Clashes in Syria’s Damascus after surprise rebel attack – Al Jazeera

Heavy clashes rocked eastern districts of the Syrian capital on Sunday after rebel fighters launched a surprise assault on government forces, a monitor and state television said. Steady shelling and sniper fire could be heard across Damascus on Sunday as rebel factions allied with former al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat Fateh al-Sham launched an attack on government positions in the city's east. The clashes centered on a government-held gap between two besieged opposition enclaves, the Jobar and Qaboun neighborhoods. The Ahrar al-Sham rebel group said fighters had &'8220;liberated&'8221; the area. Tahrir al-Sham &'' a umbrella group of rebels formed by Jabhat Fateh al-Sham last month &'' and the independent Failaq al-Rahman group also participated in the attack. Syrian state media said the military had repelled an attack by one group after &'8220;terrorists&'8221; infiltrated through tunnels in the middle of the night. Rebels detonated two large car bombs at 5:20am on Sunday close to the Jobar neighborhood. Tahrir al-Sham claimed responsibility for the attack. Rebels then advanced into the nearby Abbasiyn Square area, seizing several buildings and firing a barrage of rockets into multiple Damascus neighbourhoods, according to Rami Abdelrahman of the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Government forces responded with nearly a dozen air strikes on Jobar, he added. Al Jazeera's Mohamed Al Jazaeri, reporting from near Damascus, said that at least 15 civilians had been killed after government forces shelled residential neighborhoods in Eastern Ghouta, but that the fighting had since become less intense. &'8220;This advance is the largest for opposition groups in over a year and a half,&'8221; Al Jazaeri said. &'8220;Military operations have not stopped in the area but it has calmed down. There remains sniper shooting from both sides and regime forces are shelling Jobar neighborhood, as well as other areas controlled recently by the opposition.&'8221; Control of Jobar &'' which has been a battleground district for more than two years &'' is divided between rebels and allied fighters on one side, and government forces on the other. It is one of three pockets in the Syrian capital still in opposition hands. The recent fighting has resulted in rebel control of industrial areas in Al-Qaboun in addition to parts of Abbasiyn breaking a siege on the area and linking it to Jobar neighborhood, which is connected to Eastern Ghouta, Al Jazaeri said. Joshua Landis, an expert on Syria at the University of Oklahoma, told Al Jazeera that the offensive had taken the government by surprise and that its response was likely to be very significant. &'8220;I don't think it's going to change the trajectory of the war, which has been seeing the regime make important gains and the opposition getting increasingly restricted. But it shows the opposition is far from dead. It shows also that this new combination led by [Tahrir al-Sham] is very potent,&'8221; Landis said. &'8220;The regime is going to realise that it cannot allow these two areas to linger there because they are beachheads for this Tahrir a-Sham group to make inroads into the Damascus area,&'8221; he said, adding the government would likely withdraw some forces from areas such as Homs and Hama to refocus on Damascus. &'8220;It means that the fight is still on, there are many fronts to this war, and the opposition remains powerful.&'8221; Syrian state TV aired footage from Abbasiyn Square, typically buzzing with activity but now empty except for the sound of shelling. Residents said artillery shells and rockets were landing in the heart of the city. The Observatory said rebel shells hit several nearby districts in Damascus, including Bab Touma, Rukn al-Din and the Abbasiyin area. Several schools announced they would close through Monday, and many civilians cowered inside in fear of stray bullets and shelling. According to the Observatory, the Faylaq al-Rahman group and the Fateh al-Sham Front &'' known as al-Nusra Front before it broke ties with al-Qaeda &'' were present in Jobar. &'8220;This neighbourhood is the most important front line because it's the closest rebel position to the heart of the capital,&'8221; said Abdel Rahman. Government forces have long sought to push the rebels out of the district because of its proximity to the city centre in Damascus. But with Sunday's attack, Abdel Rahman said, &'8220;rebels have shifted from a defensive position in Jobar to an offensive one&'8221;. &'8220;These are not intermittent clashes &'' these are ongoing attempts to advance,&'8221; he said. One rebel commander told the Associated Press news agency they launched the assualt from Jobar as a way to relieve allied fighters in the nearby districts of Barzeh, Tishreen, and Qabun from government attacks. &'8220;This is to relieve the pressure on rebels with the regime not stopping its bombardment and artillery shelling,&'8221; said Abu Abdo, a commander from Failaq al Rahman. The attack on Damascus comes just days before a fresh round of UN-brokered peace talks in Geneva aiming to put an end to Syria's six-year war. Rebels and government troops agreed to a nationwide cessation of hostilities in December, but fighting has continued across much of the country, including in the capital. Rebels said the army had advanced in the last two days after weeks of bombardment and aerial strikes aimed at regaining control of strategic areas inside the capital, a few kms away from President Bashar al Assad's seat of power. The army had advanced towards a road between Qaboun and Barza, whose capture severed the links between the two besieged rebel districts where tens of thousands of [&'].....»»

