BEIRUT: Cases of COVID-19 have increased alarmingly over the past month in Syria’s rebel-controlled northern region of Idlib, local authorities said Monday.
Although cases of the virus had stabilized earlier this year, sometimes numbering fewer than 100 per day, local officials told AFP contaminations have begun soaring again since mid-August.
On Sept. 6, more than 1,500 new cases were recorded in one day across Idlib region, which borders Turkey and is home to more than
3 million people.
“We are witnessing a sudden and severe wave,” said Hossam Qara Mohammad, the doctor in charge of battling the pandemic for the ad-hoc local administration.
Mohammad, who works for the health directorate in the enclave dominated by the Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS) jihadist group, said the Delta variant accounted for the vast majority of new infections.
The spike in Covid numbers came roughly two weeks after Syrian refugees in Turkey were granted one-off permission to visit relatives in the Idlib enclave for the Eid Al-Adha Muslim holiday a month ago.
Turkey holds considerable sway over the region and the factions that control it, including HTS, a group that includes former leaders of Al Qaeda’s former Syria franchise.
“The health system here has reached breaking point,” Mohammad said, adding that all beds in designated COVID-19 medical centers were occupied.
A total of 877 deaths have been reported in the Idlib region since the start of the pandemic, but data collection and vaccination campaigns are hindered by a dire humanitarian situation and ongoing conflict.
Regime and allied forces have sporadically continued to shell targets in Idlib despite an internationally brokered ceasefire that took effect last year.
In the latest instance of government attacks against medical facilities, a health center in the Idlib region’s village of Marayam was destroyed by shelling on Sept. 8.
The UN’s top humanitarian official told the Security Council last month that only 58,000 people had been vaccinated in Idlib and called for campaigns to be ramped up.
COVID-19 cases spike in Syria’s Idlib
COVID-19 cases spike in Syria’s Idlib
BEIRUT: Cases of COVID-19 have increased alarmingly over the past month in Syria’s rebel-controlled northern region of Idlib, local authorities said Monday.
Tehran regime faces international isolation as protests spread abroad
- At least 76 people have been killed in Iran’s violent crackdown on the protests
- Taliban disperse demo in Kabul, clashes at embassy in Oslo, threat of new EU sanctions
JEDDAH: The Tehran regime faced growing international isolation on Thursday as a wave of unrest inside Iran spread across borders.
In Afghanistan, Taliban forces fired shots into the air to disperse a women’s rally in front of the Iranian embassy in Kabul in support of the protests in Iran.
Demonstrators carried banners that read: “Iran has risen, now it’s our turn” and “From Kabul to Iran, say no to dictatorship,” and chanted the “Women, life, freedom” mantra used in Iran. Taliban forces snatched the banners and tore them in front of the protesters.
One of the protest organizers said it was staged “to show our support and solidarity with the people of Iran and the women victims of the Taliban in Afghanistan.”
In Norway, two people were injured and 90 were arrested in clashes at a demonstration in front of the Iranian embassy in Oslo. Several dozen protesters, some draped in the Kurdish flag, tried to break into the embassy compound.
The demonstration came a day after Iran launched missile and drone strikes that killed 13 people in Iraqi Kurdistan. Tehran accuses Kurdish dissidents there of fueling two weeks of protests in Iran, which began when 22-year-old Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini died in morality police custody.
Amini had been on a visit to Tehran with her family when she was arrested and accused of wearing her hijab with “insufficient modesty.”
At least 76 people have been killed in Iran’s violent crackdown on the protests, with security forces using tear gas, batons, birdshot and live ammunition.
Germany’s foreign minister on Thursday urged the EU to impose further sanctions on Iran because of its treatment of protesters.
“The Iranian authorities must immediately end their brutal treatment of demonstrators,” Annalena Baerbock told the German parliament.
She said she would do everything within the EU framework to impose sanctions against those responsible for oppressing women in Iran.
France’s Foreign Ministry has said it would back sanctions as a response to “new massive abuses on women’s rights and human rights in Iran.”
