Death toll in strikes on Syria ex-Qaeda hits 46

Beirut: The death toll in air strikes against Al-Qaeda’s former affiliate in Syria in the northwest of the country has risen to 46, including 24 civilians, a monitor said on Wednesday.

The dead included 10 children and 11 women, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, adding that the toll could rise further because of the number of wounded with serious injuries.

The raids hit the headquarters of former Al-Qaeda affiliate Fateh al-Sham in Idlib and several adjacent neighbourhoods of the city at dawn on Tuesday.

Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman said he could not determine whether the raids were carried out by Syrian government ally Russia or a US-led coalition battling jihadists.

But Moscow quickly denied on Tuesday that its planes had struck the city.

In recent weeks, Fateh al-Sham has come under increasing in Idlib, the last province in Syria almost entirely in rebel hands.

Bombing raids against the group have escalated, including one US strike on a training camp in January that killed more than 100 fighters.

Rebel groups have held Idlib province since the spring of 2015, four years after the Syrian conflict broke out.

More than 310,000 people have died since the war began and millions have been forced to flee their homes.

U.N. seeks $2.1 billion to avert famine in Yemen

The United Nations appealed on Wednesday for $2.1 billion to provide food and other life-saving assistance to 12 million people in Yemen who face the threat of famine after two years of war.

“The situation in Yemen is catastrophic and rapidly deteriorating,” Jamie McGoldrick, U.N. humanitarian coordinator in Yemen, said in the appeal document.

“Nearly 3.3 million people – including 2.1 million children – are acutely malnourished.”

Yemen has been divided by nearly two years of civil war that pits the Iran-allied Houthi group against a Sunni Arab coalition led by Saudi Arabia. At least 10,000 people have been killed in the fighting, which has unleashed a humanitarian crisis in the desperately poor Arabian Peninsula country.

In all, nearly 19 million Yemenis – more than two-thirds of the population – need assistance and protection, the U.N. said.

“Ongoing air strikes and fighting continue to inflict heavy casualties, damage public and private infrastructure, and impede delivery of humanitarian assistance,” it said.

“The Yemeni economy is being wilfully destroyed,” it added, saying that ports, roads, bridges, factories and markets have been hit.

An estimated 63,000 Yemeni children died last year of preventable causes often linked to malnutrition, the U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said last week.

“In Yemen, if bombs don’t kill you, a slow and painful death by starvation is now an increasing threat,” Jan Egeland, secretary-general of the Norwegian Refugee Council, said in a separate statement as the U.N. plan was launched.

A military coalition led by Saudi Arabia entered Yemen’s civil war in March 2015 to try to reinstate President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi after he was ousted from the capital Sanaa by the tribal Houthis, who are fighting in an alliance with troops loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh.(PTI)

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