Category: newsSource: mindanaoexaminer mindanaoexaminerMar 20th, 2017

US warns of unilateral Syria moves if UN fails to act – Al Jazeera

The United States has warned it could take unilateral action if the United Nations fails to respond to a suspected chemical attack on a rebel-held town in Syria that killed more than 80 people, including many children. &'8220;When the United Nations consistently fails in its duty to act collectively, there are times in the life of states that we are compelled to take our own action,&'8221; US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said on Wednesday. The warning came during an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council called by France and Britain after an early morning attack on Tuesday in Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib province. Britain, France and the US presented a draft resolution demanding a full investigation of the attack, which they blamed on the Syrian government. But talks ended without a vote after Russia, an ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, said the text was &'8220;categorically unacceptable&'8221;. Syria has denied the allegations, while Russia had blamed the rebels, saying the deaths occurred when a government shell hit a rebel chemical weapons depot. Haley lashed out at Moscow for failing to rein in Damascus, standing in the council chamber to hold up photographs of victims &'' one showing a young child lying lifeless, a mask covering his face. &'8220;How many more children have to die before Russia cares?&'8221; she asked. &'8220;If Russia has the influence in Syria that it claims to have, we need to see them use it,&'8221; she said. &'8220;We need to see them put an end to these horrific acts.&'8221; The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said at least 86 people, including 30 children, were killed in the raid on Khan Sheikhoun. Dozens more were left gasping for air, convulsing, and foaming at the mouth, doctors said. If confirmed, it will be be the worst chemical weapons attack in Syria since 2013, when sarin gas was used on a rebel-held area of Damascus. &'8220;If we are not prepared to act, then this council will keep meeting, month after month to express outrage at the continuing use of chemical weapons and it will not end,&'8221; Haley said. &'8220;We will see more conflict in Syria. We will see more pictures that we can never unsee.&'8221; The draft resolution backs a probe by the Organisation of the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and demands that Syria cooperate to provide information on its military operations on the day of the assault. Russia's Deputy Ambassador Vladimir Safronkov told the council the proposed measure was hastily prepared and unnecessary, but voiced support for an investigation. &'8220;The main task now is to have an objective inquiry into what happened,&'8221; he said. Negotiations continued on the proposed resolutions throughout most of Wednesday. Diplomats said it could come up for a vote at the council as early as Thursday. In a press conference at the White House later in the day, US President Donald Trump said the chemical attack had crossed &'8220;many, many lines&'8221; and had abruptly changed his thinking about Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. &'160; Only days earlier multiple members of Trump's administration had said Assad's ouster was no longer a US priority, drawing outrage from Assad critics in the United States and abroad. But Trump said Tuesday's attack &'8220;had a big impact on me &'' big impact&'8221;. &'8220;My attitude towards Syria and Assad has changed very much,&'8221; he said, but refused to telegraph any potential US military retaliation. Since the attack, Trump has been under increasing pressure to explain whether it was egregious enough to force a US response. Robert Ford, former US ambassador to Syria, expressed scepticism that Trump would resort to military action. &'8220;As a presidential candidate he could not have been more clear that he wanted to avoid military involvement in the Syrian civil war,&'8221; he told Al Jazeera. &'8220;For him to order military strikes, even limited military strikes, in response to the chemical attack in Idlib, would be a gigantic change and not one that I'm at all sure that the administration is actually going to do.&'8221; Ford said all fingers point to the Syrian government as the culprit of the attack. &'8220;I find it laughable that governments such as Russia would suggest that rebels have a chemical weapons capacity but they always seem to use it on their own people and never on the Syrian army,&'8221; he added. Idlib hospitals overwhelmed after suspected gas attack Trump's first reaction to the attack was to blame former president Barack Obama's &'8220;weakness&'8221; in earlier years for enabling Assad. Obama had put Assad on notice that using chemical weapons would cross a &'8220;red line&'8221; necessitating a US response, but then failed to follow through, pulling back from planned air strikes on Assad's forces after Congress would not vote to approve them. Trump and other critics have cited that as a key moment the US lost much global credibility. &'8220;I now have responsibility,&'8221; Trump said. &'8220;That responsibility could be made a lot easier if it was handled years ago.&'8221; Joshua Landis, director for the Centre of Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma, told Al Jazeera that the US would likely warn Moscow if it was to resort to using military might in Syria. &'8220;They have to disambiguate and they have to make sure that they don’t hurt any Russian soldiers,&'8221; he said. &'8220;But there’s a wide palette of things they can do. They can bomb airports and destroy the [&'].....»»

