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Trapped in Syria’s besieged Ghouta: life has ceased, the children are waiting to die



The conflict in Syria has dragged on a year longer than World War II now, and is only getting worse in places like rebel-held Eastern Ghouta – where bombs, rockets and shells continue to rain down on a terrified population. 

“The situation can only be described as catastrophic,” Abd, a 28-year-old voluntary rescue worker with the Syrian Civil Defense, otherwise known as “The White Helmets,” told Fox News on Thursday. “Continuous, continuous shelling at every moment. Life has ceased. Civilians – the women and the children – are waiting for death.”


Children make up more than half the population in Eastern Ghouta, and are among the casualties.

 (Syrian Civil Defense )

An estimated 400,000 people are currently trapped inside Eastern Ghouta, on the outskirts of Damascus. More than half are said to be children, and almost all are in dire need of humanitarian aid. More than 400 have been reported killed, and almost 2,000 wounded in the last week alone. 

“Hundreds of bombs are dropping on us, there have been 300 airstrikes in the past three days,” Firas Abdullah, a 24-year-old opposition activist and aid worker, told Fox News on Thursday afternoon from his basement in the Eastern Ghouta town of Douma. “People are suffering from their wounds. We can hear the crying and the screaming of the women and children in their homes.”

Syrian and Russian warplanes have taken part in the bombing, according to Abdullah, who said there have also been drone strikes. 


The search for suvivors in war-torn Eastern Ghouta, Syria this week.

 (Syrian Civil Defense )

“For 24 hours a day they are capturing everything about where all the civilians are, filming where the crowded places are, he continued. “Because it is civilians they want to kill.”

There are few medical professionals left to tend to the injured, activists say. 

The bombing campaign escalated on Feb. 4, according to reports, and among its targets hit many medical clinics. More than a dozen such facilities have been struck in just the last week. As a result, there aren’t enough medical professionals left to tend to the injured. 


Activists say there are few medical facilities left to treat the wounded.

 (Msallam Abd Albaset)

“Most of the victims are women, children and the elderly. They have been in their basements for more than three days, the barrel bombs are penetrating small buildings, and killing people even in these basements,” said Khaled Almilaji, CEO and Chairman of the Sustainable International Medical Relief Organization (SIMRO), a non-partisan foundation focused on suppling public health services to war-torn parts of Syria. 

Photographs and videos obtained by Fox News show hauntingly empty streets in Ghouta, as families bunker down in ad-hoc underground caves and shelters. Already dwindling supplies of rice and water are fast disappearing. And broken bodies lay dead beneath the rubble, as tiny bloodied children are carted from their decimated homes on makeshift stretchers.

“Most people eat once a day and some eat every other day, mostly just vegetables and rice if they can find it,” said Abd. “Schools have been suspended for more than two months due to the shelling. We need international action to save the remaining civilians.”

For those trapped inside, there seems nowhere to flee.

“Anyone who tries to leave will get shot by snipers,” Abdullah said. “We are stuck on an island here. I want to demand the world helps us in a humanitarian way. What is happening in Eastern Ghouta is a genocide.”

Aid agencies have complained for months that they have not been able to reach the hardest-hit areas, and are calling for an urgent ceasefire.


The death count in the seven-year Syrian conflict rose by more than 300 this week in Eastern Ghouta alone.

 (Syrian Civil Defense )

“We have warehouses and trucks of supplies ready to go, but we need a humanitarian pause in the fighting and the government needs to give us facilitation,” Jan Egeland, Secretary-General of the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) told Fox News. “We are hoping to get an agreement for something to start this weekend. We have not been able to get any convoys into Eastern Ghouta since November.”

During most of 2017, Egeland said aid workers were often held at gunpoint by pro-regime forces, and forced to remove medical supplies from their vehicles – everything from scissors and surgical items to trauma care equipment – under the premise they did not want wounded rebel soldiers to be treated.



Youssef Sadaki, a Syrian political and social investigator with the Orient Research Center, concurred the wounded of Ghouta simply have no place to go. Few emergency rooms are operable, and the only supplies permitted to enter in months came 10 days ago in the form of a small UN convoy. The convoy was able to provide basic supplies to some 8,000 people – a mere two percent of the population.

