Seven children were among 16 people killed on Tuesday in twin airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition fighting rebels in southern Yemen, an official and a doctor said.
“Sixteen people, including women and children, were killed and nine others injured” in a coalition air raid targeting a residence in Daleh province, the local official told AFP on condition of anonymity.
A doctor at Al Thawra hospital in Ibb province where the bodies were taken said seven children and four women were among the dead.
The Iran-backed Huthi rebels condemned the coalition for its “continued aggression” against the Yemeni people, according to their Al-Masirah television.
The coalition could not immediately be reached for comment.
Tens of thousands of people, most of them civilians, have been killed since Saudi Arabia and its allies intervened in March 2015 in support of the beleaguered government.
The fighting has also displaced millions and left 24.1 million — more than two-thirds of the population — in need of aid.
The United Nations has described Yemen as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
Rebels killed at least seven civilians and abducted 15 others, including children, in fresh overnight raids in the far eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, civilian and military sources said Sunday.
Fighters of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) staged two raids Saturday night in the North Kivu region bordering Uganda, Teddy Kataliko, leader of the civilian administration in Beni district, told AFP.
According to his account, rebels at Mangboko burnt a lorry driver in his vehicle and killed six other civilians, while in Oicha, they killed one person and abducted 15 others — for a total death toll of eight.
Beni district administrator Donat Kibwana said seven people were killed and 15 people were abducted, including 10 children.
Army spokesman Captain Mak Hazukay also put the death toll at seven.
Kataliko denounced the army as ineffective, saying: “It is not normal that the army cannot manage to keep the population safe,” but Hazukay insisted that soldiers had reacted quickly to stop the rebel incursions.
The ADF, which US authorities designated a terror group in 2001, is a militia created by Muslim rebels to oppose Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni but which also operates in the DRC.
It is blamed for a string of attacks in the region since 2014 that have killed at least 700 civilians, and 15 Tanzanian peacekeepers in a December assault last year.
Yemen’s government said Thursday it was ready to re-start peace talks with Huthi rebels, as international pressure to end the years-long conflict intensifies.
The United Nations said a day earlier it aimed to relaunch the talks within a month after a previous attempt collapsed in September when the rebels refused to attend.
“The Republic of Yemen welcomes all efforts to restore peace,” a government statement carried by the state-run Saba news agency said.
“The government of Yemen is ready to immediately launch talks on the process of confidence-building, primarily the release of all detainees and prisoners, as well as those who have been abducted or subject to enforced disappearance,” it said.
The United States this week called for an immediate end to the hostilities in Yemen, where Washington backs a Saudi-led coalition fighting alongside the government against the Iran-backed Huthis.
In September, the Huthis refused to travel to Geneva for planned peace talks, accusing the UN of failing to guarantee their delegation’s return to the Yemeni capital Sanaa and to secure the evacuation of wounded rebels to Oman.
Previous talks broke down in 2016 when 108 days of negotiations in Kuwait between the government of President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi and the rebels failed to yield a deal.
US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo this week called for an end to the Yemen war, including air strikes, in an implicit acknowledgment that the Saudi-led coalition was involved in the bombing of civilians.
Both the Huthis and Saudi Arabia along with its allies stand accused of transgressions that could amount to war crimes.
The coalition has been blacklisted by the UN for the maiming and killing of children in a country where 14 million people now face starvation.
Yemen, the Arab world’s poorest country, is the target of the longest drone war in US history.
In 2012, the US expanded a covert war against the Yemen-based Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which Washington categorises as the radical group’s most dangerous branch.
The World Health Organization estimates that nearly 10,000 people have been killed in Yemen since 2015 when Saudi Arabia and its allies intervened after the Huthis seized Sanaa.
Rights groups say the toll could be as high as 50,000.
Rebels killed at least 11 people and abducted 15 others, including 10 children, in an overnight raid near Beni, near DR Congo’s eastern border with Uganda, security sources said Sunday.
Police recovered the bodies of 11 civilians killed in the town of Matete north of Beni, he said, adding that the missing children were from five to 10 years old, Beni police chief Colonel Safari Kazingufu told AFP.
The attack, thought to have been carried out by members of the Ugandan Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), had targeted Beni, the regional army spokesman Captain Mak Hazukay told AFP.
“We repulsed the attack but unfortunately, there were deaths among the civilians and soldiers,” he said, without specifying how many soldiers had been killed.
One local resident told AFP he had seen the bodies of two uniformed men at the site of the fighting.
Earlier, a spokesman for the UN peacekeeping mission MONUSCO told AFP they had been involved in an exchange of fire with suspected rebels near Beni.
The Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo has spread to a city surrounded by rebels, creating challenges responders were “dreading,” the World Health Organisation said on Friday.
One probable case and one suspected case have emerged in the city of Oicha in DRC’s North Kivu province, WHO’s emergency response chief, Peter Salama, told reporters.
While Oicha itself is not under rebel control, Salama said the city is entirely surrounded by territory held by a feared Ugandan insurgent group known as the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF).
