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Ten-year-old Syrian Boy Ali Daqneesh Dies of his Wounds in Aleppo

In Aleppo and areas around it- 448 civilians were killed up to August 2016 as a result of fighting and air strikes said the Observatory

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Five-year-old Omran Daqneesh, with bloodied face, sits inside an ambulance after he was rescued following an airstrike in the rebel-held al-Qaterji neighbourhood of Aleppo, Syria August 17, 2016. REUTERS/Mahmoud Rslan

BEIRUT, August 21, 2016: The brother of a wounded Syrian boy who gained international attention has died, say the Opposition activists.

On Sunday, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and a witness who was present at the time of the death along with the boys’ father confirmed that Ali Daqneesh, 10, died the day before, from wounds sustained in the same airstrike on a rebel-held neighbourhood in Aleppo.

Doctors who were attending him told the witness that the boy had internal bleeding and organ damage. Further, the spokesman for the local council of Aleppo, Besher Hawi said, “he was martyred while in the hospital as a result of the same bombardment that their house was subjected to.”

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The Halab Today opposition TV station posted a photo of Ali, 10, in a hospital with a tube coming out of his mouth, saying he later died from his wounds, mentioned the AP report.

Bombed out vehicles Aleppo. Image source: Wikimedia Commons
Bombed out vehicles Aleppo. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

His 5-year-old brother was also wounded in the Wednesday airstrike, that hit their house in Aleppo. The video and pictures were hugely circulated in the media and the public was asked to refocus their opinion on the war-torn Syria- the five-year-old civil war and the plight of the civilians, particularly in Aleppo.

Russian and Syrian warplanes have intensified their air strikes on the rebel-held east of the city since insurgents made an advance last month, in July, breaking an effective siege, said Reuters.

In Aleppo and areas around it- 448 civilians were killed up to August 2016 as a result of fighting and air strikes said the Observatory

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Rebels, supported by US- Turkey and Gulf Arab nations, have been fighting to oust President Bashar al-Assad since 2011. Bashar is supported by Russia and Iran and due to this Russia began air strikes in September 2015.

According to the Reuters report, the World Food Programme on Friday described the situation in besieged areas as “nightmarish” among growing international concern over the humanitarian cost of the war in Syria.

– prepared by NewsGram Team with inputs from various sources

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Russia’s Alternative to Western Credit Card Debuts in London

Russia will next year diversify its foreign currency holdings in its National Wealth Fund

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Employees demonstrating a payment card
Employees speak while demonstrating a payment card during a tour at a branch of VTB bank in Moscow, Russia. VOA

A Russian backed bank payment card, introduced after Western sanctions upended Russia’s financial system five years ago and prompted Visa and Master card to deny electronic services to some of the country’s leading banks, is set for its European debut on London Wednesday, when a pilot project will be launched in collaboration with the Dutch global payment company PayXpert.

Moscow authorities hoped to get the MIR card accepted eventually in foreign markets, but progress has been slow outside Russia for the MIR payment system,  which operates outside of Western-controlled international financial systems such as Swift, which banks use to transfer money.

The pilot project with PayXpert “will lay the foundation for new promising trends in the foreign expansion of Russian payment cards,”  according to Vladimir Komlev, the head of Russia’s National Card Payment System, which operates the MIR system.

De-dollarization efforts

The effort is seen by analysts as part of the  Kremlin bid to de-dollarize the Russian economy to lessen the sting of Western sanctions. A Russian Finance Ministry official this month told Reuters that Russia will next year diversify its foreign currency holdings  in its National Wealth Fund, which supports Russia’s public pension system, aiming to lower the share of dollars in the fund’s reserves.

Dmitry Dolgin of the Dutch banking group ING said in  a report this month that de-dollarization efforts are now obvious across most sectors, including local business loans and bank-held international assets, although he said the dollar’s role  has actually increased in company and household savings and cash assets, partly because dollar interest rates have been higher than those offered for euros.

Credit Cards offers unique features
American Express, Visa and Master Card is displayed in this image. Each Credit Card offers unique features and benefits, along with unmatched privileges. Pixabay

U.S. authorities have been able advance sanctions by targeting companies that use dollars, and the establishment of electronic payment systems not tied to the dollar or largely controlled by U.S. businesses is one way for the Kremlin to reduce the impact of the West’s serial punishment of Moscow. Washington and the European Union have imposed a wave of sanctions since 2014 to punish Russia for the 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula, alleged meddling in the 2016 U.S. elections, and the poisoning of a defected Russian spy in England.

Komlev told Reuters this year that “In the next three years we want MIR cards to be operational in countries where Russians are used to traveling.” He projected MIR cards would be operational at some banks in at least a dozen countries by the end of this year. Turkish banks started to conduct transactions this year with MIR, which means both “peace” and “world” in Russian.

MIR was launched initially as a national payment system, with the first cards issued in December 2015. Russia’s leading bank, state-owned Sberbank, started issuing them in October 2016, and by the end of last year more than 70 million MIR-based cards had been issued by 64 Russian banks. The Kremlin has mandated that state welfare and pension payments must be processed through the system by next year, along with salaries paid to civil servants.

The card has a long way to go before it rivals VISA our Mastercard internationally. It is not accepted by international shopping platforms or major online booking services for airlines and hotels, although APEXX Fintech, a British start-up global payment company, said Thursday it would now start working with the MIR system. Among smartphone applications only Samsung has concluded an agreement with the MIR system.

Meanwhile, de-dollarization has been moving quickly. Russia’s Central Bank has currency swap deals in place with Iran, China and Turkey, allowing direct trade to be conducted in local currencies instead of U.S. dollars. Russia reportedly lost $7.7 billion in its bid to reduce dollars held in its reserves. Some of the dollars were turned into gold, and since January the bank has purchased 96.4 metric tons of gold.

People stand in line as they wait to enter the bank with their card
People stand in line as they wait to enter a branch of Sberbank of Russia bank. VOA

Alexei Zabotkin, head of the Russian Central Bank’s monetary policy department, has conceded that it would be impossible to completely empty the country’s foreign exchange reserves of dollars, as this would be  “fraught with excessive risks.” According to central bank data the  National Wealth Fund has $45.5 billion, 39.17 billion euros and 7.67 billion British pounds.

In August, the state-controlled Rosneft oil giant announced it would stop using the U.S. dollar for its export contracts.

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Nonetheless, analysts say there are limits on how far Russia can de-dollarize – the ruble is highly volatile and remains unattractive for investors and de-dollarization brings additional and sometimes prohibitive trading costs.

European regulators will be watching the London project closely. EU officials have been sympathetic about Russia’s de-dollarization bid, suspecting that as a spin-off the euro will be boosted as an international currency. In June the European Commission concluded that “the euro clearly stands out as the only candidate that has all the necessary attributes of a global currency that market participants could use as an alternative to the U.S. dollar.” (VOA)