The U.S. State Department expressed “deep concern” over the increasing violence this week, condemning the Syrian and Russian governments for their actions. The White House said Washington endorsed the UN’s plea for a ceasefire to allow aid and medical supplies to enter.

Smoke rises from the rebel held besieged town of Hamouriyeh, eastern Ghouta, near Damascus, Syria, February 21, 2018. REUTERS/Bassam Khabieh - RC12501BE200

The escalation this week in Eastern Ghouta is being described as the worst point of the Syrian War


The attacks have not been one-sided. Egeland said rebels in Eastern Ghouta have fired some 800 rockets into government-held territory in Damascus – some of that prior to the uptick in the air assault. Eastern Ghouta had previously been designated as a “de-escalation zone,” and was thus designed to be a safe zone. But that’s not how it has held up. 

The Assad government deems all opposition forces to be “terrorists,” and insists they are targeting dangerous jihadist groups, and not civilians. Russia – Assad’s ally and protector – asserts “illegal armed formations” had rejected demands to lay down their arms.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov called accusations they were complicit in civilian deaths “unsubstantiated.” The governments in Damascus and Moscow have also denied claims of using barrel bombs against civilians.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (2nd L) and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (2nd R) meet with servicemen as they visit the Hmeymim air base in Latakia Province, Syria December 11, 2017.  Sputnik/Mikhail Klimentyev/Sputnik via REUTERS  ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. - UP1EDCB14EK3N

Syrian President Assad and supporter, Russian President Putin, vow they are battling “terrorists” inside Eastern Ghouta

Civilians in Eastern Ghouta also told Fox News they are surrounded by Iran-backed, pro-Assad militia groups. Iran’s deputy foreign minister, Abbas Araghchi, this week conceded to the BBC that Iranian troops were in Syria to battle “terrorist elements.”

But Abd, of the White Helmets, staunchly rebuffed assertions that Al-Qaeda-affiliated groups like Al-Nusra were operating inside the besieged region as “propaganda.”

“They are killing us under the name of killing Al-Nusra,” he lamented. “But there are not here.”


Hollie McKay has been a staff reporter since 2007. She has reported extensively from the Middle East on the rise and fall of terrorist groups such as ISIS in Iraq. Follow her on twitter at @holliesmckay

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German election: ‘Boring’ Olaf Scholz may be just the ticket amid uncertainty about life after ‘Mummy’ Merkel | World News



Germany is about to lose its political mother and an air of uncertainty clouds the current election to replace her.

They call Angela Merkel “Mutti”, or Mummy, because of her calm reassuring style of rule in crisis after crisis.

For young Germans, she is the only leader they have ever known.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel arrives for a news conference, amidst the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, at the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany March 19, 2021. Michael Sohn/Pool via REUTERS
Germans call Angela Merkel ‘Mutti’ or Mummy because of her reassuring leadership style

We joined a posse of young leafleteers from Ms Merkel’s rivals’ party, the Social Democratic Party.

Emma Otto, freshly back from au pairing in Dulwich, told us losing Mutti will be weird.

“She’s been the only chancellor I’ve known,” she said. “I can’t remember a time before her so I think it’s going to be a really big change.”

They are missing her already.

We spoke to volunteers heading to help victims of July’s devastating floods.

A huge voluntary effort has sprung up in the absence of official help.

Chairwoman of Buendnis 90/Die Gruenen Annalena Baerbock, Prime Minister of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) and leader of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) Armin Laschet and German Finance Minister and Social Democratic Party candidate Olaf Scholz are pictured before a televised debate of the candidates to succeed Angela Merkel as German chancellor in Berlin, Germany, September 12, 2021. Michael Kappeler/Pool via REUTERS
(L-R) Social Democratic Party leader Olaf Scholz, Alliance 90/The Greens leader Annalena Baerbock and Christian Democratic Union leader Armin Laschet are the election’s top contenders

In its camp, many sounded disillusioned with politics in general.

“It’s a difficult election,” one volunteer told us. “I think none of the candidates is fully convincing.

“Someone was joking if Angela Merkel was still up for election she’d probably win because people would say we’ve seen the alternatives, we’d better stay with what we have.”

Another young voter out handing out leaflets was welcoming change.