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said the bloc would “consider all the options at its disposal ... to address the killing of Mahsa Amini and the way Iranian security forces have responded to the ensuing demonstrations.”
Inside Iran, the regime warned prominent sports and entertainment figures against any further support of the protests. “We will take action against the celebrities who have fanned the flames of the riots,” Tehran provincial governor Mohsen Mansouri said.
Former TV host Mahmoud Shahriari has already been arrested for “encouraging riots and solidarity with the enemy,” and Oscar-winning film director Asghar Farhadi urged people to “stand in solidarity” with the protesters.
“They are looking for simple yet fundamental rights that the state has denied them,” he said.
Abu Dhabi prepares to host ‘first-of-its-kind’ Parenthood: The Unconference
- The event will cover all stages of parenting with the aim of redefining and elevating the critical role parents and the extended family play in raising healthy, thriving children
- ‘Parental support influences children’s levels of confidence and motivation and plays a huge role in their interest in school,’ said Sara Awad Issa Musallam, Emirati minister for early education
ABU DHABI: Parenthood: The Unconference, an event organized by Abu Dhabi Department of Education and Knowledge and said to be the first of its kind in the world, will take place at Etihad Arena on Yas Island from Nov. 2 to Nov. 4, the Saudi Press Agency reported.
ADEK said it forms part of its larger mission to prioritize and enhance parental engagement and involvement with the aim of improving children’s success. As such, the event aims to redefine and elevate the critical role that parents, and the wider family unit, play in raising healthy and thriving children.
The goal of Parenthood: The Unconference, organizers said, is to encourage global dialogue to help better equip parents to face new and critical challenges in a world where traditional guideposts have vanished and the old rules no longer apply.
It will provide visitors with new learning opportunities to help them improve as individuals, spouses and caregivers through a comprehensive program that covers all stages of parenting, from early childhood to adolescence. The event will focus on five themes in particular: identity, new perspectives, development, well-being, and early childhood.
“The launch of Parenthood: The Unconference in Abu Dhabi underscores the commitment of our leadership to improving the state of education, with a focus on future generations,” said Sara Awad Issa Musallam, minister of state for early education.
“To achieve this, we cannot overlook the essential role of parents and their extended support circles — the aunts, uncles, grandparents and friends who become part of the family — because it really does take a village to raise a child.
“Parental support influences children’s levels of confidence and motivation and plays a huge role in their interest in school and their pursuit of goals. That is why we champion parental engagement to ensure it is an integral part of education-improvement efforts for all learners.”
Musallam said that the event aims to encourage an “important global conversation that seeks to enhance the positive relationship between schools, parents and students.” To achieve this it will gather some of the world’s foremost experts to share and discuss the latest views on child development and parenting.
“It’s an opportunity to connect, exchange and learn from each other,” said Musallam. “By impacting current and future parenting practices, we hope to generate opportunities for a future in which children everywhere thrive and interact positively with the world around them.”
According to UNICEF, which is supporting and participating in the event as an official knowledge partner, positive parenting and family support are critical factors in giving children the best possible start in life, as they lay the groundwork for healthy development, lifelong learning and social cohesion.
Organizers said that over the course of three highly interactive days, Parenthood: The Unconference will offer an unprecedented opportunity to learn from more than 60 leading experts through a series of engaging information sessions, keynote talks, panel discussions, immersive experiences, hands-on workshops, and networking opportunities.
Among the featured speakers is Dr. Shefali Tsabary, a prominent clinical psychologist and Oprah-endorsed parenting expert. She is also a three-time New York Times bestselling author, whose integration of Western psychology with Eastern philosophy is said to offer a ground-breaking approach to mindful living and parenting.
Bloodied and terrified Iraqi schoolchildren embody the human cost of Iranian aggression
- Civilians died when Iran launched a massive aerial assault on northern Iraq on Wednesday
- Analysts say strikes were intended to divert attention from protests roiling the Islamic Republic
IRBIL, Iraqi Kurdistan: The photo of a blood-stained Kurdish girl, whose school in Iraq’s northern Kurdistan Region was attacked on Wednesday by Iranian drones and missiles, has put a human face on the mounting cost of Tehran’s indiscriminate assault on the semi-autonomous region.
