UN warns that 90% of Syrians are below the poverty line, while millions face cuts in food aid

Syria’s uprising-turned conflict, now in its 13th year, has killed nearly half a million people and displaced half of its prewar population of 23 million. (AFP)
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Updated 30 June 2023
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UN warns that 90% of Syrians are below the poverty line, while millions face cuts in food aid

  • Griffiths said expanding early recovery programs – another key Syrian and Russian demand – “is the humanitarian community’s best chance to support the future of the Syrian people”

UNITED NATIONS: The UN humanitarian chief warned Thursday that the 12-year conflict in Syria has pushed 90 percent of its population below the poverty line, and that millions face cuts in food aid next month because of a funding shortfall.
Martin Griffiths said that the $5.4 billion UN humanitarian appeal for Syria – the world’s largest – is only 12 percent funded, meaning that emergency food aid for millions of Syrians could be cut by 40 percent in July.
Griffiths delivered the grim news to the UN Security Council along with an appeal to members to renew the authorization for the delivery of aid to the country’s rebel-held northwest from Turkiye, which expires July 10.
But Russia’s UN ambassador, whose country is Syria’s most important ally, called the cross-border aid deliveries “a zero-sum game” that is undermining Syria’s sovereignty, discriminating against government-controlled territory, and fueling illegal armed groups including “terrorists in Idlib.”
Syria’s uprising-turned conflict, now in its 13th year, has killed nearly half a million people and displaced half of its prewar population of 23 million. A deadly 7.8 magnitude earthquake rocked large swaths of Syria in February, further compounding its misery.
Griffiths, the undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs who returned Wednesday from Damascus, said the Syrian people are facing “profound humanitarian challenges.” He said they were gathering Thursday on the Muslim holy day Eid Al-Adha “with less food on their plates, little fuel in their stoves, and limited water in their homes” and their hardship comes at a time when the UN and its humanitarian partners have limited means to help.
Russia’s Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said the emergency humanitarian appeal for $397 million to help earthquake victims was funded in the first months, but the overall UN appeal for Syria was only 12 percent funded near the end of June. And he accused the US and its allies of spending far more on weapons for Ukraine than the $55 billion the UN is seeking for global humanitarian needs this year, saying “this lays out Western priorities very clearly.”
Britain’s UN Ambassador Barbara Woodward retorted that the UK’s $190 million pledge on June 15 brought their contribution to Syria to over $4.8 billion to date and said: “I look forward to Russia announcing its contribution in due course following the recent announcement that Russia spends $2 billion a year on the Wagner Group.”
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday, after the founder of the Wagner mercenary group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, and his forces staged a revolt inside Russia, that Wagner and its founder had received almost $2 billion from the Russian government in the past year.
Woodward, who visited the Turkish-Syria border earlier this month, echoed Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ call for a 12-month extension of the authorization for cross-border aid deliveries to ensure humanitarian access to 4.1 million people in Syria’s northwest.
In January, the council approved a resolution extending humanitarian aid deliveries to Idlib for six months until July 10 as Russia demanded. Many of the people sheltering in the area have been internally displaced by the conflict. The resolution allowed for aid deliveries to continue through the Bab Al-Hawa crossing, but after the earthquake Syria’s President Bashar Assad allowed aid to go through two additional crossings at Bab Al-Salameh and Al-Rai.
US deputy ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis, who said the United States made its largest commitment to Syria of $920 million on June 15, called it “essential” to keep all three crossings open for 12 months. He cited Guterres’ latest report which said anything less would be inadequate to meet humanitarian needs in the northwest which have never been greater. The UN chief called it “a moral and humanitarian imperative.”
Russia and Syria have pressed for aid deliveries to the northwest across conflict lines and UN aid chief Griffiths said a 10-truck convoy from Aleppo recently traveled from Aleppo to Idlib safely, with aid for some 22,000 people. But Russia’s Nebenzia dismissed it as the only cross-line delivery in the last six months “clearly timed to coincide with today’s meeting.”
“Do you seriously expect us to consider the situation with cross-line convoys to be satisfactory after this?,” he asked.
Griffiths said expanding early recovery programs – another key Syrian and Russian demand – “is the humanitarian community’s best chance to support the future of the Syrian people.”
He urged a stronger international consensus on the importance of these programs and a relaxation of rules to allow not only vocational training but mentoring for young people, construction of irrigation systems without qualifying them as “development” projects, and the opening of schools regardless of whether they are described as “rehabilitated” or “reconstructed.”