Germany's Finance Minister Olaf Scholz attends a news conference after Chancellor Angela Merkel and state premiers reached an agreement with the regions most affected by the planned brown coal exit, in Berlin, Germany, January 16, 2020. REUTERS/Michele Tantussi
Candidate Olaf Schulz has been described as ‘boring’

“Sixteen years of chancellorship is too much I’d say,” Alicem Polat told Sky News.

“We have our candidate, Olaf Scholz, so we definitely say there is someone to replace her.”

“People say he’s boring,” I interject.

“He is, I admit, but maybe that’s the German way of politics.”

Alicem Polat said Angela Merkel has been chancellor for too long
Alicem Polat said Angela Merkel has been chancellor for too long

And there’s the rub. The likely next chancellor Olaf Scholz, Germany’s current finance minister, has no political pizzazz or charisma.

But that may be a good thing to voters.

Unsettled by the loss of Ms Merkel and the pandemic, Germans will take quiet, boring competence over excitement.

He is also the last person standing for now at least in the polls.

Ms Merkel’s heir apparent should have been Armin Laschet.

Election posters of Germany's top candidates for chancellor, Armin Laschet, North Rhine-Westphalia's State Premier and Christian Democratic Union (CDU) leader, Olaf Scholz, German Minister of Finance of the Social Democratic Party (SPD), Annalena Baerbock, co-leader of Germany's Green party and Christian Lindner, leader of the Free Democratic Party of Germany (FDP) are pictured, in Berlin, Germany, September 16, 2021. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch
(L-R) Election posters of Armin Laschet, Olaf Scholz, Annalena Baerbock and Christian Lindner

But the new Christian Democratic Union leader has slipped on a banana skin thrown up by recent disastrous floods.

In the background, while dignitaries made speeches honouring the floods’ victims, Mr Laschet was caught on camera sniggering.

His standing took a beating in the polls.

So much for the CDU.

Christian Democratic Union (CDU) candidate for chancellor Armin Laschet holds a news conference in Berlin, Germany, September 13, 2021. REUTERS/Michele Tantussi
CDU candidate Armin Laschet was caught on camera laughing while dignitaries made speeches about flooding victims. File pic

The floods should have been a godsend for the Greens, clear evidence of the dangers of climate change.

And yet Annalena Baerbock, their leader, has been unable to sustain an early lead in the polls.

Accused of plagiarism and lack of experience, she has floundered ever since.

So for now Mr Scholz remains the favourite to win the lion’s share of the vote, giving him the chance to build a coalition.

Max Meyer, political scientist at Bonn University, told Sky News his alleged lack of personality may be just what Germany needs.

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July: Angela Merkel meets the Queen during her visit to the UK

“That makes him probably a better leader,” he said.

“Because it’s more pragmatic and it’s not the theatrics or the big flashiness of charisma, but it’s more policy issues and it’s more policy-driven.”

He may be what Germany wants after Ms Merkel, but the shoes he has to fill are enormous if he wins.

Max Meyer said Olaf Schulz's lack of personality may be just what Germany needs
Max Meyer said Olaf Schulz’s lack of personality may be just what Germany needs

Ms Merkel rode out the euro crisis, the migrants crisis, the financial crisis and handled autocrats and allies with a firm fairness that soothed tensions and protected German interests.

“I think Germany is going to be very soon nostalgic,” said Mr Meyer, “and probably most will look back with very positive feelings because she was capable of managing crisis and of portraying the country still as stable.”

Germans are going to miss their Mutti.

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Piers Morgan joining new channel talkTV where he will present ‘global show’ | Ents & Arts News



Piers Morgan has revealed his next presenting job will be for new television channel talkTV – which is being set up by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.

The company, which will launch its new service next year, said Morgan’s nightly show will be broadcast in the UK, the US and Australia.

He left Good Morning Britain earlier in the year, after criticising Harry and Meghan’s comments in an interview they gave with Oprah Winfrey, saying he did not believe some of the things they said, particularly around mental health.

The show was recently cleared by Ofcom, after tens of thousands of complaints were made about it.

Talking about his new role, Morgan said: “I’m thrilled to be returning to News Corp, which is where I began my media career more than 30 years ago.

“Rupert Murdoch has been a constant and fearless champion of free speech and we are going to be building something new and very exciting together.

“I want my global show to be a fearless forum for lively debate and agenda-setting interviews, and a place that celebrates the right of everyone to have an opinion, and for those opinions to be vigorously examined and challenged.

