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UN calls Syria ‘prolific slaughterhouse’ as it calls for ceasefire

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The United Nations has called Syria and other war-torn nations “prolific slaughterhouses” as it appealed for an immediate ceasefire in the country.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said it is “high time to stop this hell on Earth” in Syria’s eastern Ghouta region, where hundreds of civilians have died over the past month.

He appealed on all sides to abide by a 30-day nationwide ceasefire, which the 15-member Security Council unanimously voted on over the weekend.

The council came to an agreement after days of Russia – Syria’s key military ally in the civil war – refusing to agree unless the ceasefire excluded fighters from IS and the al Qaeda-linked Levant Liberation Committee.

Mr Guterres said he welcomed the resolution but it is “only meaningful…if effectively implemented”.

“That is why I expect the resolution to be immediately implemented and sustained,” he told the opening of the 37th session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.


Baby girl pulled from under rubble after strikes on eastern Douma



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Baby girl pulled from Syria rubble

Meanwhile, another top UN official criticised the lack of action in conflicts around the world, including Syria.

Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the UN’s human rights chief, said: “Eastern Ghouta, the other besieged areas in Syria, Ituri and the Kasais in the (Democratic Republic of Congo), Taiz in Yemen, Burundi, Northern Rakhine in Myanmar have become some of the most prolific slaughterhouses of humans in recent times because not enough was done, early and collectively, to prevent the rising horrors.”

He said Security Council members who had vetoed action bore “responsibility for the continuation of so much pain.”

“It is time, for the love of mercy, that China, Russia and the United States end the pernicious use of that veto,” he told the rights council.



A teenager screams for his father in this video and rescuers help people climb out of the rubble of a building, where a fire is actively burning. The Syrian Civil Defense said this video was filmed in Saqba.



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Civilians saved from burning rubble

“We have every reason to remain cautious,” he added.

“The resolution must be viewed against a backdrop of seven years of failure to stop the violence, seven years of unremitting and frightful mass killing.”

The European Union’s diplomatic chief, Federica Mogherini, also demanded the ceasefire be implemented “immediately” and “without delay” as she arrived for a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels.

Their remarks came as the Syrian government kept up its bombardment of Eastern Ghouta, near the capital Damascus, on Monday, killing at least 10 civilians, including nine members of the same family, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights group said.

Opposition activists claimed it was a chlorine gas attack, saying a three-year-old had died of asphyxiation.

:: The complex who’s who of Syrian civil war

Members of the Security Council vote during a meeting on a ceasefire in Syria
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Members of the Security Council vote during a meeting on a ceasefire in Syria

The Syrian American Medical Society said 16 patients in its hospital had symptoms indicating they were exposed to chemical compounds.

Assad’s regime has continually denied using chemical weapons but has been accused of carrying out several chlorine gas attacks in recent weeks, including a further two in January in eastern Ghouta.

Since 18 February more than 500 civilians have been killed in bombings by the Assad regime and its Russian allies on the enclave east of Damascus, the monitoring group said.

The area, home to 400,000 people, is controlled by Islamist and jihadist fighters as well as rebel fighters.

It is the last major area near the Syrian capital which remains under rebel control.

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‘Pervasive racism’ blamed for unequal treatment of black and Asian war casualties | UK News

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Up to 350,000 predominantly black and Asian service personnel have not been formally remembered in the same way as their white comrades.

An investigation has blamed “pervasive racism” for the failure to properly commemorate at least 116,000 but up to 350,000 people who died fighting for the British Empire.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission has apologised and vowed to act immediately to correct the situation.

The report, obtained by the PA news agency and due to be published in full later today, found that the casualties – mainly from the First World War – were “not commemorated by name or possibly not commemorated at all”.

Most of them were commemorated by memorials that did not carry their names.

An estimated 45,000 to 54,000 Asian and African casualties were also “commemorated unequally”.

This meant some were commemorated collectively on memorials – unlike those in Europe – and others who were missing were only recorded in registers, rather than on stone.

The job of commemorating the war dead belongs to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, originally named the Imperial War Graves Commission.

The report was compiled by a special committee, established by the CWGC in 2019 after a critical documentary about the issue.

According to the report, the failure to properly commemorate the individuals was “influenced by a scarcity of information, errors inherited from other organisations and the opinions of colonial administrators”.

“Underpinning all these decisions, however, were the entrenched prejudices, preconceptions and pervasive racism of contemporary imperial attitudes,” it added.

The report gave the example of a 1923 communication between FG Guggisberg, the governor of what is now Ghana, and the commission’s Arthur Browne.

The governor had said “the average native of the Gold Coast would not understand or appreciate a headstone,” as he argued for collective memorials.

Mr Browne’s response showed “what he may have considered foresight, but one that was explicitly framed by contemporary racial prejudice”, according to the report.

He had said: “In perhaps two or three hundred years’ time, when the native population had reached a higher stage of civilisation, they might then be glad to see that headstones had been erected on the native graves and that the native soldiers had received precisely the same treatment as their white comrades.”