Israeli strikes target Lebanon’s Baalbek for first time since Gaza war

Updated 26 February 2024
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Israeli strikes target Lebanon’s Baalbek for first time since Gaza war

  • The strikes are among the deepest into Lebanon since the Israel-Hamas war began more than four months ago
  • Israel’s air force carried out three airstrikes on the outskirts of the village of Buday, near Baalbek, targeting a convoy of trucks

BEIRUT: The Israeli military said Monday its air force was striking targets of the militant Hebollah group “deep inside Lebanon,” where residents reported explosions near the northeastern city of Baalbek.
The strikes are among the deepest into Lebanon since the Israel-Hamas war began more than four months ago. They come a day after Israel’s Defense Minister Yoav Gallant vowed to step up attacks on Lebanon’s Hezbollah even if a cease-fire is reached with Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
Lebanese security officials said Israel’s air force carried out three airstrikes on the outskirts of the village of Buday, near Baalbek, targeting a convoy of trucks. Buday is a Hezbollah stronghold. There was no immediate word on casualties.
A Hezbollah official confirmed that three strikes hit near Baalbek. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to reporters.
The Israeli army said further details will follow.
The airstrikes near Baalbek came hours after Hezbollah said its fighters on Monday shot down an Israeli drone over its stronghold in a province in southern Lebanon. Anotehr missile fired by Hezbollah toward the drone was intercepted by Israel, and landed near a synagogue in a town close to Nazareth in northern Israel. There were no injuries or damage.
Hezbollah has been exchanging fire with Israeli troops along the border since the Israel-Hamas broke on Oct. 7.
The strike on Baalbek, because of its location deep inside Lebanon, is the most significant one since the early January airstrike on Beirut that killed top Hamas official Saleh Arouri.
Hezbollah, which has been exchanging fire with Israel throughout the war in Gaza, has said it will halt its nearly daily attacks on Israel if a cease-fire is reached in Gaza.


Palestinian Prime Minister Shtayyeh resigns

Updated 26 February 2024
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Palestinian Prime Minister Shtayyeh resigns

  • Move comes amid growing US pressure on President Mahmoud Abbas to shake up Palestinian Authority
  • Shtayyeh says he is resigning to allow broader consensus among Palestinians following Israel’s war on Gaza

RAMALLAH: Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said on Monday he was resigning to allow for the formation of a broad consensus among Palestinians about political arrangements following Israel’s war against the Islamist group Hamas in Gaza.
The move comes amid growing US pressure on President Mahmoud Abbas to shake up the Palestinian Authority as international efforts have intensified to stop the fighting in Gaza and begin work on a political structure to govern the enclave after the war.
His resignation must still be accepted by Abbas, who may ask him to stay on as caretaker until a permanent replacement is appointed.
In a statement to cabinet, Shtayyeh, an academic economist who took office in 2019, said the next stage would need to take account of the emerging reality in Gaza, which has been laid waste by nearly five months of heavy fighting.
He said the next stage would “require new governmental and political arrangements that take into account the emerging reality in the Gaza Strip, the national unity talks, and the urgent need for an inter-Palestinian consensus.”
In addition, it would require “the extension of the Authority’s authority over the entire land, Palestine.”
The Palestinian Authority, formed 30 years ago under the interim Oslo peace accords, exercises limited governance over parts of the occupied West Bank but lost power in Gaza following a struggle with Hamas in 2007.
Fatah, the faction that controls the PA, and Hamas have made efforts to reach an agreement over a unity government and are due to meet in Moscow on Wednesday. A senior Hamas official said the move had to be followed by a broader agreement on governance for the Palestinians.
“The resignation of Shtayyeh’s government only makes sense if it comes within the context of national consensus on arrangements for the next phase,” senior Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri told Reuters.


UAE floating hospital begins operations at Al-Arish to treat Palestinian patients

Updated 26 February 2024
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UAE floating hospital begins operations at Al-Arish to treat Palestinian patients

AL-ARISH: A floating hospital provided by the UAE, anchored in Egypt’s Port city of Al-Arish, commenced operations on Sunday to provide treatment for injured Palestinians.

