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FAO: Iraq lost 40% of its agricultural production

Iraqis start reconstruction of their buildings after Mosul completely freed from Daesh in Mosul on 10 July, 2017 [Yunus Keleş/ Anadolu Agency]

Iraqis start the reconstruction of their buildings after Mosul completely freed from Daesh in Mosul on 10 July, 2017

Iraq has lost 40 per cent of its agricultural produce as a result of its war against Daesh, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said yesterday.

“There are 12 million Iraqis; almost a third of the country’s population who reside in rural areas and depend on agriculture for their livelihoods,” the organisation said in a statement at the Kuwait International Conference for the Reconstruction of Iraq.

“Restoring the crucial agriculture sector that has been severely damaged by ISIL’s takeover of vast areas of Iraq is critical to the country’s recovery from years of conflict and to its long-term prosperity,” it added, using another acronym for Daesh.

Read: The reconstruction of Iraq is no longer a priority for the US

Violence in the past few years forced farmers in northern and north-western parts of Iraq to abandon their farms, destroying or damaging harvests.

“Infrastructure such as water supply for drinking and agricultural production was damaged or destroyed. Agricultural equipment, seeds, crops, stored harvests and livestock were looted.”

According to the statement, the FAO has set up a large-scale programme to help rehabilitate irrigation systems and veterinary services to help 1.6 million people living in these areas by 2018.

The lack of rainfall this season has further damaged the agricultural sector with the Iraqi Ministry of Agriculture predicting a loss of up to 30 per cent of the wheat and barley crops due to drought.

(Source / 14.02.2018)

Syrian Coalition Officials: No political Solution in Syria Without Ceasefire

Officials in the Syrian Coalition warned that the ceasefire agreements in Syria are at risk of total collapse as they stressed that Russia bears full responsibility for the consequences.

The remarks were made during a teleconference between members of the Coalition’s political committee and civil and military leaders in rural Hama and rural Homs. Both sides discussed the latest field developments and the intensifying onslaught on Syrian civilians by the Assad regime forces and their allied Iranian militias.

Representatives of northern rural Homs expressed concern about possible military action against civilians in the area. They pointed out that the Assad regime did not abide by the ‘de-escalation zones’ agreement as it continued to impose siege on the area. Participants also discussed the dire humanitarian conditions in the towns of Houla and Talbeesah.

A Representative of rural Hama said that the regime’s shelling was affecting the displaced people and civilians who were already suffering lack of the most basic necessities. He pointed out that the area straddling northern rural Homs and southern rural Hama is home to around 50,000 people who have been trapped for four years and suffer from poor living conditions.

Members of the political committee said that reaching a ceasefire is the first step on the road to political solution, warning of the total collapse of the political process should bombings and violations continued.

Members of the committee held Russia fully responsible as it claims to play the role of guarantor of the regime, calling on the international community and the United Nations to assume their full responsibilities towards civilians.

(Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Department / 14.02.2018)

Over 3,000 Civilians Killed & Injured in Assad Regime’s Onslaught on Eastern Ghouta Since Mid-November

As many as 3,000 civilians have been killed and injured in the Damascus suburb of eastern Ghouta over the past three months as the assault on the area by the Assad regime and the Iranian-backed militias, backed by Russian aerial support, continues unabated. The relentless bombardment has also destroyed large parts of residential areas in besieged eastern Ghouta.

Local activists said that the Assad regime’s onslaught on eastern Ghouta has killed at least 1,123 civilians since November 14, 2017, adding that the Assad regime and its allies have conducted no fewer than 1,414 airstrikes on the rebel held- suburb, deliberately targeting residential neighborhoods.

According to figures local activists published on Sunday, the Assad regime forces and their allied foreign militias have targeted eastern Ghouta with more than 10,825 artillery and mortar shells as well as 1,935 surface-to-surface rockets since November 14. Activist said that the suburb was hit with over 47 rockets loaded with internationally banned cluster munitions, 39 explosive hoses, 15 which were stuffed with chlorine gas, and 13 napalm-filled bombs.