Clips posted by journalists showed terrified Kurdish school children being escorted to safety and sheltering on hillsides near the town of Koya, which analysts described as an intolerable act of aggression aimed at diverting international attention away from the ongoing protests roiling the Islamic Republic.
Mobile phone footage shared with local news channels shows primary school children screaming in response to nearby explosions as panicked parents and teachers try to usher them away.
On Wednesday, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) launched several Fateh 360 ballistic missiles, a new missile Iran only test-fired for the first time earlier in September, and Shahed 136 suicide drones, the same recently deployed by Russia in the Ukraine war, at targets throughout the Kurdistan Region of neighboring Iraq.
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The purported targets were the headquarters of Iranian Kurdish dissident groups. At least 14 people are reported to have been killed and 58 injured, including women and children.
Kurdish dissident groups targeted in the strikes include the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran (KDPI), the Kurdistan Freedom Party, and Komala. According to local reports, Rozhhalat primary school in Koya, which is situated close to the KDPI’s main base in Iraq’s Kurdistan Region, was also hit in what experts believe was a deliberate attack.
“It appears that Iran acted upon geospatial intelligence for the strikes, but it remains to be known how precise such intelligence was,” Ceng Sagnic, head of analysis at TAM-C Solutions, a multinational geopolitical intelligence and consultancy firm, told Arab News.
“It is fairly unlikely that targeted locations were randomly selected for strikes since they occurred in areas with high KDPI activity, which may suggest that a school was selected on purpose.”
He added: “Iran had previously targeted civilian-populated areas of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region, in attempts to pressure both the local population and the KRG (Kurdistan Regional Government) against Iranian Kurdish dissident groups.”
Osamah Golpy, a Kurdish journalist who was in Koya on Wednesday, said most of the previous attacks Iran carried out against dissident bases in Iraqi Kurdistan were “almost always done at night.”
“This time Iran chose to attack in the daytime since it wanted media coverage, as if to send a message,” he told Arab News. “Iran wanted to show it can carry out attacks against the Peshmerga (the KRG’s armed forces) and civilians to terrorize the (Iranian Kurdish) dissident groups and send a message to the Iraqi Kurdistan Region, including the population.”
The attacks coincided with anti-regime protests across Iran following the death of 22-year-old Iranian Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini in the custody of Iran’s morality police, who had detained her on the grounds that she was wearing her mandatory hijab improperly.
The Iranian strikes on Iraq’s Kurdistan Region were broadcast live on Iranian television throughout the day. Golpy believes this was an intentional move on Tehran’s part to “set the agenda.”
“There is less coverage of the protests and more coverage of Iranian attacks inside Iraqi Kurdistan,” he said. “My understanding is that it was intentional and it was timed to send these messages to various stakeholders, including the Kurdistan Region and the Iranian Kurdish dissident groups.”
Sagnic of TAM-C Solutions also suspects the attacks by the IRGC are designed to deflect attention from the ongoing domestic protests. “Iran’s widespread cross-border strikes overlapping with the largest anti-regime protest movement do not seem to be a mere coincidence,” he said.
“Iran has particularly been using cross-border attacks in Iraqi Kurdistan as a diversionary tool for public opinion during times of crises, with most of these attacks being portrayed as retaliation against the US and Israel.”
Sagnic believes that a “similar but expanded campaign” was likely the reason for the latest strikes, which he added is “underscored by a failed attempt to target US military facilities in (the Iraqi Kurdish capital) Irbil.”
He added: “In my opinion, Iran may have attempted to change the course of the public debate domestically by pointing to an outside ‘enemy’ said to be supported by the West. Tehran’s claims that the current public unrest is fueled by the US complements this theory.”
Sagnic does not believe that Iran launched the cross-border assault as a preemptive move to deter or prevent Iranian Kurdish groups from actively intervening in Iran’s western Kurdish-majority region.
