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Aleppo evacuation back on, say rebel sources

Violence restarted in war-ravaged Aleppo, hours after a failed deal to evacuate civilians. Syrian rebel forces said evacuations from Aleppo are expected to begin "within hours." A military spokesman for the Nour al-Din al Zinki rebel group told news agency Reuters on Wednesday that "an agreement has been reached and within the coming hours its implementation will begin." Officials from the Jabha Shamiya rebel group said the evacuations from Aleppo are expected to begin around 6 a.m. local time (0400 UTC) on Thursday. After Wednesday morning's truce agreement stalled, the new deal included the evacuation of civilians from two rebel-held Shiite areas in the Idlib province outside of Aleppo. Syrian military officials, however, sent mixed messages concerning the truce. Initially, a pro-Damascus military official confirmed the deal, saying that 15,000 people from the Idlib villages of Foua and Kefraya would be evacuated, in return for the evacuation of "militants and their families and whoever wants to leave among civilians" from Aleppo's rebel enclaves. A second military source denied the development, however, saying that negotiations were ongoing. Meanwhile the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said hostilities in Aleppo were yet to cease. "Bombing is ongoing, no one can move. Everyone is hiding and terrified," Syrian activist Mohammad al-Khatib said. "The wounded and dead are lying in the street. No one dares to try and retrieve the bodies." The deal was also thrown into doubt after a military media unit run by Hezbollah, Lebanon's armed Shiite group and ally of Assad, said "the negotiations are seeing big complications, in light of tension and operations on the front lines." Aleppo ceasefire deal derails Evacuations were initially scheduled to begin on Wednesday morning after a ceasefire deal was reached between Russia, Assad's main coalition ally, and Turkey, a leading backer of rebel forces. The deal faltered, however, after Syrian military forces resumed heavy shelling on Wednesday. Residents who turned up at agreed meeting points to evacuate the city Wednesday morning were turned away by pro-government forces manning the checkpoints. "People have left their shelters .... to be ready for the evacuation. I can't describe it," Mohammed Abu Jaafar, head of forensics in eastern Aleppo said. "Since the morning, they started to target the areas where people have gathered ... These people were walking to the crossings designated for exit." On Wednesday, Zeid Ra'ad al Hussein, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said the shelling by Syrian government forces and their allies "most likely constitutes war crimes." Syrian Pressident Basahr al-Assad defended the offensive, claiming that the latest lull in the fighting was part of a Western plan, aimed at stopping his government's advance in the city. Assad told Russian TV on Wednesday that the truce would "keep the terrorists and save them." Turkish officials are scheduled to meet with Russian and Iranian counterparts on December 27 to discuss a political solution to the conflict. "We are striving to secure a ceasefire throughout the country and for negotiations for a political solution to start," Turkey's foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, said on Wednesday.

Violence restarted in war-ravaged Aleppo, hours after a failed deal to evacuate civilians. Syrian rebel forces said evacuations from Aleppo are expected to begin “within hours.” A military spokesman for the Nour al-Din al Zinki rebel group told news agency Reuters on Wednesday that “an agreement has been reached and within the coming hours its implementation will begin.” Officials from ... Read More »

Raging wildfire in western Canadian province of Alberta expected to spread

کینیڈا کے صوبے البیٹرا میں آسمان کو چھوتی ہوئی آگ بے قابو انداز میں مسلسل آگے بڑھ رہی ہے۔ حکام نے کسی بڑے نقصان کے پیش نظر علاقے میں ہنگامی حالت نافذ کر دی ہے۔ البیٹرا کے حکام کے مطابق آگ بجھانے والا عملہ تیز ہواؤں کی وجہ سے ابھی تک آگ کو آگے بڑھنے سے روکنے میں ناکام ہے، جس کی وجہ سے ہنگامی حالت نافذ کرنے کا فیصلہ کیا گیا ہے۔ شعلوں کی زد میں آ کر ابھی تک سولہ سو مکانات اور کئی دیگر عمارتیں خاکستر ہو چکی ہیں۔ آگ سے سب سے زیادہ متاثر ہونے والا علاقہ فورٹ میک مری ہے، جہاں سے اسی ہزار سے زائد شہریوں کو محفوظ مقامات پر منتقل کیا جا چکا ہے۔ البیٹرا کی وزیر اعلٰی ریشل نوٹلی نے آگ سے ہونے والے نقصان کی تصدیق کرتے ہوئے کہا کہ فائر بریگیڈ کے کارکنوں کی ناقابل بیان کوششوں کی وجہ سے شعلے شہر کے مرکز تک نہیں پہنچ سکے۔ ابھی تک کسی بھی شخص کی ہلاکت یا شدید زخمی ہونے کی کوئی اطلاع نہیں ہے۔ بدھ کو رات دیر گئے آگ ہوائی اڈے کے قریب پہنچ گئی تھی تاہم وہاں موجود عملے نے فوری طور پر شعلوں پر قابو پا لیا۔ اس دوران فورٹ میک مری آنے اور وہاں سے جانے والی تمام پروازیں منسوخ کر دی گئی تھیں۔ غیر متوقع شدید گرمی اور خشک موسم کی وجہ سے البیٹرا کے دیگر جنگلاتی علاقوں میں کسی وقت بھی آگ بھڑک سکتی ہے۔ فورٹ میک مری کا علاقہ بھی جنگلات میں گھرا ہوا ہے اور یہاں پر سعودی عرب اور وینیزویلا کے بعد دنیا میں خام تیل کے تیسرے بڑے ذخائر پائے جاتے ہیں۔ البیرٹا کی وزیر اعلی نوٹلی نے متاثرہ علاقوں کا دورہ بھی کیا اور فضائی جائزے کے دوران اتاری گئی تصاویر بھی پوسٹ کیں، ’’ فضا سے دکھائی دینے والے مناظر دل دہلا دینے والے ہیں۔‘‘ اس دوران ایک جانب فائر بریگیڈ کا عملہ آگ کو آگے بڑھنے سے روک رہا ہے جبکہ دوسری جانب ہائی وے اور ایک اہم پل کو تحفظ فراہم کرنے کی کوشش کی جا رہی ہے۔ بتایا گیا ہے کہ ہائی وے 63 پر گاڑیوں کی قطاریں لگی ہوئی ہیں اور بہت سی گاڑیاں ایندھن بھی ختم ہو گیا ہے۔ آگ کے پھیلنے کے ڈر سے ہائی وے پر کئی پٹرول پمپ بھی بند کر دیے گئے تھے، جن میں اب کئی کو کھول دیا گیا تھا۔