The Syrian Coalition earlier warned that any further military escalation by the Assad regime would inevitably result in the collapse of the political process. It called on the international community to urgently intervene to stop these barbaric attacks on Syrian civilians through reining in the Assad regime and its backers.

The Coalition stressed that “the utter silence by the international community and sponsors of the political solution over these barbaric attacks and the massacres resulted from them is tantamount to giving a green light to the perpetrators to carry on with their crimes. This silence also represents, in the eyes of the Syrian people, complicity in the aggression against them.”

Activists in Douma said that five civilians were killed in Assad regime airstrikes on the district on Sunday. They added that two civilians were killed in rocket and artillery shelling by regime forces on the district of Hammouriya, while a farmer was killed by regime forces’ sniper fire in the outskirts of the district of Kafarbatna.

The International Humanitarian Relief (IHR) aid group on Saturday said that up to 10,400 families in eastern Ghouta are in urgent need for humanitarian intervention. It warned that about 12.6 percent of the total population of the Damascus suburb have been affected at all levels by the intensified bombing campaign the Assad regime and its allies have unleashed in eastern Ghouta over the past three months.

The NGO said that more than 4,100 families currently live in underequipped cellars with poor hygiene causing the spread of many diseases, especially among children.

(Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Department / 12.02.2018)

Syrians Disappointed as UN Security Council Fails to Agree on Temporary Truce in Syria

Member of the Syrian Coalition’s political committee, Salah al-Din al-Hamawi, said the Syrian people have been disappointed by the failure of the UN Security Council to agree on a temporary truce in Syria that is needed to put an end to the killings and crimes being committed by Russia, Iran, and the Assad regime. He noted that that these crimes have sharply increased following the failure of the Sochi Conference.

The UN Security Council once again failed to agree on declaration of a humanitarian truce in Syria. Sweden and Kuwait on Friday presented a draft resolution in light of the rapidly deteriorating situation in several areas across Syria, most notably in the Damascus suburb of eastern Ghouta and rural Idlib.

Al-Hamwi stressed that the UN Security Council’s repeated failure to rein in the Assad and Iranian militias as well as the Russian aggression as well as some Council members’ limiting of their response to mere expressions of sympathy and dissatisfaction have emptied this international organization of its primary purpose which is maintaining international peace and security. He stressed this failure requires a reconsideration of the structure and composition of the UN Security Council as well as the cause of its continued inaction.

The ongoing bombing campaign by the Russian and Assad regime forces has killed over 500 civilians and wounded thousand more as the last week in eastern Ghouta has been described as the deadliest since 2015.

Al-Hamwi noted that the cessation of murder and crimes in Syria could be achieved without the need for a resolution by the UN Security Council which has been disabled by the same side who is committing crimes in Syria provided that there is a will to carry out this noble act, especially on the part of the United States.

(Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Department / 10.02.2018)

Syrian Coalition Warns of Collapse of Political Process if Assad Regime’s Military Escalation Continues

The Syrian Coalition warned that the any further military escalation by the Assad regime would inevitably result in the collapse of the political process. It pointed out that international warnings of the repeated use of chemical weapons had exposed the international community’s inaction and failure amounting to complicity in the crimes being committed against the Syrian people.

The Coalition quoted activists in the Damascus suburb of eastern Ghouta as saying that massacres are being committed against civilians forcing thousands to flee towards relatively safer areas. Local activists said that highly destructive munitions are being used in the bombings which are flatting whole buildings. The relentless bombings have also caused further deterioration of the humanitarian situation.

In a press release issued on Tuesday, the Coalition called on the international community to intervene immediately to stop this terrorist campaign and rein in the Assad regime and its backers.

“The US administration has recently warned of the use of chemical weapons, apparently unware of the fact that the Assad regime has been using these weapons on an almost daily basis in blatant violation of all international resolutions and the so-called red lines,” the Coalition said.

“Such attacks have also exposed the international community’s inaction and failure amounting to complicity in the crimes being committed against the Syrian people.”

