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Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters greet civilians who were evacuated by the SDF from an Islamic State-controlled neighborhood of Manbij, in Aleppo Governorate, Syria, Aug. 12, 2016.

Syria, August16, 2016: On Monday, the Syrian government and rebel factions seeking to topple it poured reinforcements into the besieged northern city of Aleppo. Both sides encouraged for a decisive battle that diplomats are trying to avert. Monitors said as many as 2,000 pro-government fighters had arrived in the devastated city since late Sunday, prompting the head of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors Syria’s civil war, to warn that “the great battle of Aleppo” is, in a word, “imminent.

Separately, the government-leaning Syrian daily Al-Watan reported Monday that the army had received “the necessary military reinforcements” to retake areas of the ravaged city from which it retreated under heavy rebel fire Saturday.


Rebel militia, including al-Qaida-linked fighters, captured the eastern part of the city in 2012 and have battled to a stalemate against government forces for control of the city since then.

Monitors say as many as a half-million civilians remained trapped in the city, and at least 230 civilians are known to have been killed there in the past two weeks.


A woman embraces a Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) fighter after she was evacuated with others by the SDF from an Islamic State-controlled neighborhood of Manbij, in Aleppo Governorate, Syria, Aug. 12, 2016.

Russia, U.S. deal

The latest buildup comes as Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, speaking on Russian television, said Moscow and Washington are moving closer to a deal that could help ease the massive humanitarian crisis gripping the once vibrant city.

“Step by step we are nearing an arrangement … exclusively about Aleppo, that would allow us to find common ground” that could bring peace to the territory, Shoigu said Monday.

In Washington, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau, responding to Shoigu’s remarks, told reporters that U.S. and Russian envoys remain in close contact on the Aleppo crisis.

“We have seen the (Shoigu) reports and have nothing to announce,” she said.


This undated image posted online July 18, 2016, by supporters of the Islamic State militant group on an anonymous photo-sharing website, shows Islamic State fighters firing their weapons during clashes with the Kurdish-led Syria Democratic Forces in Manbij, in Aleppo province, Syria.

IS ‘caliphate’

The multi-sided Syrian civil war pits the government forces of President Bashar al-Assad and his Russian allies against a loosely knit coalition of rebels seeking to drive Assad from power. That coalition includes al-Qaida-linked fighters, making Western governments reluctant to send arms to the rebels.

The third major party to the five-year-old conflict, the extremist Islamic State, is seeking to establish an Islamist “caliphate” in large swathes of Syria and neighboring Iraq. The group has used widely circulated videos to show its fighters slaughtering hundreds of civilians as it seeks to expand its rule.

Separately, the Syria Democratic Forces, formed in 2015 with U.S. support, has focused on driving IS fighters from strongholds along the Turkish border.

The United Nations estimates as many as 400,000 people have been killed, most of them civilians, since fighting first erupted near Damascus in 2011. (VOA)

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The aim of the book is to teach children that families can exist in different forms, and show them how to accept the diversity in family backgrounds.

By Siddhi Jain

Delhi-based author Pritisha Borthakur is set to release her new book, 'Puhor and Niyor's Mural of Family Stories'. The 1,404-word children's book was put together to address a new kind of societal debacle in the family system. The author says the aim is to teach children that families can exist in different forms, and show them how to accept the diversity in family backgrounds.

The author who named the book after her twin sons -- Puhor and Niyor -- is a parent who has seen and heard the tales of ridicule and discrimination suffered by many in India and beyond. She says the book is an artistic illustration for kids that details how different families can live and coexist. Whether it's children with two dads or two moms, children with a single dad or single mom, and even multiracial family units, Borthakur's book teaches love, understanding, and compassion towards unconventional families.

Beyond race, gender, color, and ethnicity which have formed the bases for discrimination since the beginning of time, this book aims to bring to light a largely ignored issue. For so long, single parents have been treated like a taboo without any attempt to understand their situations; no one really cares how or why one's marriage ended but just wants to treat single parents as villains simply for choosing happiness and loving their children.

Homosexual parents, a relatively new family system, is another form that has suffered hate and discrimination for many years. Pritisha emphasizes the need to understand that diversity in people and family is what makes the world beautiful and colourful. 'Puhor and Niyor's Mural of Family Stories' is a firm but compassionate statement against all forms of discrimination on the bases of sexual identity, gender, race, and even differences in background

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