“I’m also delighted to become a columnist for The Sun and the New York Post, two brilliantly successful and popular newspaper brands.

“I’m going home and we’re going to have some fun.”

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‘A good day for free speech’ – Piers Morgan

Executive chairman of News Corp, Rupert Murdoch, added: “Piers is the broadcaster every channel wants but is too afraid to hire. Piers is a brilliant presenter, a talented journalist and says what people are thinking and feeling.”

In the past, Morgan has been hired by ITV, CNN and NBC in various presenting roles.

News Corp said its new channel will “offer a mix of programming from our stable of household brands, proper hourly news bulletins, documentaries, entertainment and more”.

The company already owns established news brands such as The Times and The Sun newspapers, as well as a number of radio stations such as Virgin and talkSport.

News Corp had previously scrapped plans for a linear news channel, and instead decided to focus on streaming its radio brands online, while rival GB News pushed ahead with its launch.

Responding to News Corp’s announcement, GB News tweeted: “Congratulations to Piers Morgan.

“We love competition. Bring it on!”

In the US, Morgan’s show will be carried on Fox Nation, while Sky News Australia will broadcast it down under.

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China says AUKUS submarine deal ‘highly irresponsible’ and ‘intensifies the arms race’ | World News



A new security deal between the United States, Britain, and Australia in the Indo-Pacific “severely damages regional peace” and “intensifies the arms race”, China has said.

On Wednesday, the three western powers announced they will establish a security partnership that will help Australia acquire US nuclear-powered submarines.

In Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian condemned the move and said: “The US, the UK and Australia’s cooperation in nuclear submarines severely damages regional peace and stability, intensifies the arms race, and jeopardises the international efforts in promoting the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons.

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‘AUKUS alliance will bring us closer than ever’

“The US and UK’s action of exporting highly sensitive nuclear submarine technology once again proves that they are using nuclear exports as a tool for geopolitical games and adapts double standards.

“This is a highly irresponsible act.”

It comes as France accused US President Joe Biden of stabbing it in the back and acting like predecessor Donald Trump after Paris was snubbed from a $40bn (£29bn) defence deal it had signed with Australia.

The deal, dubbed AUKUS, will see Australia scrap its 2016 agreement with French shipbuilder Naval Group to build a new fleet to replace its ageing Collins submarines.

“This brutal, unilateral and unpredictable decision reminds me a lot of what Mr Trump used to do,” foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on franceinfo radio.

“I am angry and bitter. This isn’t done between allies.”

“It’s a stab in the back. We created a relationship of trust with Australia and that trust has been broken,” he added.

He had previously said in a statement the “choice to exclude a European ally and partner such as France” was something the country “can only note and regret”.

London, Canberra and Washington have said they will seek to collaborate in cyber, quantum technologies and artificial intelligence, as well as other underwater capabilities.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace told Sky News on Thursday: “We have no intention of doing anything to antagonise the French – the French are some of our closest military allies in Europe, we are sizable and comparable forces and we do things together.”

He added: “The French were contracted to deliver diesel submarines and the Australians took a decision they wanted to switch out of that and into nuclear.

“Each country has to make those choices in their own national security interests.”

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Did Biden forget Australian PM’s name?

Nuclear-powered submarines are superior to their diesel counterparts as they can operate more quietly and stay underwater for longer.

How the collaboration will work, what it will cost, how many boats will be built, where and which companies will be involved has not yet been revealed.

However, just two weeks ago the Australian defence and foreign ministers had reconfirmed the deal to their French counterparts.

But the agreement had been beset with issues and delays, due to Canberra’s requirement the majority of manufacturing and components be sourced locally.

Mr Biden said France remained a “key partner in the Indo-Pacific zone”, while Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said his country looked forward to continuing to work “closely and positively” with the French, adding: “France is a key friend and partner to Australia and the Indo-Pacific.”

In a joint statement, the pair along with Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “The endeavour we launch today will help sustain peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region.

“For more than 70 years, Australia, the United Kingdom, and the US have worked together, along with other important allies and partners, to protect our shared values and promote security and prosperity. Today, with the formation of AUKUS, we recommit ourselves to this vision.”

Although the word “China” was not mentioned specifically, the predominant security and defence challenge in the region is the rise of an increasingly assertive, authoritarian Beijing.

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