“I think attacks in Koya have more to do with the image that Iran wants to portray with regard to the purported foreign enemy and the involvement of dissidents rather than preventing further intervention by Kurdish groups stationed in Iraqi Kurdistan,” he said.
Although Sagnic does not believe Wednesday’s attacks are unprecedented, he says the timing was “rather interesting” and suggested it may “show a certain level of panic within the regime establishment.”
“In my understanding, Tehran’s main goal was to claim to its own public that the unrest is rooted outside Iran, hence required cross-border retaliations,” he said.
“Indeed there remains a strong probability that Iran may attempt to advance the policy of linking the current unrest to extraterritorial actors, and conduct continued cross-border attacks to condition the public opinion. Therefore more attacks in the Kurdistan Region, especially in Irbil where the closest large-scale Western military and diplomatic presence to Iran is located.”
Kurdish journalist Golpy concurs, saying that the timing of the attacks on a neighboring country appears to be more than a mere coincidence while mass protests are taking place within Iran’s own borders.
“Almost every time when there are protests, the regime tries to contain and somehow address the issue within the country,” said Golpy. “Of course they have always blamed external stakeholders such as Israel and the US, but they never take action against the alleged external actors.
“But this time, I think for the first time, Iran tried to address the issue outside of its borders by attacking these Kurdish dissident groups, which, in my understanding, is a sign of weakness.”
US calls on Israel to investigate death of Palestinian boy
- Relatives said Rayan Suleiman had no previous health problems and accused the army of scaring the child to death
- The incident added to the rising tensions in the West Bank, where Israeli troops have been conducting daily arrest raids
JERUSALEM: The US State Department is calling on Israel to open a “thorough” investigation into the mysterious death of a 7-year-old Palestinian boy who collapsed and died on Thursday, shortly after Israeli soldiers came to his home in the occupied West Bank.
Relatives said Rayan Suleiman had no previous health problems and accused the army of scaring the child to death. The army called the death a tragedy and said its soldiers were not to blame.
The incident added to the rising tensions in the West Bank, where Israeli troops have been conducting daily arrest raids that have frequently escalated into deadly violence in recent months.
Earlier in the day, young Palestinian village boys were seen throwing stones at cars driving on a highway near the Israeli settlement of Tekoa, which lies close to the Palestinian city of Bethlehem. Later, relatives said that soldiers banged on the door and wanted to arrest Rian’s older brothers for alleged stone throwing.
Mohammed Suleiman, a 22-year-old cousin, said Rayan was shrieking in fear at sight of the soldiers and his parents shouted, “come here,” to calm him down. He said after the soldiers left, the boy collapsed. He said Rayan had been healthy.
The boy’s father, Yasser Suleiman, said Rayan tried to run away when the soldiers said they wanted to arrest his brothers and was briefly chased by the soldiers. He said Rayan was vomiting blood in the car after collapsing and was pronounced dead at the hospital.
“He was martyred from the fear of them,” the father told Palestine TV.
Lt. Col. Richard Hecht, a military spokesman, said a senior officer on the scene went to the house after spotting one of the stone throwers on a balcony and told the father to make the children stop throwing stones at motorists. He said the officer spoke in a “very calm manner” and left.
“There was no violence, no entry into the house,” Hecht said.
In Washington, the State Department’s deputy spokesman, Vedant Patel, said the United States was “heartbroken to learn of the death of an innocent Palestinian child.”
“We support a thorough and immediate investigation into the circumstances surrounding the child’s death,” Patel said.
Hecht said the investigation was continuing.
Palestinians and human rights groups say the army is incapable of investigating wrongdoing by its forces and that soldiers are rarely held accountable.
Palestinian social media were awash with photos of Rayan superimposed over the golden Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, with Palestinians declaring him a “martyr” and condemning Israel for his death. The official Palestinian news agency Wafa headlined its report “the death of a child while being chased,” in effect blaming Israel for the death.
The boy was scheduled to be buried on Friday, when Palestinian demonstrators often clash with Israeli soldiers.
The funeral comes at a time of rising violence in the West Bank.