“For the first time we have a confirmed case…in an area with high insecurity,” Salama said.
“It really was the problem we were anticipating and the problem at the same time we were dreading.”
Large numbers of civilians have been killed by unrest around Oicha, while aid workers, priests, and government employers are currently being held hostage there by insurgents, according to Salama.
The outbreak, the 10th to hit DRC since 1976, began on August 1 in the North Kivu town of Mangina.
The virus has killed 63 people so far — out of 103 confirmed or probable cases — but Salama warned health workers were expecting “at least one additional wave of cases.”
The Oicha cases have made containing the virus more difficult.
“We are going to have to operate in some very complex environments,” Salama said.
UN teams are only allowed to travel to Oicha with armed escorts.
If the number of patients, or contacts of patients, in the city surges, the logistical hurdles and costs will mount.
After its widely-criticised handling of the 2013-2016 West Africa Ebola epidemic that killed 11,300 people, WHO pledged to revamp its response systems.
The UN agency was widely praised for quickly containing an outbreak in DRC’s northern Equateur province earlier this year, but said from the outset that restive North Kivu in the east of the country posed additional challenges.
“We are at quite a pivotal moment in this outbreak,” Salama said. “We are truly at the crossroads.
Heavy Syrian bombardment killed at least 77 civilians in rebel-held Eastern Ghouta on Monday, a war monitor said, as regime forces appeared to prepare for an imminent ground assault.
The escalation came as pro-government forces were also expected to enter the northern Kurdish-controlled enclave of Afrin, to take a stand against a month-old Turkish assault there.
Held by rebels since 2012, Eastern Ghouta is the last opposition pocket around Damascus and President Bashar al-Assad has dispatched reinforcements there in an apparently concerted effort to retake it.
A barrage of air strikes, rocket fire and artillery slammed into several towns across Eastern Ghouta on Monday.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least 20 children were among 77 civilians killed in the assault, while around 300 other people were wounded.
“The regime is bombing Eastern Ghouta to pave the way for a ground offensive,” said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman.
The main opposition National Coalition, which is based in Turkey, denounced the “war of extermination” in Eastern Ghouta as well as the “international silence”.
In a statement, it also accused regime ally Russia of seeking to “bury the political process” for a solution to the conflict.
Residents of Hammuriyeh could be seen rushing indoors in panic as soon as they heard the sound of airplanes.
Alaa al-Din, a 23-year-old Syrian in Hammuriyeh, said civilians were afraid of a potential government offensive.
“Ghouta’s fate is unknown. We’ve got nothing but God’s mercy and hiding out in our basements,” he told AFP. “There’s no alternative.”
Shelling also hit the town of Douma, where an AFP correspondent saw five toddlers brought to a hospital, covered in dust and wailing uncontrollably.
The hospital was full of distraught civilians: one father slapped his forehead after finding his two dead children, another erupted into tears as he discovered the body of his newborn on a purple sheet next to a pool of blood.
Eastern Ghouta is held by two main Islamist factions, while jihadists control small pockets including one directly adjacent to the capital.
The Observatory and Syrian daily newspaper Al-Watan had said negotiations were underway for the evacuation of jihadists from Eastern Ghouta.
But escalating military pressure indicates that the regime would opt for a ground assault instead of talks, the monitor said.
Government troops carried out a relentless five-day bombing campaign earlier this month that killed around 250 civilians in the enclave and wounded hundreds.
Around the same time, the monitor said, the regime began dispatching military reinforcements to Eastern Ghouta.
After days of relative calm, the government sent more than 260 rockets sailing onto Eastern Ghouta on Sunday.
Those rockets, as well as artillery fire and air strikes, killed 17 civilians, said the Observatory.
The regime is keen to regain control of Eastern Ghouta to halt the deadly salvo of rockets and mortars that rebels fire on Damascus.
About half a dozen rockets hit the capital Sunday night, AFP correspondents said. State news agency SANA reported that one person was killed.
More than 20 civilians have been killed by rebel fire this month alone in regime-held Damascus.
Regime to enter Afrin?
All was quiet in the capital on Monday but since rumours of an imminent assault on Eastern Ghouta started spreading, people living close to the rebel enclave started packing their bags.
Jawad al-Obros, 30, said he was looking to move to a hotel in the western sector of the city to escape his home in an east Damascus neighbourhood that has been regularly hit by rockets from Ghouta.
“We’re tired of this situation. It seems that there’s no solution but a full-blown military one,” he told AFP.
More than 340,000 people have been killed since Syria’s conflict erupted in 2011 with protests against Assad’s government.
It has since evolved into a war that has carved up the country into rival zones of influence among the regime, rebels, jihadists and Kurdish forces.
The Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) control the northwestern region of Afrin, target of a month-old assault by the Turkish army and allied Syrian rebels.
Turkey sees the YPG as a “terror” group linked to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), outlawed by Ankara, and wants to clear it from its southern border.
The YPG has controlled Afrin since 2012, when Syrian troops withdrew from it and other Kurdish-majority areas.