The initiative is a part of the UAE’s “Gallant Knight 3” humanitarian operation.

The 100-bed hospital has operating rooms, an intensive care unit, radiology section, laboratory and pharmacy, state news agency WAM reported.

A 20-year-old Palestinian man was the first to undergo surgery at the hospital. He was treated for a gunshot wound to the shoulder and injuries caused by shrapnel.

Doctors repositioned his shoulder, and he will require a follow-up operation to repair nerve damage.

The floating hospital was established in cooperation with the Department of Health - Abu Dhabi and AD Ports Group. It is being staffed by 100 medical workers who are skilled in anesthesia, general surgery, orthopedics, and emergency medicine.

Dr. Falah Al-Mahmoud, director of the hospital, said the facility would help alleviate the suffering of Palestinians.

Dr. Falah Al-Mahmoud, director of the hospital, said the facility would help alleviate the suffering of Palestinians. (WAM)

 


Palestinian Prime Minister Shtayyeh resigns

Updated 26 February 2024
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Palestinian Prime Minister Shtayyeh resigns

  • Palestinian PM says ‘new political measures’ needed amid Gaza war
  • The move comes amid growing US pressure on President Mahmoud Abbas to shake up the Palestinian Authority

RAMALLAH: Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said on Monday he was resigning to allow for the formation of a broad consensus among Palestinians about political arrangements following Israel’s war against the Islamist group Hamas in Gaza.
The move comes amid growing US pressure on President Mahmoud Abbas to shake up the Palestinian Authority as international efforts have intensified to stop the fighting in Gaza and begin work on a political structure to govern the enclave after the war.
His resignation must still be accepted by Abbas, who may ask him to stay on as caretaker until a permanent replacement is appointed.
In a statement to cabinet, Shtayyeh, an academic economist who took office in 2019, said the next stage would need to take account of the emerging reality in Gaza, which has been laid waste by nearly five months of heavy fighting.
He said the next stage would “require new governmental and political arrangements that take into account the emerging reality in the Gaza Strip, the national unity talks, and the urgent need for an inter-Palestinian consensus.”
In addition, it would require “the extension of the Authority’s authority over the entire land, Palestine.”
The Palestinian Authority, formed 30 years ago under the interim Oslo peace accords, exercises limited governance over parts of the occupied West Bank but lost power in Gaza following a struggle with Hamas in 2007.
Fatah, the faction that controls the PA, and Hamas have made efforts to reach an agreement over a unity government and are due to meet in Moscow on Wednesday. A senior Hamas official said the move had to be followed by a broader agreement on governance for the Palestinians.
“The resignation of Shtayyeh’s government only makes sense if it comes within the context of national consensus on arrangements for the next phase,” senior Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri told Reuters.


Yemen’s Houthis announce first civilian death in US-UK strikes

Updated 26 February 2024
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Yemen’s Houthis announce first civilian death in US-UK strikes

  • One person was killed and eight wounded a day after US and British forces said they fired on 18 targets
SANAA: Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi militia have reported the first civilian death in US and British air strikes after the latest round of joint raids over the weekend.
One person was killed and eight wounded, the Houthis’ official news agency said late on Sunday, a day after US and British forces said they fired on 18 targets across the country.
The US-British strikes were in response to dozens of Houthi drone and missile attacks on Red Sea shipping since November, which the rebels say are in solidarity with Palestinians in the Gaza war.
“The American-British aggression on the district of Maqbana in the governorate of Taiz has left one civilian dead and eight wounded,” the Houthis’ Saba agency said, citing a statement from the rebel-run health ministry.
The Houthis, who control war-torn Yemen’s most populated areas, have previously reported the death of 17 of their fighters in the Western strikes targeting military facilities.
The Houthi attacks have had a significant effect on traffic through the busy Red Sea route, forcing some companies into a two-week detour around southern Africa. Last week, Egypt said Suez Canal revenues were down by up to 50 percent this year.
Washington, Israel’s vital ally, gathered an international coalition in December to protect Red Sea traffic. It has launched several rounds of strikes as well as four joint raids with Britain, which began last month.
The Houthis initially said they were targeting Israel-linked shipping in the Red Sea and adjoining Gulf of Aden, but then declared that US and British interests were also “legitimate” targets.