombing of civilian areas away from the frontline.
Some rebels said they had not yet made up their mind.
UN Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura said that Russia’s plan to convene the congress should be assessed by its ability to contribute to and support the UN-led Geneva talks on ending the war in Syria.


Gaza gets vital medical aid as hospitals struggle with rising infections

Updated 29 November 2020

Gaza gets vital medical aid as hospitals struggle with rising infections

GAZA: The World Health Organization delivered 15 ventilators to Gaza hospitals on Sunday amid a spike in COVID-19 infections that has tested the Palestinian territory’s under-developed health system.
The donation of the intensive care devices, funded by Kuwait, came a week after local and international public health advisers said hospitals in the enclave could soon become overwhelmed.
“These devices will help medical teams provide better service to patients, but it is not enough,” said Abdullatif AlHajj of Gaza’s health ministry.
AlHajj said hospitals had suffered acute shortages in oxygen essential in the treatment of COVID-19 patients.
Gaza has logged nearly 20,000 coronavirus cases and 97 deaths, mostly since August, amid concern of a wider outbreak in the densely populated enclave of 2 million people, many of whom live in poverty.
The Gaza Health Ministry said 342 COVID-19 patients, of whom 108 are in critical condition, are being treated in the territory’s hospitals, which have been able to expand their intensive care units to 150 beds over the past week.
It said more than half of the territory’s 150 ventilators are in use.
“The health system right now can hold on for a few weeks after the expansion of beds,” said Abdelnaser Soboh, emergency health lead in the World Health Organization’s Gaza sub-office.
Soboh said Gaza is also experiencing severe shortages of medications and disposable equipment needed to treat COVID-19 patients.
Palestinians in Hamas Islamist-run Gaza say 13 years of economic sanctions by Israel and its border blockade have crippled their economy and undermined the development of medical facilities, weakening their ability to tackle a pandemic.
Israel, which cites security concerns for the border restrictions it imposes along with neighboring Egypt, says it has not limited the transfer of medical supplies to Gaza to fight the pandemic.