Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his Turkish counterpart Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu will discuss the situation in Syria's Eastern Ghouta district at a meeting on Wednesday, Interfax news agency cited Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov as saying.
Airstrike kills 12 in Syria's Eastern Ghouta
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Wednesday an airstrike killed 12 members of the Failaq al-Rahman opposition group in eastern Ghouta, including two of its commanders.The group's spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment.The Observatory said the strike took place on Tuesday evening and that, based on activist reports, it was conducted by Russia. Rami Abdulrahman, director of the Britain-based war monitor, named the two commanders as Abu Mohammad Saif and Abu Mohammed Jobar. YPG/PKK forced recruitment of children: Rights reportsEU calls on Assad regime to stop attacks on East Ghouta1,055 civilians evacuated from Syria's Al-Qadam
YPG/PKK forced recruitment of children: Rights reports
Evidence of the terrorist YPG/PKK using young children uncovered in the Turkish-led operation in Syria’s Afrin region confirms what many international rights watchdogs already reported: the terrorist recruitment of minors.The memory cards of cameras seized during the ongoing Operation Olive Branch in Syria's Afrin region, launched on Jan. 20 against YPG/PKK-Daesh terrorists, show children -- age 13-17 -- bearing arms, training with weapons, and living in poor conditions in the mountains.In a December 2016 report Iraq: Armed Groups Using Child Soldiers, Human Rights Watch documented 29 cases in northern Iraq of children recruited by armed groups affiliated to the terrorist PKK.According to the report, children under age 15 took part in fighting, staffed checkpoints, and cleaned and prepared weapons.Video: YPG/PKK forcibly prevents Syrian civilians from leaving AfrinThe same PKK activity was also documented in a November 2013 United Nations report called Children and Armed Conflict.The report said Kurdish armed groups recruited boys and girls age 14-17 in Syria’s Hasakah region.The 2014 U.S. State Department Human Rights Report also said the terrorist PKK -- the YPG/PKK’s parent group -- regularly recruited children in the past, though the number of child soldiers recruited by the PKK that year was unknown.The report also said PKK had kept up abducting and conscribing young people, adding that it was not generally clear whether they joined by force or volunteered.Families of allegedly abducted children staged several protests during the year demanding the terror group free their children, it added.Kidnapping childrenIn 2015, the U.S. Trafficking in Persons Report said Kurdish children were sometimes kidnapped and forced to participate in PKK forces, according to uncorroborated reports.In the 2016 report, the U.S. said the YPG/PKK continued to recruit and use boys and girls, including children younger than 15.According to the report, the YPG/PKK reportedly took the children to indoctrination and training camps.In April 2015, a 16-year-old girl in Aleppo was allegedly recruited by YPJ/PKK female terrorists against the wishes of her family, said the report.The forced recruitment of children by the YPG/PKK was also documented in reports of German-based Kurdwatch.In a May 2015 report, Kurdwatch said the PYD/YPG/PKK kidnapped 12-year-old Fatimah S.A.Quoting a family member, the report said: “The girl simply disappeared. Her parents are PYD supporters. However they weren’t asked if they wanted to send the girl to the military.“The YPG claims that the girl decided by her own free will. Her parents were not even allowed to accompany their daughter. They were promised that after two weeks training, Fatimah would be allowed to return if she wants.”According to the International Criminal Court, the enlistment and conscription of child soldiers under age 15, as well as using them to participate actively in hostilities, is a war crime.According to the Turkish General Staff, Operation Olive Branch aims to establish security and stability along Turkey’s borders and the region as well as to protect Syrians from terrorist oppression and cruelty.The operation is being carried out under the framework of Turkey's rights based on international law, UN Security Council resolutions, its self-defense rights under the UN charter, and respect for Syria's territorial integrity, it said.The military also said only terror targets are being destroyed and that "utmost care" is being taken to avoid harming civilians.
EU calls on Assad regime to stop attacks on East Ghouta
The EU's foreign policy chief on Tuesday called on the Bashar al-Assad regime to stop attacks on Syria’s Eastern Ghouta enclave completely.Speaking at the European Parliament’s General Assembly meeting, Federica Mogherini pointed out that a proposal by Russia for a five-hour daily humanitarian “pause” to ensure the distribution of humanitarian supplies and civilian evacuations is important as a first step but is not enough.“The regime has consciously bombed civilians and medical facilities in Eastern Ghouta and escaping civilians were targeted by snipers,” she said.“The Geneva Process offers a fair and long-lasting political solution for Syria. There will be a conference in Brussels to discuss Syria’s future at the end of April,” she added.Eastern Ghouta, a Damascus suburb, has been under siege for the last five years and humanitarian access to the area, which is home to some 400,000 people, has been completely cut off.In the past eight months, forces of the Assad regime have intensified their siege of Eastern Ghouta, making it nearly impossible for food or medicine to get into the district and leaving thousands of patients in need of treatment.On Feb. 24, the UN Security Council adopted a resolution calling for a 30-day ceasefire in Syria without delay.
1,055 civilians evacuated from Syria's Al-Qadam
A total of 1,055 civilians reached Idlib on Tuesday after being evacuated from the capital’s Al-Qadam district, according to Anadolu Agency correspondents in the field.The evacuees, mostly women and children, departed Al-Qadam -- which remains the target of a crippling siege by the Assad regime -- on Tuesday morning.They departed the district in a 26-bus convoy in line with an earlier agreement struck between the regime and armed opposition groups.The evacuees, which include the families of opposition fighters, will be accommodated in transit camps set up by aid agencies in Idlib and Aleppo.Selim Tosun, a spokesman for Turkey’s Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH), said evacuees were being provided with food and medical attention.“Some will stay in the transit camps while others will stay with relatives,” Tosun added.Syria has only just begun to emerge from a devastating conflict that began in 2011 when the Assad regime cracked down on demonstrators with unexpected ferocity.According to UN officials, hundreds of thousands of people have been killed in the conflict.