In its response to the report, the CWGC said it “acknowledges that the commission failed to fully carry out its responsibilities at the time and accepts the findings and failings identified in this report and we apologise unreservedly for them”.

CWGC director general Claire Horton said: “The events of a century ago were wrong then and are wrong now.

“We recognise the wrongs of the past and are deeply sorry and will be acting immediately to correct them.”

David Lammy, the shadow justice secretary, said: “No apology can ever make up for the indignity suffered by the unremembered.

“However, this apology does offer the opportunity for us as a nation to work through this ugly part of our history – and properly pay our respects to every soldier who has sacrificed their life for us.”

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COVID-19: India sets record for new coronavirus cases in a single day | World News

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India has reported more than 300,000 new coronavirus cases in a 24-hour period – the biggest one-day total seen anywhere in the world since the pandemic began.

The country’s health ministry said there had been 314,835 new cases on Thursday, a number that passes the previous record – 297,430 in the US in January.

The previous day, India had reported 295,041 new COVID-19 cases.

India’s number of deaths rose by 2,104 to reach a total of 184,657.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said earlier this week that India was facing a coronavirus “storm” which was overwhelming its health system.

Hospitals are facing a severe shortage of beds and oxygen, with some private hospitals in Delhi warning they have less than two hours’ supply of the gas.

People have crowded into refilling facilities, trying to refill empty oxygen cylinders for relatives in hospital.

At least 22 patients in western India died on Wednesday when the oxygen supply to their ventilators ran out due to a leak.

There have even been instances of looting oxygen tankers.

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Mr Modi has been criticised for allowing big gatherings such as weddings and festivals where crowds can mix in confined spaces.

He has also addressed packed political rallies for local elections, speaking to millions of people.

Despite the fact that hospitals are struggling, Mr Modi said earlier this week that state governments should not impose a harsh lockdown.

Instead, he suggested micro-containment zones in an effort to avoid damaging the economy.

But the state of Maharashtra has strengthened its restrictions until at least the beginning of May.

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Patients dies after oxygen tank leaks

All offices – except those providing essential services – must operate with no more than 15% of their staff.

Travel by private vehicle is only allowed for medical emergencies.

And only medical workers and government employees can ride on the trains.

So far, India has administered nearly 130 million doses of the vaccine but this is still a small effort when compared with its population of 1.35 billion.

Currently, only frontline workers and those aged above 45 are eligible but all adults are expected to be allowed a dose from May.

There could be delays ahead, with the country’s Serum Institute warning that it will not be able to reach 100 million doses per month until July, compared with its previous forecast of late May.

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Syrian anti-aircraft missile strikes near Israeli nuclear reactor, military says | World News

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A missile launched from Syria has struck Israel’s Negev desert region, setting off air raid sirens near the country’s nuclear reactor.

In response, Israel said it had struck the missile launcher and other targets in Syria.

The Israeli Defence Force said: “A short while ago, surface-to-air missile fire was identified from Syria, which landed in the Negev area.

“In response, a few minutes ago, the IDF struck the battery from which the missile was launched and additional Syrian surface-to-air batteries in the area.”

Israeli Army Radio said the Syrian missile had been fired at Israeli aircraft during an earlier strike and had overflown its target and reached the Dimona area, where a nuclear reactor is located.

Syrian air defences said they intercepted an Israeli attack in the direction of the Golan Heights.

Syria’s state news agency said that attack took place at around 1:38am local time and targeted areas in the Damascus suburbs.

It said: “Air defences intercepted the rockets and downed most of them.”

Sky correspondent Mark Stone, who has previously been based in the Middle East, said the IDF had told him that the weapon was a SA5 missile and that it had landed in the Negev desert area causing no damage.

He added: “Crucially though this appears not to be a deliberate targeting of the Israeli nuclear facility by Iranian proxies in Syria. Had that been the case, there would have been a significant response by Israel.

“Israel regularly targets Iranian proxies operating inside Syria. It sees them as a clear threat to Israel both in terms of providing a supply line of weapons to Hezbollah in Lebanon and it sees them as a direct threat to Israel.”

“Israel talks less about its regular attacks and clandestine operations inside Iran. It’s all part of an effort by Israel to slow down what it sees as a clear attempt by Iran to develop nuclear weapons. Top scientists have been assassinated and facilities hit.

“In response, Iran repeatedly threatens to retaliate. It’s a continually precarious situation.”

Iran has troops and proxies in Syria and has accused Israel of attacking its nuclear facilities in the past.

Iran has previously vowed revenge for what it says are attacks on its nuclear programme, including a fire that recently damaged its Natanz research site.

Israel accuses Iran of trying to develop nuclear weapons, and also opposes efforts by the US to revive the international nuclear deal with Iran.

Israel says the deal will not stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons and that it does not address the country’s long-range missile programme and its support for proxies in Syria, Lebanon and Gaza.

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