A massive wildfire in Alberta, Canada has forced the largest fire evacuation in the province’s history. Officials have cautioned that the fire is expected to spread further due to high winds and “tinder dry” conditions. The Alberta government said in a special briefing on Thursday that more than 1,110 firefighters, 145 helicopters, 138 pieces of heavy equipment and 22 air ... Read More »

All clear at Amsterdam airport following bomb scare

Amsterdam's Schiphol was partially evacuated late Tuesday following a bomb scare. One man was arrested but no explosives were found. Heavily armed police wearing ski masks closed off part of Amsterdam's main airport late Tuesday night and one man was arrested after a report of what police described as a "suspicious situation." Explosive experts were deployed to check the man's luggage, but no bomb was found. The unidentified man remains in custody and is being questioned, police said. Scores of passengers were stuck at the airport and unable to reach their cars. The airport said flights were unaffected and transportation to and from the airport was still running. The Netherlands has been on high alert since the Islamist terrorist attacks in Brussels last month, with Dutch counter-terrorism officials boosting security at national airports and tightening controls on the southern border with Belgium.

Amsterdam’s Schiphol was partially evacuated late Tuesday following a bomb scare. One man was arrested but no explosives were found. Heavily armed police wearing ski masks closed off part of Amsterdam’s main airport late Tuesday night and one man was arrested after a report of what police described as a “suspicious situation.” Explosive experts were deployed to check the man’s ... Read More »

UN: Over 400 people in need of evacuation in besieged Syrian town of Madaya

The United Nations (UN) has asked the Syrian government to allow hundreds of people to be evacuated from Madaya. Convoys were sent to deliver aid to the town where people have been starving to death. The UN said Monday the situation in Madaya was desperate with hundreds of people in need of immediate evacuation. The same day aid trucks carrying food and medical supplies arrived in the blockaded Syrian town. UN ambassadors met at a closed-door meeting to discuss the situation. According to US Ambassador Samantha Power over 400 people "are on the brink of death and in need of immediate medical evacuation:" The UN has reportedly appealed to the regime of embattled Syrian President Bashar al Assad to allow for their evacuation. A desperate situation A convoy of aid trucks arrived in Madaya, Foua and Kfarya on Monday to deliver much-needed supplies like infant formula, blankets and medicine to the desperate people. Yet Power emphasized that more had to be done. Forty-four trucks entered Madaya carrying one month's worth of food for over 40,000 people. The town has been under siege by Assad's forces for half a year. "It's really heartbreaking to see the situation of the people," said Red Cross spokesman Pawel Krzysiek. He said a little girl approached him upon his arrival and asked, "Did you bring food?" The situation has been so desperate that the people have been forced to live off grass and water. There were even reports of hungry people killing and eating cats to stay alive. A symbol of inhumanity Madaya has become a flashpoint in the ongoing war in Syria. Rebels point to it as an example of the inhumanity of the Assad regime. At least ten people have already died of starvation there and images of emaciated residents - including children - have drawn international condemnation. According to the World Food Programme (WFP) at least 40,000 lives are at risk. The last time aid was delivered to Madaya was in October. According to the UN, as many as 4.5 million Syrians are living in besieged areas without access to food and basic necessities. Syria's UN ambassador has denied the accounts of mass starvation and accused the media - especially Arab television - of spreading lies.

The United Nations (UN) has asked the Syrian government to allow hundreds of people to be evacuated from Madaya. Convoys were sent to deliver aid to the town where people have been starving to death. The UN said Monday the situation in Madaya was desperate with hundreds of people in need of immediate evacuation. The same day aid trucks carrying ... Read More »

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