Category: newsSource:  mindanaoexaminerRelated NewsApr 6th, 2017

France makes diplomatic push to solve Lebanon crisis – Al Jazeera

France is making a diplomatic push to solve the political crisis caused by the snap resignation of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri earlier this month, as the country’s foreign minister is expected to meet Hariri in Riyadh on Thursday. According to at least one analyst, however, Paris may have made a “risky bet” by getting involved in the ongoing diplomatic turmoil over Hariri’s fate, which has pit Saudi Arabiaagainst its regional rival, Iran, and Tehran’s ally in Lebanon, Hezbollah. “As no compromise in Lebanon will pass without an agreement between Riyadh and Tehran, Paris is looking to deal with both,” said Stephane Malsagne, a historian and professor at Sciences-Po in Paris. The highest levels of the French government are getting involved in diplomatic efforts to resolve the political turmoil gripping Lebanon, which was under French colonial rule until 1943. France’s Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian is expected to meet with Hariri in Saudi Arabia on Thursday, an aide said, according to Agence France Presse. The meeting comes a day after Le Drian arrived in Riyadh and met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and a week after French President Emmanuel Macron also flew to Riyadh to meet the Crown Prince. Macron hastily flew to Saudi Arabia on November 9 from the nearby United Arab Emirates. Macron’s stop in Riyadh came just as tensions were mounting between Saudi Arabia and Iran over the fate of the Lebanese prime minister. Hariri, a Sunni Muslim politician and longtime ally of both Saudi Arabia and France, announced his resignation in a televised address from Riyadh on November 4. Many, including Lebanese President Michel Aoun, have accused Saudi Arabia of forcing Hariri to step down and of holding him in detention. The Saudis have denied the allegations and accused Hezbollah of creating a “state within a state” in Lebanon. This week, Hariri said he planned to return to Lebanon soon, but did not specify when. According to Malsagne, French diplomacy has so far “not succeeded in obtaining guarantees from Riyadh” on Hariri’s freedom of mvoement and speech, nor has it clarified when Hariri may be allowed to return to Lebanon or what the Saudis’ true political intentions are. “It’s therefore a risky bet for France,” he told Al Jazeera. The French president also spoke with his Lebanese counterpart, Michel Aoun, on November 10. Macron stressed “the importance of preserving the stability, independence and security of Lebanon and French support for the Lebanese people,” according to a statement put out by the Elysee. He also met with Lebanon’s Foreign Minister, Gebran Bassil, in Paris on Tuesday. During a press conference at the Lebanese embassy in Paris, Bassil thanked Macron for “the initiative he is undertaking for Lebanon in the face of an exceptional situation,” French website L’Orient Le Jour reported. Bassil said, however, that Lebanon “must decide on its internal and external politics” and “counts on making a free decision”. A day later, Macron offered Hariri and his family to come spend a few days in Paris, but specified that the invitation was not an offer of political exile. The Hariri family, which holds French citizenship, has longstanding ties to the French political class. Hariri’s father, former prime minister Rafik Hariri, who was assassinated in 2005, was a close friend of former French President Jacques Chirac. When he resigned from politics in 2007, Chirac considered moving into a Paris apartment owned by the Hariri family, Reuters reported at the time. The French government, meanwhile, has maintained close ties to Saad Hariri, explained Eric Verdeil, a professor at Sciences Po in Paris. While France has traditionally kept a balanced approach to Lebanese internal politics – often working as a facilitator between various factions – it has been closer to the Hariri-led March 14 camp, which includes Lebanese-Christian political groups. “It’s clear that the political class [in France] and successive French governments saw in Saad Hariri a politician whom they could support and that they strongly supported him for several years,” Verdeil told Al Jazeera. Nonetheless, the French “try to be in a position to talk to everyone,” Verdeil said. Hariri visited Macron at the Elysee in September and said during his visit that “relations between France and Lebanon are excellent”. Yet despite their close relationship to Hariri, his resignation came as a shock to French leaders. “They were very surprised by this resignation that was unexpected and obviously they weren’t consulted,” Verdeil said. If Hariri does not eventually return to Lebanon, France will still maintain close ties to the country in order to maintain its own interests in the region, according to Malsagne. “Franco-Lebanese relations are not confined to the men in power,” he told Al Jazeera. Since France closed its embassy in Damascus in 2012, Lebanon has served as “an observation post” for France to monitor what’s happening in the Middle East, especially in Syria and Iraq, he explained. France has a long history of mediation in Lebanese political crises, Malsagne said, and its involvement today does not come as a surprise. Joe Macaron, a resident analyst at the Arab Center Washington DC research organisation, said that Hariri is France’s major Sunni ally in Lebanon and the wider Middle East. It is in France’s interests “to make sure that Saad Hariri remains a player in Lebanon’s politics,” Macaron told Al Jazeera. “They have good relations with a lot of Lebanese leaders, but if Hariri doesn’t return to power, whoever replaces him […].....»»

