AL TANAK: A US-backed Kurdish-led alliance announced it is launching the final stage of its battle to expel the IS from its desert holdouts in eastern Syria. The United States confirmed the start of the military operation.
Backed by the US-led coalition, the Syrian Democratic Forces have driven the jihadists out of large parts of the country. But IS fighters have retained a presence in a few areas of the country, including in the eastern oil-rich province of Deir Ezzor near the border with Iraq.
The SDF’s Deir Ezzor Military Council on Tuesday said it would press its efforts to oust IS from remaining areas. “Our forces with the forces of the international coalition have started the last stage” of the anti-IS campaign, it said in a statement.
The US State Department said later that the coalition and its “partners, including the Syrian Democratic Forces, are launching operations to liberate the final ISIS strongholds in Syria”. “The fighting will be difficult, but we and our partners will prevail… The days of ISIS controlling territory and terrorising the people of Syria are coming to an end,” it said in a statement.
Air strikes killed at least 23 civilians including 10 children in a village held by the IS in northeastern Syria on Tuesday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor said. “We don’t know for the moment if the US-led international coalition or Iraqi forces carried out the strike” on the village of Al-Qasr in Hasakeh province, the Observatory said.
The Britain-based monitor relies on a network of sources on the ground for its information. The US-led coalition is backing a Kurdish-Arab alliance that has been fighting IS in eastern Syria near the border with Iraq. Iraq has also previously carried out strikes against IS jihadists in Syria, including a raid last month in the eastern province of Deir Ezzor.
Dozens of jihadists arrived in northern Syria on Tuesday under a deal with the regime for them to leave their enclave in southern Damascus, an AFP correspondent said. The fighters from Syria’s former Al Qaeda affiliate were transferred out of the Yarmuk district late Monday under a deal announced the previous day.
Over 1000 dead as cyclone ‘Idai’ strikes Zimbabwe, Mozambique
Beira: More than a thousand people are feared to have died in a cyclone that smashed into Mozambique last week, while scores were killed and more than 200 are missing in neighbouring Zimbabwe.
The city of Beira in central Mozambique bore Cyclone Idai’s full wrath before the storm barrelled on to neighbouring Zimbabwe, unleashing fierce winds and flash floods and washing away roads and houses.
“For the moment we have registered 84 deaths officially, but when we flew over the area… this morning to understand what’s going on, everything indicates that we could register more than 1,000 deaths,” Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi said in a nationwide address.
“This is a real humanitarian disaster,” he said. “More than 100,000 people are in danger”. Survivors have taken refuge in trees while awaiting help, the president added. Aerial photographs released by a Christian non-profit organisation, the Mission Aviation Fellowship, showed groups of people stuck on rooftops with flood waters up to window level.
“The scale of damage… (in) Beira is massive and horrifying”, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) said. Ninety per cent of the city of some 530,000 people and its surrounding area has been “damaged or destroyed,” it said in a statement.
“The situation is terrible. The scale of devastation is enormous,” the IFRC’s Jamie LeSueur said. “Almost everything is destroyed. Communication lines have been completely cut and roads have been destroyed. Some affected communities are not accessible.”
A large dam burst on Sunday and cut off the last road to Beira, he said. Sofala province governor Alberto Mondlane warned that the “biggest threat we have now, even bigger than the cyclone, is floods because it’s raining more and more”.
Emma Beaty, coordinator of a grouping of NGOs known as Cosaco, said: “We’ve never had something of this magnitude before in Mozambique”. “Some dams have broken, and others have reached full capacity, they’ll very soon open the flood gates.
It’s a convergence of flooding, cyclones, dams breaking and making a potential wave: everything’s in place so we get a perfect storm.” Nyusi said the Pungwe and Buzi rivers in central Mozambique “have burst their banks and engulfed entire villages.” “Communities are isolated and bodies are floating” on the waters, he said. Beira international airport was closed because of cyclone damage but later reopened. In neighbouring Zimbabwe, Idai left 98 dead and at least 217 more missing, according to the information ministry.
UN received 259 allegations of sexual exploitation, abuse in 2018: report
United Nations: The UN received a total of 259 allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse committed by the staff working in its agencies and their partner organisations in 2018, an increase of more than a hundred in such incidents from the previous year, according to a report presented by Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
The report, presented to the General Assembly, said that from January 1 to December 31, 2018, the UN received a total of 148 sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) allegations directly involving UN workers, and 111 involving staff from partner organisations implementing UN programmes.
This represents an increase in the total number of incidents reported in 2017, when 138 allegations were made, and 165 allegations made in 2016, it said.
The report said while the figures of allegations rose in 2018 compared with the previous two years, there was increased awareness among the UN and UN-related staff, and improved and harmonized reporting tools across the organisation towards a ‘zero tolerance’ effort to end sexual exploitation and abuse across the UN.
According to the report, not all the allegations have been fully verified and many are still under investigation or are still in a preliminary assessment phase.
The report said that the third system-wide survey on sexual exploitation and abuse was administered in 2018 to the UN and affiliated personnel at 34 duty stations with humanitarian and/or peace operations.
The duty stations included those in countries such as Afghanistan, Haiti, India, Iraq, Liberia, Libya, Pakistan, South Sudan and Syria.
There were some encouraging signs in Peacekeeping Operations, where allegations were down almost by half over the past two years, it said.
While 103 SEA incidents were reported in 2016, only 54 allegations were made in 2018, the report said.
Despite this improvement in the UN’s peacekeeping wing, the number of allegations went up against personnel in other UN entities, with 94 allegations received in 2018, compared with 50 in 2017.
In a troubling sign, the number of allegations against partner organisations implementing the UN’s programmes reached a high of 109, increasing more than four-fold from 2017 when only 25 incidents were reported.
“The numbers show that the UN’s victim-centred approach, implemented over a year ago, is paying off as there seems to be an increased trust among the victims and survivors to come forward and report incidents,” the UN said in a statement.
The Secretary-General has stressed that there will be zero tolerance towards sexual exploitation and abuse across the UN.
His strategy, in its first phase, focuses on addressing the issue within the UN system, as well as those mandated by the world body to carry out programmes.
This entails more than 90,000 staff in more than 30 entities and more than 100,000 uniformed personnel.
NZ premier Ardern vows terrorist behind mosque massacre will face ‘full force of law’
Christchurch: New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern promised on Tuesday that the terrorist responsible for last week’s deadly mosque massacres would face “the full force of the law”, as she vowed never to utter his name.
“He sought many things from his act of terror, but one was notoriety — that is why you will never hear me mention his name,” Ardern said in an emotional address to a special meeting of parliament, which she opened with the Arabic greeting “as salaam aleikum” — ‘peace be upon you’.
“I implore you: Speak the names of those who were lost rather than the name of the man who took them,” she told the gathering in Wellington, four days after the massacre in the southern city of Christchurch.
“He is a terrorist. He is a criminal. He is an extremist. But he will, when I speak, be nameless,” she said.
Australian Brenton Tarrant, 28, was captured by police and has been charged with one count of murder, but Ardern assured parliament other charges would follow. “He will face the full force of the law in New Zealand,” she said.
Ardern has promised reforms to New Zealand gun laws which allowed Tarrant to legally purchase the weapons he used in the attack, including semi-automatic rifles.
And she announced a full review of how the Australian — an avowed white supremacist — was able to plan and carry out the attacks in New Zealand under the radar of security services.
“The person who committed these acts was not from here. He was not raised here. He did not find his ideology here. But that is not to say that those very same views do not live here,” she said.