The Coalition went on: “The ongoing onslaught on eastern Ghouta represents a serious escalation of violence as the Assad regime clearly seeks to undermine all chances of political solution at all levels through the relentless bombardment and the trampling of all so-called red lines.”

The Coalition underscored that “these grave developments must not go unnoticed by sponsors of the political solution. Massacres and terrorist attacks on civilians cannot continue side by side with any kind of talks about political solution which itself faces many challenges and obstacles as well as complete absence of seriousness and commitment on the part of the Assad regime.”

The Coalition stressed that “the utter silence by the international community and sponsors of the political solution over these barbaric attacks and the massacres resulted from them is tantamount to giving a green light to the perpetrators to carry on with their crimes. This silence also represents, in the eyes of the Syrian people, complicity in the aggression against them.”

(Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Department / 07.02.2018)

Onslaught on Civilians Continues as UN Security Council Fails to Rein in Assad & Allies

Ferocious onslaught by the Assad regime forces and Iranian militias backed by the Russian air force continues to target civilians in many parts across Syria as the UN Security Council failed to adapt a resolution to stop such attacks or to adopt a draft resolution on the use of chemical weapons.

In a press release issued on Monday, the Syrian Coalition called on the UN Security Council to take urgent action to stop the “war crimes and genocide” the Assad regime and Russian forces are committing against the Syrian people.”

“The international community is obliged to condemn this criminal campaign and to work at all levels to stop it and protect civilians in Idlib, the Damascus suburb of eastern Ghouta, and all parts of Syria,” the Coalition added.

Activists in besieged eastern Ghouta said that 40 civilians were killed in airstrikes by the Assad regime and the Russian air forces on Tuesday. Local activist said that the Assad regime and Russian air forces committed four massacres in eastern Ghouta on Monday claiming the lives of about 30 civilians and leaving dozens wounded.

Activists in Douma said that life nearly stopped in the rebel-held district for fear of the Assad regime’s repeated use of toxic chlorine.

According to Agence France-Presse, a Western-backed draft resolution was submitted to the UN Security Council to condemn chlorine gas attacks by the Assad regime on eastern Ghouta. The Council failed again to reach agreement on a draft resolution establishing a new mechanism to condemn those responsible for the use of chemical weapons in Syria and to hold them accountable.

(Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Department / 06.02.2018)

Iraq’s wanted list includes Saddam’s daughter but not Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi

Raghad Saddam Hussein, the eldest daughter of former President of Iraq, Saddam Hussein

Iraq has issued a wanted list that has been met with raised eyebrows. It includes the daughter of Saddam Hussain but omits the leader of Daesh, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi.

The list, seen by AFP, includes the name of the eldest daughter of the late Iraqi leader, Raghad, who lives in Jordan. It also features 28 suspected Daesh fighters, 12 from Al-Qaeda and 20 from the Baath party.

Arab news sources reported that a senior security official refused to explain the reasons for the absence of Al-Baghdadi, saying that the list included “the most wanted for the Iraqi judiciary”.

All those wanted are said to be Iraqis, with the exception of one Lebanese national; former Secretary-General of the Arab National Congress, Maan Bashour, accused of recruiting fighters to “participate in terrorist activities” inside the country.

Many former officers within Saddam Hussain’s regime are on the wanted list. Saddam Hussein Hamoud Al-Jubouri and Mahmoud Ibrahim Al-Mashhadani, a former officer under Saddam Hussein, are both on the list. Fawaz Mohammed Al-Mutlaq, a former member of Saddam’s Fedayeen Brigade and part of the military junta of the state and three of his sons are also on the list.

Others are said to be among the most prominent leaders of Al-Qaeda. The name of the military leader in Kirkuk, Ahmed Khalil Hassan, and Abdul Nasser Al-Janabi, Mufti and financier of the organisation in the area of ​​Jarf Al-Sakhr south of Baghdad, have also been included on the list.