Category: newsSource:  mindanaoexaminerRelated NewsNov 16th, 2017

What the Qatar crisis means for Hamas – CNN News

When Palestinian militant group Hamas announced its new charter to the world, it wasn't from Ramallah or Gaza City, but from the Sheraton hotel's gilded Salwa Ballroom in Doha. It was no surprise that Hamas chose Qatar. It's the home of outgoing Hamas leader, Khaled Meshaal, and much of his senior leadership. &'8220;Qatar is quite important for Hamas,&'8221; said H.A. Hellyer, a senior non-resident fellow at the Atlantic Council. &'8220;Qatar provides strong financial aid to the occupied Palestinian territories and is a safe haven for a number of Hamas leaders.&'8221; The recent crisis in the Persian Gulf region is putting that relationship in jeopardy. Earlier this month, nine countries including Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt, and Bahrain cut diplomatic ties with Qatar and imposed financial embargoes of varying severity. The announcement was the culmination of a feud that had been simmering for years. The nine countries accused Doha of assisting terrorist organizations, providing support for the Muslim Brotherhood and of being far too cozy with Iran. Ironically perhaps, Qatar's relationship with Hamas had not been among the biggest issues dividing the region. Unlike the US, Britain, and Europe, all of which designate Hamas as a terrorist organization, Arab states &'8212; including Qatar &'8212; do not. This was something Qatar's Foreign Minister sought to remind people in an interview with Russia's RT, in response to a call from his Saudi counterpart that Qatar stop supporting Hamas. &'8220;The US views Hamas as a terror organization. But to the rest of the Arab nations, it is a legitimate resistance movement. We do not support Hamas, we support the Palestinian people,&'8221; Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani said. &'8220;Hamas' presence [in Doha] is coordinated with the US and the countries in the region, and it's part of our effort to mediate between the Palestinian factions to reach reconciliation.&'8221; For its part, Hamas says it is being squeezed unreasonably. &'8220;The Gulf Countries are pressuring Qatar to cut relations with resistance organizations. This is unacceptable and we refuse this pressure,&'8221; Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoom said in a statement to CNN. &'8220;We are a resistance movement and the whole world is a witness to this.&'8221; Hamas is seen as having been under a series of pressures for the last few years, reflected in some significant internal changes. Last month, a new leader was announced &'8212; Ismail Haniya taking over from long-time leader Meshaal &'8212; at the same time as the militant group issued its new charter. While Israel pointed to the fact the new document continued to espouse violent resistance, and a commitment to the &'8220;rejection of the Zionist entity,&'8221; others observers said the document's description of a Palestinian state with the borders existing on the eve of the Six Day War in 1967 provided evidence of a new moderation. As Hamas rank and file were digesting those changes, so the leadership was suddenly forced to pay careful attention to diplomatic developments. Hellyer sees two main reasons the nine regional allies are turning their attention towards Hamas. &'8220;First, Hamas has ties to the Muslim Brotherhood organization, which puts it in the firing line of Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabia,&'8221; Hellyer says. &'8220;But I think this has more to do with a western audience. The Saudi rulers took advantage of Trump's recognition of them as a powerful actor in the region and that might have encouraged them.