Syrian state media said Monday that pro-regime forces were preparing to enter the area to “join the resistance against the Turkish aggression”.
Turkey warned against any bid by the Syrian regime to help the YPG.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke on the phone with Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin and, according to Turkish media, told him any support from Damascus to the YPG in Afrin “will have consequences” for the regime.
The Congolese army has stepped up arrests of South Sudanese refugees and tightened the border in a bid to block rebels from seeking sanctuary in its country, officials say.
As hundreds fled into the Democratic Republic of Congo last week, after President Salva Kiir’s government army dislodged Riek Machar’s rebel SPLA-IO from its headquarters in southwestern Lasu, some 18 suspected rebels were taken into detention.
It is the first time Congolese authorities have detained a significant number of South Sudanese and may signal a change in Kinshasa’s policy towards the neighbouring country, riven by a devastating four-year power struggle.
“As of now 15 have been released. They were refugees who were arrested because they had returned to South Sudan without authorisation. Three who remain in custody are suspected of being rebels and investigations are ongoing,” said Alexis Kabambi, who heads the National Commission for Refugees (CNR) in the Congolose town of Aba.
– Border tightened – Until recently, members of the SPLA-IO were able to move relatively freely across the border to Aba, a town they depended on for supplies and medical treatment for their wounded.
But after South Sudan’s ambassador visited Aba together with DRC’s defence minister in April, local authorities began restricting movement across the border, according to a South Sudanese community leader in Aba and an SPLA-IO official who asked not to be named.
The tightening of cross-border movements is a blow to those who return to South Sudan to harvest their fields in order to supplement their monthly cash allowance, which they say isn’t enough to feed their families.
When fighting erupted in Lasu, siblings Grace Gaba and Joseph Moro rushed back to their village to help an elderly family member across the border and to fetch some of the family’s livestock. But when they tried to re-enter the DRC, Moro was arrested.
“I haven’t heard from him since,” said Gaba, insisting her brother wasn’t a soldier.
Gaba and her brother didn’t obtain the required permission for their trip to South Sudan, which may have drawn suspicion when they tried to re-enter the DRC.
“This back and forth isn’t appreciated by the security services,” said Kabambi.
“When you return to the other side, you are suspect. You are going there for what, to communicate with those people on the other side?”
– Extradition back to S.Sudan – Officials in the DRC suspect a close link between the refugee community and the opposition fighters.
“We know that the women and children are here in the camp while the husbands are part of the rebellion,” a police officer said at a recent community gathering in Aba’s refugee settlement.
The officer called upon ex-combatants to report themselves to the army “for their own protection.”
But young men who are sympathetic to the rebellion back home don’t trust Congolese authorities.
“I don’t know their position, that’s why I’m at risk. If I’m arrested, they could torture me and hand me over to the South Sudanese government,” said one rebel currently seeking refugee status in Aba.
The young man plans to install his family in the refugee settlement and then return to South Sudan to resume his role in the SPLA-IO.
Elsewhere in the DRC, in Goma, some 400 mostly former SPLA-IO rebels have been living confined to a camp since fleeing with Machar in 2016.
They live not quite as prisoners and not quite refugees, accepting restriction of their movement in exchange for food and protection from a UN peacekeeping mission.
– Fragile ceasefire – The SPLA-IO inked a ceasefire deal with the South Sudanese government last week but the truce is already floundering as both sides accuse each other of multiple breaches of the accord.
According to international law, third party countries are obliged to disarm and intern ex-combatants until a ceasefire comes into force or until they genuinely renounce military activities, at which point they qualify for asylum.
But procedures described by Congolese authorities appear to run counter to these provisions.
“Once you’ve borne arms, you fled and you came here, you are considered a soldier,” said Kabambi.
“The Congolese armed forces then cooperate with the government of South Sudan to see how these people can be extradited to their country.”
A suicide car bomb attack killed nine people in a government-held village in Syria’s Golan Heights on Friday, state media said, reporting clashes between government forces and rebels afterward.
State news agency SANA said the car bomb hit the outskirts of the village of Hader, which lies near the disengagement line that divides the Syrian-controlled part of the Golan from that occupied by Israel.
“A suicide bomber from Al-Nusra Front detonated a car bomb in the midst of the homes of citizens on the outskirts of Hader, killing nine people and injuring at least 23,” the agency said.
Al-Nusra Front is the old name for a jihadist group that was formerly Al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria and is now known as the Fateh al-Sham Front.
“In the aftermath of the terrorist attack, terrorist groups carried out a heavy attack on Hader, and army units and the Popular Defence units (pro-government militants) clashed with the attackers,” it added.
SANA said the toll was expected to rise because a number of those wounded in the bombing were in serious condition and the ongoing assault on the town made it difficult to remove the injured to safety.
Hader is a majority-Druze village and has been attacked in the past by rebel and jihadist groups.
It lies in southwestern Syria’s Quneitra province, around 70 percent of which is held by either rebel or jihadist groups, with the government controlling the other 30 percent, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor.