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Syrian crisis: Israelis quibble as Europe, Australia pledge to take in refugees

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By NewsGram Staff Writer

Jerusalem: Opposing views surfaced when Israeli politicians on Sunday opined on how Israel should grapple with the Syrian refugees’ crisis.

Netanyahu
Benjamin Netanyahu

Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli Prime Minister, said while Israel has helped Syria in the last four years amid the Syrian civil war, it could not take in Syrian refugees into its territory, Xinhua news agency reported.

“Israel is not indifferent to the human tragedy of the refugees from Syria and Africa. We have already cared for approximately 1,000 wounded people from fighting in Syria and helped them rehabilitate their lives. But Israel is a small country that lacks demographic and geographic depth, therefore, we must control our borders,” Netanyahu said on Sunday.

Israel began fence building on Sunday on its eastern border with Jordan, down from the town of Eilat up to northern Israel and the Golan Heights. Netanyahu’s statements refute the views opined by head of Israeli opposition bloc in the parliament, Isaac Herzog.

He called on Israeli government to open doors on Syrian refugees over the weekend. Herzog, the chief of the Labour party, accused the government of forgetting the lessons of Jewish history.

Cyprus rescues 114 refugees

In a separate incident, authorities concerned rescued 114 Syrian refugees which included 30 children and five infants from a fishing boat that drifted off the Cyprus shores. The officials quoted on Sunday.

An official statement revealed that an overnight rescue operation was managed after a cargo ship alerted the Cypriot Search and Rescue Centre on Saturday night that it had received a signal from the drifting fishing boat seeking help, Xinhua reported.

It continued to add that aircraft and vessels of the Cypriot navy and police took part in the operation, which was completed early Sunday morning. The Syrians were brought to the Southeastern port city of Larnaca and were received by medical teams and social welfare workers.

“All necessary measures are being taken for the welfare of the refugees in line with European Union directives,” said Interior Minister Socrates Hasikos, who headed the operation.

Britain to take 15,000 refugees, plans strike

Britain will accept 15,000 refugees from Syria and is considering military action against IS militants within syrian_refugee_crisis

one month, media reported on Sunday. In a plan to tackle the humanitarian crisis, Britain is considering launching a military and intelligence offensive against human traffickers, reported Xinhua news agency.

The country is not joining the system, but “we will show that we are pulling our weight”, a government official said.

On September 4, British Prime Minister David Cameron said the country will provide resettlement to “thousands” more refugees in response to the deteriorating humanitarian crisis.

Over 3,500 arrive in Munich

More than 3,500 Syrian refugees have reached Munich from Hungary via Austria, and as many as 3,000 are expected to arrive on Sunday.

German police authorities said three special trains with refugees are expected to reach on Sunday, Xinhua reported.

“We prepare ourselves for 5,000 to 7,000 refugees,” said Christoph Hillenbrand, head of district government of Upper Bavaria.

Australia to accept more refugees: PM Abbott

Tony_Abbott_-_2010On Sunday, Prime Minister of Australia Tony Abbott announced that he is prepared to accept more refugees from war-torn Syria, but within the current humanitarian intake.

“No! We are proposing to take more people from this region as part of our very substantial commitment. Our focus will be on families and women and children, especially of persecuted minorities, who have sought refuge in camps neighbouring Syria and Iraq,” he was quoted as saying.

In the last financial year, Australia settled more than 4,400 people from Syria and Iraq, Abbott said, adding that the overall refugee intake will increase to 18,750 by 2018.

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Civilians Who Fled Afrin Suffer from Dire Humanitarian Conditions

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People sit in a truck with their belongings in the north east of Afrin, Syria, March 15, 2018. VOA

Thousands of civilians who fled the city of Afrin are enduring dire conditions after they reached Syrian-controlled areas south of the Afrin district.

“More than 2,000 people reached the towns of Nubl and Zahraa from Afrin in the past 24 hours, raising the number of total civilians in the two towns to 16,000. Many are suffering from tragic conditions,” according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights website.

Turkish media announced the control of Afrin on Sunday, after the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) withdrew from the city and thousands of civilians were evacuated — 59 days after the launch of Operation Olive Branch, the Turkish military operation in Afrin.

ALSO READ: Refugees in India Looming For Basic Rights: Here Is Why India Needs Refugee Law!

The Observatory said Nubl and Zahraa were struggling to provide shelter and food for the large numbers of displaced people pouring into the towns.

Sumama Al-Ashkar, a journalist in Nubl and Zahraa, told VOA that people were residing in houses, mosques, schools, public halls and warehouses.

“The civilians in Nubl and Zahraa are able to get some aid and services, but those who went to Tal Rifat in northern Aleppo are struggling to survive,” he said.

ALSO READ: Gulf, West grapple with Syrian refugee crisis

The U.S. State Department issued a statement on Monday expressing deep concern about reports coming from the predominantly Kurdish city in the past 48 hours.

“It appears the majority of the population of the city … evacuated under threat of attack from Turkish military forces and Turkish-backed opposition forces. This adds to the already concerning humanitarian situation in the area, with United Nations agencies reporting a displaced population in or from Afrin district in the hundreds of thousands, who now require immediate shelter and other assistance to meet basic needs,” the statement said.

afrin
Turkey-backed Free Syrian Army soldiers walk in city center of Afrin, northwestern Syria, March 18, 2018. VOA

Destruction and looting

A number of reports circulated in the media said Turkish-backed forces were destroying and looting public and private properties after they entered the city.

The Afrin media center said once the Turkish-backed fighters reached the town center, they destroyed a statue placed in the center of the city that represents Kurdish cultural figure Kawa the Ironsmith.

“Kawa the Ironsmith is a major historical symbol for the Kurdish people, as it is linked to the most important Middle Eastern holiday, the Nawruz,” Afrin Media Center said.

Footage coming from Afrin also showed Turkish-backed fighters pillaging homes, shops and military sites amidst chaos. They were seen carrying food, electronic devices, civilian cars, farmers’ tractors and livestock.

Members of the Syrian opposition condemned the looting and destruction of the city and called for holding the looters responsible for their acts.

The General Military Staff of the Syrian Interim Government, an alternative government of the Syrian opposition, issued a statement Monday calling for the Turkey-backed Syrian rebels to protect civilians and their properties, and to respect religious and ethnic installations in Afrin.

afrin
Turkish soldiers, positioned in the city center of Afrin, northwestern Syria, March 19, 2018, a day after they took the control of the area. VOA

In a comment to CNN, Ibrahim Kalin, a spokesman for Erdogan, did not deny the reports of looting but said the actions were committed by some groups who disobeyed their commanders. He said reports were being investigated.

Guerilla war

On Sunday, Kurdish leader Saleh Muslim told ANF, the Kurdish News Agency, that the fight in Afrin entered a new phase, where the YPG and the Women’s Protection Units (YPJ) will continue to resist in the district.

Muslim added that the civilians had to leave the city for their own protection and vowed to step up the fight.

“The existence of civilians in the city will impose a challenge for our fighters. Our enemy kills civilians and strikes hospitals, and since the Turkish offensive started, civilians were targeted. Now, the war will continue in a different way after civilians left the city,” Muslim said.

A number of humanitarian organizations and civil society groups working north and east of Syria, including the Kurdish Red Crescent, issued a joint statement calling on the international community to act.

“We plea to the international community to intervene immediately to stop these attacks and let the refugees return to their homes, protect their possessions and civil rights, and deliver aid to thousands of people [who] fled this war,” the statement said Monday. VOA