&'8221; Al Jazeera, based in Qatar, has been a thorn in the side of regional autocrats for years. Qatar's regional influence also comes from support for Islamists, whether it is the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas at one end of the spectrum, or Al Qaeda at the other. Doha has used this sway to negotiate with various groups including the Taliban, as well as to help negotiate ceasefires between Israel and Hamas. In late 2010 and into 2011, Qatar saw its influence throughout the Middle East rise sharply. Al Jazeera, already a thorn in the side of Arab autocrats, reported extensively on the Arab Spring. The Al Jazeera Arabic channel grew additional roots in Egypt after the uprising and election of Mohamed Morsy who hailed from the Muslim Brotherhood. The international community praised the new Egyptian president for bringing a swift end to a war between Gaza militants and Israel that same year. In the long run, though, as it unraveled across the region, the Arab Spring proved to be disastrous for Hamas, which saw the number of countries it could call a friend whittled away. &'8220;Hamas had very strong relations with Syria, Egypt, Qatar, Turkey and Iran,&'8221; says Mustafa Barghouti, an independent Palestinian politician. &'8220;Things have changed over time so they had to diversify relations.&'8221; Before 2012, the Hamas leadership was based out of Damascus. Tensions grew between the militants and the regime of Syrian President Bashar Al Assad as revolution gripped the country. Eventually, Hamas sided with the rebels and cut ties to some extent with Syria, Hezbollah, and Iran. &'8220;Hamas lost a lot in the uprisings,&'8221; says Hellyer. &'8220;This is one of the reasons why Qatar stepped in.&'8221; Qatar, a strong supporter of both the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Hamas, took advantage of the situation. In the fall of 2012, the head of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, visited the Gaza Strip becoming the first world leader to do so under Hamas control. The emir inaugurated projects worth hundreds of millions of dollars. In the vacuum left [&'].....»»

Category: newsSource:  mindanaoexaminerRelated NewsJun 13th, 2017

Damascus sees fierce clashes after rebel attack – BBC News

Damascus sees fierce clashes after rebel attack – BBC News.....»»

Category: newsSource:  mindanaoexaminerRelated NewsMar 20th, 2017

Clashes in Syria capital after surprise rebel assault

Clashes in Syria capital after surprise rebel assault.....»»

Category: newsSource:  rapplerRelated NewsMar 19th, 2017

Clashes break out between Turkey-backed rebels, Kurdish fighters in northern Syria

DAMASCUS -- Kurdish fighters said they had confronted an attack by the Turkey-backed rebels in northern Syria on Saturday, marking the first clash between the groups, following Ankara's military intervention in northern Syria last Wednesday......»»

Category: newsSource: NewsAug 28th, 2016

Thousands of Syrians flee raging assaults on two fronts

ARBIN, Syria – Thousands of terrified Syrian civilians fled for their lives on Saturday, March 17, as they sought to escape two raging offensives in a rebel bastion outside Damascus and a northwestern Kurdish enclave. Syria's civil war this week entered its 8th year with world powers unable to stem a ........»»

Category: newsSource:  rapplerRelated NewsMar 17th, 2018

At least 42 killed amid ongoing offensive – Al Jazeera

At least 42 people have been killed in Syria’s Eastern Ghouta as government forces continue to launch air strikes on the rebel-held […].....»»