On Wednesday, four Palestinians were killed and 44 wounded during an Israeli military raid in the northern West Bank town of Jenin. It was the deadliest episode since Israel launched its crackdown earlier this year.
Israel has been conducting nightly arrest raids, primarily in the northern West Bank, since a series of deadly Palestinian attacks in Israel last spring. Dozens of Palestinians have been killed, making this the deadliest year in the occupied territory since 2015.
Most of the dead have been wanted militants who opened fire, or youths who threw firebombs or stones at soldiers entering their neighborhoods. But several civilians who were not involved in any violence have also died.
Israel captured the West Bank in the 1967 Middle East war. The Palestinians seek the territory, now home to about 500,000 Israeli settlers, as the heartland of a future independent state.
Iraq summons Iranian ambassador after drone bombing campaign
- The Iraqi government condemned "this crime, which represented the continuation of Iranian forces’ encroachment on Iraq’s sovereignty”
- The ministry also warned of repercussions on "the societal peace of both countries and on regional security and stability”
BAGHDAD: Iraq summoned the Iranian ambassador on Thursday to deliver a diplomatic complaint following a deadly drone bombing campaign, the Iraqi Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
The Iranian drones targeted an Iranian-Kurdish opposition group in northern Iraq on Wednesday, killing at least nine people and wounding 32 others. The strikes took place as demonstrations continued to engulf the Islamic Republic after the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian Kurdish woman who died while in the custody of the Iranian morality police.
Iran’s attacks targeted positions of the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan in the town of Koya, some 65 kilometers (35 miles) east of Irbil, the main city and capital of Iraq’s northern semi-autonomous Kurdish region. The group, known by the acronym KDPI, is a leftist armed opposition force banned in Iran.
The Foreign Ministry said in its statement that civilians were among those killed. It added that the Iraqi government condemned “this crime, which represented the continuation of Iranian forces’ encroachment on Iraq’s sovereignty.”
The ministry also warned of repercussions on “the societal peace of both countries and on regional security and stability.”
Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency and broadcaster on Wednesday said the Islamic Republic’s Revolutionary Guard targeted bases of a separatist group in the north of Iraq with “precision missiles” and “suicide drones.”
Gen. Hasan Hasanzadeh of the Revolutionary Guard said 185 members of the Basij, a volunteer force, were injured by “machete and knife” in the unrest in Iran. Hasanzadeh also said rioters broke the skull of one Basij member. He added that five Basij members were hospitalized in intensive care.
United Nations’ agencies, the United States, Germany, and the United Kingdom all condemned the attacks on northern Iraq.
The UN mission in Iraq said in a tweet that the Mideast country cannot be treated as “the region’s ‘backyard,’ where neighbors routinely, and with impunity, violate its sovereignty.”
“Rocket diplomacy is a reckless act with devastating consequences,” the UN mission said.
In Washington, US State Department deputy spokesman Vedant Patel confirmed to reporters that an American citizen was killed in the rocket attacks in the Iraqi Kurdish region. He offered no additional information, citing privacy concerns, and also reiterated the US condemnation of Iran for the attacks.
Protests in Iran have raged following Amini’s death in custody in Tehran, and spread across at least 46 cities, towns and villages across Iran. State TV reported that at least 41 protesters and police have been killed since the demonstrations began Sept. 17. An Associated Press count of official statements by authorities tallied at least 14 dead, with more than 1,500 demonstrators arrested.
Meanwhile, Turkey’s defense minister said Turkish military jets carried out a new aerial offensive against suspected hideouts of Kurdish separatists from Turkey in northern Iraq, striking as deep as 149 kilometers (87 miles) deep into Iraqi territory.
The jets targeted 16 caves, shelters and command centers allegedly used by Turkey’s outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, in northern Iraq’s Asos region on Sept. 27, Hulusi Akar told journalists. He did not provide further details.
The PKK maintains bases across the border in Iraq and has led an armed insurgency inside Turkey since 1984 in a conflict that has killed tens of thousands of people.
Turkey’s military has over the years launched numerous cross-border offensives in Iraq in pursuit of PKK militants.