Planet Watch

UN report on climate change calls for urgent action

A Special Report on Climate Change was released by the UN Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), focusing on greenhouse gas emissions and its links to desertification, land degradation and food security. The report warns that the “rise in global temperatures, linked to increasing pressures on fertile soil,” risks “jeopardizing food security for the planet.” The effects of global warming have led to “shifts of climate zones in many world regions,” further exacerbating land degradation, and leading to extreme weather conditions such as floods and droughts. The reports warns: “The stability of food supply is projected to decrease as the magnitude and frequency of extreme weather events that disrupt food chains increases.” (Photo of Tantaverom region of Chad via UNDP)

Syria

Idlib bombardment resumes after brief respite

Russia and the Assad regime resumed attacks on opposition-held northwest Syria, breaking a four-day pause declared by Damascus. Russian and regime forces, whose spring offensive shattered a “demilitarized zone” announced last September by Moscow and Turkey, again began bombing and shelling both rebel positions and civilian areas. The regime’s military said last week that it was halting operations, which have killed more than 700 civilians and wounded more than 2,200 since late April, while giving an ultimatum to anti-Assad forces to withdraw from the 20-kilometer “demilitarized zone” through Idlib and northern Hama province. As the new air-strikes were launched, an army statement said: “The agreement to a truce was conditional… This did not happen… We resume our military operations against terrorist organizations.” (Photo via EA Worldview)

Syria

Turkey deports Syrians to bomb-wracked Idlib

In a new campaign against migrants who lack residency papers, Turkey has for the past weeks been deporting Syrians from Istanbul to Syria—including to the war-torn northwest province of Idlib. The crackdown comes at a time of rising rhetoric and political pressure on the country’s 3.6 million registered Syrian refugees to return home. Estimates place hundreds of thousands of unregistered Syrians in Turkey, many living in urban areas such as Istanbul. Refugee rights advocates say deportations to Syria violate customary international law, which prohibits forcing people to return to a country where they are still likely to face persecution or risk to their lives. Arrests reportedly began in mid-July, with police conducting spot-checks in public spaces, factories, and metro stations around Istanbul and raiding apartments. As word spread quickly in Istanbul’s Syrian community, many people shut themselves up at home rather than risk being caught outside. (Photo: The New Humanitarian)

Syria

As Russia bombs Idlib, Turkey threatens Rojava

Some 100 civilians have been killed over the past week as Russia and the Assad regime step up aerial attacks on Idlib, the northern Syria province that remains outside regime control. Meanwhile, Turkish officials again warned of an offensive against the Kurdish-controlled area in northeast Syria, known to the Kurds as Rojava. Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said Ankara has “no patience left” with Washington’s perceived accommodation of the Syrian Kurds. At issue is the size of the military “buffer zone” Ankara seeks to create along the border in northern Syria. The US has agreed to a “safe zone” that would cut through the Rojava autonomous cantons of Kobani and Cezire. However, the two sides differ over the depth of the zone. Ankara wants a 40-kilometer belt while the US is supporting only 10 kilometers. Turkey is also demanding the complete departure of the Kurdish militia from the area, and full control by Ankara’s forces. (Photo of White Helmets in Idlib via EA Worldview)

Europe

Kosovo PM resigns to face war crimes court

The prime minister of Kosovo, Ramush Haradinaj, resigned after being called in for questioning by a war crimes court in The Hauge. The court is investigating ex-members of the Kosovo Liberation Army for actions during the war from 1998-9 that led to Kosovo’s independence from Serbia. Haradinaj was a KLA commander in that war. Although technically a body of the Kosovo government, the war crimes court is based at The Hague and made up of foreign prosecutors and judges—an unusual arrangement pointing to the limited sovereignty of ostensibly independent Kosovo.  (Photo of Kosova Liberation Army via IBNA)

Central Asia

Uighurs as pawns in the Great Game

In a perverse spectacle, the Trump administration, which is establishing its own incipient concentration camp system for undocumented immigrants, makes a great show of feigning concern with the mass detention of the Uighurs in China’s “re-education camps.” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called China’s treatment of the Uighurs the “stain of the century,” and accused Beijing of pressuring countries not to attend a US-hosted conference on religious freedom then opening in Washington. At the conference, Donald Trump actually met at the Oval Office with Jewher Ilham, daughter of the imprisoned Uighur scholar Ilham Tothi. It is hard to fault the Ughurs for being heartened by this international attention, but it is clear that they are being exploited for propaganda purposes. (Photo: Mvslim.com)