Category: newsSource:  mindanaoexaminerRelated NewsMar 12th, 2018

Delegation from Syria rebel enclave mulls evacuation deal

HAMMURIYEH, Syria – A delegation from Syria's rebel-held Eastern Ghouta was on Sunday, March 11 considering a partial evacuation deal to halt a fierce government offensive, a negotiator and monitor told Agence France-Presse (AFP). The two main rebel groups in the region, which borders Damascus, have firmly and repeatedly denied ........»»

Category: newsSource:  rapplerRelated NewsMar 11th, 2018

Syria army cuts off main town in Ghouta rebel enclave

DOUMA, Syria – Syrian regime forces on Saturday, March 10, cut off the largest town in Eastern Ghouta from the rest of the opposition enclave in a blow to rebels defending their last bastion near Damascus. Government troops and allied militia have recaptured half of the besieged region in a blistering assault ........»»

Category: newsSource:  rapplerRelated NewsMar 10th, 2018

Dozens treated for breathing problems after raids on Syria s Ghouta

HAMMURIYEH, Syria – Dozens of people were treated for breathing difficulties after air strikes slammed into Syria's Eastern Ghouta late Wednesday, a monitor said, with medics reporting symptoms consistent with a toxic attack. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least 60 people in the besieged rebel enclave were left ........»»

Category: newsSource:  rapplerRelated NewsMar 8th, 2018

Syrian troops look to split rebel-held enclave near capital

BEIRUT — Government forces advanced against rebels in the eastern Ghouta suburbs of Damascus and will try to divide the besieged enclave in two, Syria's stat.....»»

Category: newsSource:  philstarRelated NewsMar 7th, 2018

Regime forces advance in Syria s battered E. Ghouta, says monitor

BEIRUT, Lebanon – Syrian regime forces have advanced inside Eastern Ghouta, a monitor said on Saturday, March 3, as fighting intensifies on the ground to retake the battered rebel enclave east of Damascus. Russia-backed government forces on February 18 launched an assault of the besieged region, pounding the area with air ........»»

Category: newsSource:  rapplerRelated NewsMar 3rd, 2018

Air strikes on Ghouta continue; poison gas symptoms seen

DOUMA, SYRIA — Fresh bombardment by the Syrian regime on Monday killed at least 10 civilians in the rebel-held enclave of Eastern Ghouta, including nine members of a same family, a monitor said. Air strikes destroyed a building in Douma, the main town in the Eastern Ghouta area east of Damascus, and buried alive an […] The post Air strikes on Ghouta continue; poison gas symptoms seen appeared first on BusinessWorld......»»

Category: financeSource:  bworldonlineRelated NewsFeb 26th, 2018

Strikes, clashes rock Syria s Ghouta despite ceasefire call

DOUMA, Syria – Fresh regime air strikes and heavy clashes shook rebel-held Eastern Ghouta on Sunday, February 25, despite a UN demand for a ceasefire to end one of the most ferocious assaults of Syria's civil war. After days of diplomatic wrangling, the Security Council on Saturday, February 24, adopted ........»»

Category: newsSource:  rapplerRelated NewsFeb 26th, 2018

Syria enclave a ‘hell on earth’

DOUMA, Syria -- International pressure mounted Thursday to end civilian suffering in a rebel-held enclave near Damascus where Syrian jets have been raining bombs in a blitz that has killed more than 300. United Nations chief Antonio Guterres described the death and devastation that has engulfed Eastern Ghouta since Sunday….....»»

Category: newsSource:  journalRelated NewsFeb 22nd, 2018

ISIS fighters forced out of Syria, Iraq arriving in PH, maybe planning to take Iligan, Cotabato – MILF leader

Foreign Islamic State fighters forced out of Syria and Iraq have been arriving in the Philippines with the intent of recruiting, and they have plans to attack two Philippine towns, the head of the country’s largest Muslim rebel group said on Tuesday......»»

Category: newsSource:  interaksyonRelated NewsFeb 20th, 2018

U.N. demands Syria ceasefire as air strikes pound rebel areas

The United Nations called on Tuesday for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Syria of at least a month, as heavy air strikes were reported to have killed scores of people in the last major rebel stronghold near Damascus......»»