Read: What you need to know about the post-Daesh battle for the Mideast

(Source / 05.02.2018)

Operation ‘Olive Branch’ Gains Ground as 100 Square Kilometers are Freed from PYD Terrorist Militias

The Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters and Turkish army captured a number of mountains and villages in Afrin from terrorist militias of the Democratic Union Party (PYD) as part of Operation ‘Olive Branch’ aimed at liberating Afrin from the separatist terrorist militias.

The FSA groups on Friday captured Dharmik Mountain in the Bulbul sub-district as well as the villages of Balal Kuy and Beko in the Rajo sub-district north of Afrin after clashes with the terrorist PYD militias.

The terrorist PYD militia responded by targeting a popular market and residential areas in the town of Azaz in rural Aleppo with mortars and artillery, causing number of civilian casualties.

The terrorist PYD militias also continued to target civilians in the Turkish provinces of Kilis and Hatay. The shelling by the PYD militia on border towns and villages inside Turkish territory have so far resulted in the death of seven civilians, including two Syrian refugees, and injured 107 others, including children since the start of Operation ‘Olive Branch’ on January 20.

The FSA groups and the Turkish army have launched Operation Olive Branch against positions of the terrorist groups in Afrin while taking all necessary measures to protect civilians in the area.

(Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Department + Anadolu Agency / 04.02.2018)

Assad Regime & Russia Continue Relentless Bombing Campaign Against Civilians

Russia and the Assad regime air forces have expanded their bombing campaign on civilian areas, targeting new areas in Aleppo and Hama provinces. The bombings claimed the lives of dozens of civilians, including many children and women.

Local activists said that 20 civilians were killed and 30 others wounded in airstrikes by the Russian forces and artillery shelling by regime forces on the villages and towns of southern rural Aleppo on Thursday. The most violent shelling targeted the villages of Musheirfa and Jizraya in southern rural Aleppo.

Russian forces used cluster bombs in the airstrikes on the villages of Umm al-Karamil, Ziyara, Tal Alloush, and Zamar in southern rural Aleppo.

Activists in Idlib province pointed out that the airstrikes and barrel bomb attacks continued unabated on the town of Sarqib, forcing the majority of the town’s residents to flee their homes. At least six civilians, including two volunteers with the Syrian Civil Defense, were killed in the airstrikes on Saraqib.

Similar attacks targeted the town of Kfranbouda in rural Hama, killing eight civilians and wounding many others.

In a press release issued on Thursday, the Syrian Coalition said that the Russian occupation and regime forces continue pursue policies aimed at killing and the displacement of the Syrian people.

“In addition to the continued killing and escalation, the bombing campaign is also causing massive destruction, chaos, and forced displacement of civilians. These atrocious crimes have time and again demonstrated that the Assad regime and its Russian and Iranian allies know only how to kill and commit crimes and that every initiative on the political level is nothing but a media hype aimed at gaining more time,” the Coalition added.

(Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Department / 02.02.2018)

Tunisia journalists protest ‘erosion of press freedoms’

Journalists stage demonstration in Tunis to protest alleged restrictions on their activities by interior ministry

Tunisian journalists on Friday staged a demonstration in Tunis to protest alleged government restrictions on their activities.

Held outside the headquarters of the Tunisian Journalists Syndicate, protesters decried restrictions on their journalistic activities imposed by Tunisia’s Interior Ministry.

Organized by syndicate members, Friday’s protest was endorsed by the Tunisian Human Rights League, an NGO; the Tunisian General Labor Union, the country’s largest labor union; and a number of prominent political and judicial figures.

“The current government, especially Interior Minister Lotfi Brahem, remain silent while journalists are being subject to persecution,” syndicate head Naji Baghouri said on the demonstration’s sidelines.

He went on to call for a nationwide general strike if government ministers remained “complicit” in the persecution of journalists.

Baghouri pointed in particular to the interior minister’s recent admission — made during a Monday session of parliament — that the ministry was tapping certain journalists’ phones.

Amna Guellali, director of Human Rights Watch’s Tunis office, told Anadolu Agency: “Today’s protest comes against the backdrop of the ongoing erosion of press freedoms in Tunisia since the 2011 revolution.”

(Source / 02.02.2018)