Syria

Waterworks, civil defense centers bombed in Idlib

Assad regime and Russian warplanes continue to target civilians and basic infrastructure in the aerial assault on opposition-controlled Idlib province in Syria’s north. At least 12 were killed in a regime air-strike on a market in Maar Shurin village. Russian air-strikes destroyed the main water plant in Maarat al-Numan, a town already swollen with displaced persons who have fled the regime offensive. First responders are also apparently being intentionally targeted. A new report from the Syrian Network for Human Rights finds that Russian and Assad forces have struck 31 civil defense centers and vehicles in opposition-controlled areas of Idlib and Hama provinces since the current offensive began in late April. At least seven first responders and medics from the White Helmets and Violet Organization civil defense groups have been killed. The overall civilian death toll in the air-strikes on Idlib and Hama is placed at 550, including 130 children. (Photo via EA Worldview)

Europe

Crimean Tatars arrested in Red Square protest

Seven Crimean Tatars were detained in Moscow while holding a peaceful picket calling for an end to ethnic and religious persecution in Russian-annexed Crimea. Around 20 activists—most in their 50s and 60s, veterans of the Crimean Tatar national movement—gathered in Red Square with placards reading: “Our children are not terrorists”; “The fight against terrorism in Crimea is a fight against dissidents” and “Stop persecution on ethnic and religious lines in Crimea.” The picket was held in advance of an appeal hearing for four Crimean Tatars facing “terrorism” charges for their membership in the civil organization Hizb ut-Tahrir. The detained protesters were charged with holding an unauthorized demonstration. One of those arrested is the father of one of the “terrorism” defendants. (Photo: Human Rights in Ukraine)

North Africa

Libya: did Haftar bomb migrant detention center?

The UN is calling for an urgent investigation into the “outrageous” bombing of a migrant detention center at Tajoura, outside Libya’s capital Tripoli, which left at least 44 dead. Libya’s UN-recognized government issued a statement blaming the air-strike on warlord Khalifa Haftar, who has for months been besieging Tripoli. Already believed to be supported by France and Russia, he has now also apparently established contact with Washington. The White House admitted in April that President Trump had spoken by phone with Haftar and discussed “ongoing counter-terrorism efforts.”  (Photo via Libya Observer)

Europe

European Union betrays Crimea and Tatars

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe voted to reinstate the Russian delegation despite criticism over human rights abuses. Russia’s voting rights had been stripped in 2014 in response to Moscow’s annexation of Crimea. The vote was taken after Russia threatened to leave the Council altogether, opening a budgetary dilemma. The move comes as Russia is escalating its crackdown on dissent and even religious practice by the Crimea’s Tatar people. Days before the vote, a Russian court sentenced five Crimean Tatars to a total of 68 years in prison simply for being members of Hizb ut-Tahrir, an Islamist revival organization that was (and remains) legal in Ukraine, and has carried out no attacks in Crimea either before or since Russian annexation. (Photo: Krymr-RFE/RL)

Syria

New spasm of Syria chemwar denialism: don’t buy it

A sudden feeding-frenzy of revisionism about the April 2018 Douma chemical attack in Syria has broken out, with celebrities glomming on in unseemly manner. This time Susan Sarandon joins already proved Assad regime shill Roger Waters, their spewing avidly lapped up by Kremlin propaganda organ RT (of course). But also getting on this bandwagon—most disgracefully, because he purports to be a “journalist”—is Robert Fisk. This all hinges on a supposedly leaked document from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which purports to claim that the shells from the Douma attack did not fall from the air but were planted. The OPCW has not acknowledged the document as authentic, and it contradicts the findings of every bona fide investigation into the attack. The OPCW’s formal findings assigning blame for the attack have yet to be released. (Image: Syria Solidarity NYC)

Africa

Russia blocks UN statement against Sudan massacre

Russia, joined by China, blocked a bid at the UN Security Council to condemn the killing of civilians in Sudan and to issue a pressing call for an immediate halt to the violence. According to the latest update by the Central Committee of Sudan Doctors, over 100 people were killed by militiamen of the Rapid Support Forces who stormed the sit-in site in Khartoum and opened fire on the protesters. (Photo: Radio Tamazuj)