Category: newsSource:  interaksyonRelated NewsFeb 7th, 2018

HEADS UP: 10 sporting events to watch out for in 2018

2017 has come and gone, and it delivered some exciting sporting moments that has every sports fan clamoring for more. Worry not, though, as 2018 looks primed to satisfy even the most die-hard Pinoy sports aficionado with its bevy of local and international sporting events. Let's welcome the upcoming year with 10 of the most exciting sporting events to watch out for this 2018.   NCAA 93 & UAAP 80 VOLLEYBALL The cagers are out, and the spikers are in. Volleyball season begins this January 4 with NCAA season 93, followed by the 81st season of the UAAP this February. NCAA volleybelles are once again ready to take center court, and the defending women's champion Arellano University Lady Chiefs, led by heavy hitters Jovie Prado and Regine Arocha are banking on their undisputed team play to propel them to another title. Playing inspired volleyball throughout the season, the Lady Chiefs stunned the thrice-to-beat San Sebastian Lady Stags in the Finals last year, ultimately ending Grethcel Soltones' collegiate career with a dud. Rising stars like San Beda's Ces Racraquin, JRU's Karen Montojo also make the upcoming NCAA volleyball season worth waiting for. UAAP volleyball begins a month later the NCAA tournament, but expect the field to be even more tumultuous. With no clear-cut number 2 team to challenge the two-time defending champions DLSU Lady Spikers, it will be a toss-up against basically the other seven schools to step up. Dangerous squads include the much-improved Adamson Lady Falcons, last year's pleasant surprise UST, the dynastic Ateneo Lady Eagles, and the intact NU Lady Bulldogs and FEU Lady Tamaraws. NBA ALL-STAR GAME & 2018 NBA FINALS The annual showcase of the NBA's brightest stars just got a major revamp. That's right, the league has done away with the traditional East-West teams, and will now have a playground-type pool selection of players between its two captains when the exhibition tips off in Los Angeles. This raises a lot of interesting questions: Will the captains pick their teammates or will they go with a more controversial pick and select a rival? Will we able to know the order of the draft? Will this actually work in making the game better? While answers to those questions might not be answered until a few months, one thing's for sure, the NBA Finals, the spectacle that actually counts, will be epic. Will we be treated to Golden State Warriors vs Cleveland Cavaliers Pt. 4? Or will another squad swoop in to spoil the party? The league has indeed improved, with surprising teams like the Milwaukee Bucks, the Indiana Pacers, the Detroit Pistons out in the East already staking claim to playoff spots, and the Wild, Wild, West staying true to its monicker. The Houston Rockets and the perennial powerhouse San Antonio Spurs are still the favorites to pull the rug under the Warriors, while the Oklahoma City Thunder is right behind. Either way, with months of hoops already invested in it, the NBA Finals will surely be another explosive one, as it always is.   HOMECOMING QUEEN Alyssa Valdez spent the majority of 2017 overseas, spreading her wings in Taiwan with volleyball club Attack Line. This 2018 though, The Phenom plans on staying in the Philippines, armed with two year’s worth of international experience to focus on her home club team in the Creamline Cool Smashers.  "Next year, I'm planning to focus sa Creamline. Just this year, I travelled a lot talaga. They supported me throughout, esepcially doon sa National Team stint ko. They sacrificed a lot for me talaga. I think I have to focus sa team ko talaga,” she said last week.Alyssa Valdez just got scarier.   PINOY HOOP DREAMS: REMY MARTIN, KOBE PARAS  Two proudly Pinoy ballers based in the U.S. set out this 2018 to continue shooting for our island nation’s humble hoop dreams. Kobe Paras is still serving residency this 2017-2018 season with the California State University-Northridge Matadors, but his development is sure to be a joy to watch. The 6’6” Pinoy swingman accomplished a tour of duty with Gilas Pilipinas earlier in the year, and many Pinoys saw why we should all be excited about high-flying forward. Remy Martin, a 5’11” point guard dazzled in his first few games with the Arizona State Sun Devils, with his athleticism, explosiveness and feisty defense. The Filipino-American cager is proud of his roots and hopes to represent flag and country with Gilas Pilipinas in the future.   