Assad’s offensive on Idlib creating a ‘Gaza in Syria’, says aid group head

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Syrian civilians flee from Idlib in rain toward the north to find safety inside Syria near the border with Turkey on Feb. 13, 2020 amid an offensive by Assad forces. (AP Photo)
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Syrian civilians flee from Idlib in rain toward the north to find safety inside Syria near the border with Turkey on Feb. 13, 2020 amid an offensive by Assad forces. (AP Photo)
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Syrian civilians flee from Idlib in rain toward the north to find safety inside Syria near the border with Turkey on Feb. 13, 2020 amid an offensive by Assad forces. (AP Photo)
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Updated 14 February 2020

Assad’s offensive on Idlib creating a ‘Gaza in Syria’, says aid group head

  • 800,000 Syrians flee toward Turkisk border amid relentless Russian-led offensive

ANKARA: Over 800,000 Syrians, the vast majority women and children, have fled their homes from a relentless Russian-led Syrian military campaign in northwest Syria since Dec. 1, David Swanson, a senior UN spokesperson, said on Thursday.
The head of the International Rescue Committee aid group warned that the fighting around an opposition holdout is a “clear and present threat” to regional peace.
David Miliband said that President Bashar Assad’s offensive on Idlib was creating a “Gaza in Syria” with millions of people crammed into a tiny space beset with violence.
Separately, Syria’s parliament recognized the 1915-1917 killings of up to 1.5 million Armenians as genocide, as tensions run high with Turkey after deadly clashes in northwest Syria.




Syrian civilians flee from Idlib in rain toward the north to find safety inside Syria near the border with Turkey on Feb. 13, 2020 amid an offensive by Assad forces. (AP Photo)

The move comes after weeks of tensions between Ankara and Damascus over deadly clashes between their forces in Syria.
Ozgur Unluhisarcikli, Ankara office director of the German Marshall Fund of the US, said Erdogan has responded to escalation by changing the rules of engagement.
“Assad has not fought a regular battle against a state actor since the beginning of the conflict. With the ongoing deployments in Syria, Turkey is building a force that is clearly superior to Assad’s,” he told Arab News.
“Erdogan feels he can cope with the Russia factor thanks to strong support from the US. Not only is Turkey not isolated in Idlib, but it could also decrease its overall isolation through its bold policy in the region,” Unluhisarcikli said.


Lebanon to ease virus curbs from Monday

Updated 25 min 4 sec ago

Lebanon to ease virus curbs from Monday

  • The health minister said Lebanon “will gradually reopen from Monday” to give citizens and businesses a respite ahead of Christmas

BEIRUT: Lebanon is from Monday to gradually ease restrictions imposed two weeks ago after a surge in coronavirus infections, in a bid to relieve its struggling economy in time for the festive season, officials said.
Acting health minister Hamad Hassan told reporters the country “will gradually reopen from Monday” to give citizens and businesses a respite ahead of Christmas and end of year holidays.
He said restaurants will reopen at 50 percent capacity, but bars and nightclubs will remain closed and weddings prohibited, while an overnight curfew will start from 11 p.m. instead of 5pm.
Schools would also reopen but with some classes still held online, Hassan said after a meeting of Lebanon’s coronavirus task force.
He warned that the “danger” of a rise in infections still exists and that the hoped-for results to stem the virus thanks to the curbs would not be known for several days.
Before the two-week restrictions went into force in mid-November, bed occupancy in hospital intensive care units was between 80 and 90 percent while “now it stands at 65-70 percent,” Hassan said.
Since February, the country has recorded more than 125,000 Covid-19 cases, including around 1,000 deaths.
Lebanon, with a population of around six million, had been recording some 11,000 coronavirus infections on average each week before mid-November, according to the health ministry.
A first country-wide lockdown imposed in March was effective in stemming the spread of the virus, before restrictions were gradually lifted as summer beckoned people outdoors.
But the number of cases surged following a monstrous blast at Beirut’s port on August 4 that killed more than 200 people, wounded at least 6,500 and overwhelmed hospitals.
The blast and the pandemic have exacerbated tensions in the Mediterranean country which has been grappling with its worst economic crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war.