WHO (OR WHAT) IS NEXT FOR MANNY PACQUIAO? The never-ending saga of what’s next for Manny Pacquiao looks like it'll seep into 2018.  Following a rather controversial loss to Australian boxer Jeff Horn, Pacquiao has been “courting” the likes of Floyd Mayweather Jr. for a rematch, even taking to Instagram to ”greet” MMA superstar Conor McGregor before finally admitting that he’s been in talks with the Irish fighter’s camp. Whether he actually retires from boxing for good, or takes on another foe in the squared circle, one thing’s for sure: we’ll all have our eyes on Manny Pacquiao’s next move.   2018 WORLD CUP RUSSIA™ After four years, the best of world football will once again converge, this time in Russia to crown the Kings of the beautiful sport. The stage is set, the groups are finalized, and the 32 squads are promising the best 30-day football extravaganza in the hopes of dethroning defending champions Germany this June. Some group stage clashes to look out for are Germany vs Mexico, England vs Belgium, Portugal vs Spain, to name a few. June couldn’t come soon enough.   CHRISTIAN STANDHARDINGER'S PBA DEBUT No PBA rookie has probably come into the league as pro-ready as the Filipino-German standout Christian Standhardinger. The 6’9” big man was the consensus top overall pick of the 2017 PBA draft, and was also at the center of the controversial trade that sent Kia Picanto’s rights to the number 1 selection to the already-dominant San Miguel. While the trade did go down, so did former commissioner Chito Narvasa. Standhardinger’s entry to the PBA has come at a cost, but San Miguel is more than ready to wait one more conference to bulk up their already stacked squad. Seeing Standharinger play alongside 6’11” center and reigning MVP June Mar Fajardo, versatile forward Arwind Santos, and the Beermen’s bevy of guards in Alex Cabagnot, Marcio Lassiter, and Chris Ross, is definitely a sight to see, just look at how he's tearing it up in the ASEAN Basketball League.    2018 ASIAN GAMES INDONESIA The Philippines’ less than stellar performance at the 2017 Southeast Asian Games was met with widespread flak. Not directed at our athletes however, but aimed at our sports development and governing body for its subpar work in getting our sports representatives ready. While the 2018 Asian Games isn’t so far away, a handful of Pinoy medalists from the SEA Games are going into the continental meet with high hopes. After dominating the SEA Games’ triathlon event, our Filipino endurance athletes, led by gold medalists Kim Mangrobang, and Nikko Huelgas, are once again primed to take home hardware. Marathoner Mary Joy Tabal, and boxers John Marvin, and Eumir Marcial, all gold medalists at Malaysia, are all bright spots that could soon unravel into full-fledged stars come 2018.   GILAS PILIPINAS IN THE FIBA WORLD CUP QUALIFIERS It’s official, basketball is coming home to the Philippines this 2023 by way of the FIBA World Cup, but Gilas Pilipinas will first have to try its luck in the 2019 meet. After dealing with Chinese Taipei and Japan this 2017 for a perfect 2-0 slate in the qualifiers, Gilas Pilipinas still has to face the Japanese anew, and the powerhouse Australian team early in 2018. A good showing against these squads will help Gilas strengthen its bid to international basketball’s biggest stage before we actually host the event in six years’ time.   UAAP 81 BASKETBALL UAAP season 80 just came to an end, but the next season just got way more interesting. Aside from the title defense of the intact Ateneo Blue Eagles and their ongoing rivalry with La Salle, a certain move by a coach has shaken up the league. With Aldin Ayo reportedly accepting the job as the new head coach of the struggling University of Sto. Tomas, we might just be witnesses to the rebirth of the once proud basketball program under the fiery mentor. That, and the way the DLSU Green Archers can adjust from the departure of Ayo and former two-time MVP Ben Mbala, key cogs to their season 79 championship run. The tight race for the MVP award will also be one to watch, with Mbala gone, it’s up to the local stars to step up to the challenge......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 31st, 2017

Critically ill evacuated from Syria besieged area

BEIRUT — Evacuation of critically ill Syrians trapped in a rebel-held suburb near the capital Damascus is underway, the International Committee for the Red C.....»»

Category: newsSource:  philstarRelated NewsDec 28th, 2017