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Children of Isil's caliphate left to toil in squalid refugee camps

Mon, 03/25/2019 - 03:25

Children of Isil's caliphate left to toil in squalid refugee campsEight-year-old Hamed cast a critical eye at the at tent peg, raised a hammer above his head and began thwacking it into the hard, stony ground. It is heavy work, and he would rather be in school. But he has little choice. “I get about 2,000 lira for putting up one tent,” he said, using the popular term here for Syrian pounds. “I can do three or four a day, so that is 8,000.” That, he said, is just about enough to feed himself, his mother, and her newborn baby twice a day. “But we can’t eat all the time,” he said. "My mother explained, we can't spend so much money on food because we need to buy stuff for the baby now." Hamed is one of about 41,000 children in al-Hol, the largest of three sprawling camps in north eastern Syria that houses former members, children, and prisoners of the Islamic State terrorist group. More than 40,000 children are living in al-Hol, the largest of three sprawing camps in north eastern Syria that houses former members, children, and prisoners of the Islamic State terrorist group Credit: Sam Tarling /The Telegraph The fate of the children who emerged from Isil's doomed caliphate is a matter of humanitarian urgency and critical to international security. And yet the lack of provision made by world governments, including Britain's, is striking. The Telegraph has seen dozens of malnourished infants as Isil families left Baghuz, Isil's last bastion, in the past two weeks. At least 108 children have already died en route to or soon after arriving at the camp, mostly from severe acute malnutrition, pneumonia, and dehydration, according to the International Rescue Committee. The vast majority of them were under five years old, and most of those babies younger than one.  Many are also carrying serious injuries from shrapnel. The fate of the children who emerged from Isil's doomed caliphate is a matter of humanitarian urgency Credit: Sam Tarling /The Telegraph The casualties included Jarrah Begum, Shamima Begum’s newborn son, who died of a lung infection last month. Unicef has described the living conditions for those children who reach the camp as "extremely dire." Hamed, who spoke to the Telegraph with the permission of his German mother and on condition of anonymity, said he bitterly misses his old life in Europe. “If there was a school, I’d go to it,” he said, as he took a pause in his tent work to speak to the Telegraph. "But there isn't one here." “When I was in Germany I was learning, then in Doula I learnt nothing,” he said, using the Arabic word for “State” – the term many Isil families use for the group. “They just teach like the Quran... and they teach you that you have to fight. But I said: ‘I don’t want to fight’. I don’t like to fight. I just want to be a normal one, I just want to live in a house and make my job. I don’t want to fight, I don’t want to be a warrior.” Unicef has described the living conditions for those children who reach the camp as 'extremely dire'   Credit: Sam Tarling /The Telegraph He said he had left Germany when he was five years old, and only emerged from the Islamic State two months ago. The camp, he said, is a miserable and filthy place. “Kids poop everywhere,” he said. “You have to watch where you walk. You can’t just sit anywhere, like you can in Germany.” It is not surprising. Adults in the section of the camp where Hamed lives told the Telegraph many of the young children have chronic diarrhoea.   “Play”, if there is such a thing, involves picking on one another or chucking rocks at moving cars.   “They call me a dog and things. They think it is a joke,” said Hamed, when asked about his friends. “My mother doesn't like me to be like the other children. She says maybe there is a little baby there, like three years old, and maybe you’ll hit him. Even though I don’t like to throw rocks,” he said. “It’s not a game. They come, they throw, the glass breaks,” he said. “In Germany it is not like this, you’re not hitting on cars. If you want to play you go to your friends, you have friends, they don’t call you anything, you play a bit.” The larger and more loosely regulated section of the camp reserved for Syrian and Iraqi citizens has a market which is run by Kurdish authorities in al-Hol Credit: Sam Tarling/The Telegraph Most children have little time for that though. Adults here told the Telegraph that almost every child from about the age of eight upwards is a low-paid labourer in the camp’s grey economy. “They’re already entrepreneurs. I think they wake up and the first thing they think is: who am I going to hit up for money today?” said Lorna Henri, a 54-year-old woman from the Seychelles who has become the de-facto guardian of two unaccompanied children in the camp. "I try to give them what I can." Ms Henri said boys generally sent by their mothers to run errands in the camp market, which children can access more easily than adults, and put up tents. Girls clean or offer to cook. The market, in the larger and more loosely regulated section of the camp for Syrian and Iraqi citizens, is crowded with small boys hauling hand carts for 200 Syrian pounds per errand. The market is crowded with small boys hauling hand carts for 200 Syrian pounds per errand Credit: Sam Tarling/The Telegraph Such Dickensian scenes are not unusual amidst humanitarian crisis. And across the Middle East, children are generally expected to pull their own weight at an earlier age than in the West. But the prospects for these children are bleak in more than one way. Radical Isil supporters continue to exert influence inside al-Hol, including by harassing women who want to remove their veils.  There have been reports of punishment tent-burnings by an underground “religious police”, and several women from different countries who the Telegraph spoke to complained about being labelled “infidels” by their fellow inmates. Without intervention, there is a good chance the children here will be brought up in the same poisonous ideology that turned many of their fathers into terrorists. Without intervention, there is a chance the camp's children here will be brought up in the same poisonous ideology that turned many of their fathers into terrorists The United Nations has expressed “alarm” at the situation. Last week  Henrietta Fore, the executive director of Unicef, urged member states “to take responsibility for children who are their citizens or born to their nationals, and to take measures to prevent children from becoming stateless.” Some governments have heeded the call. Last week, the French government said it had evacuated several children. But Kurdish officials have told the Telegraph that Britain has refused to take back British Isil members or their children in the camps on the grounds that it has full confidence in the legal and administrative system of Rojava, the unrecognised Kurdish proto-state in northern Syria. Jeremy Hunt, the Foreign Secretary, last week claimed that it would have been “too risky” to send British officials to save Jarrah Begum, although he remained a British citizen after his mother was stripped of her own citizenship. However, the al-Hol camp is run by the Syrian Democratic Forces, a Kurdish-led Western-backed armed group that Britain is allied to. Journalists, including from the Telegraph, and aid workers visit the camp on a regular basis, safely and without incident. Radical Isil supporters continue to exert influence inside al-Hol, including by harassing women who want to remove their veils Credit: Sam Tarling/The Telegraph Nor is it true, as Mr Hunt claimed, that journalists are afforded special protection unavailable to UK officials in Syria or in the camps. In al-Hol, the foreign women constantly exchange rumours about which governments might take Isil members back. For their children, who committed no crime, the only thing on the horizon is more arduous work. "I'd like to...sell stuff. Or you know, build houses," shrugged Hamed, when asked what he would like to do when he grows up. Those are the only careers on offer in al-Hol camp. He picked up his hammer, and went back to hitting the tent peg. His blows made little impact on the stony ground. Protect yourself and your family by learning more about Global Health Security


Israel strikes Hamas in Gaza after rocket attack injures British-Israeli family

Mon, 03/25/2019 - 02:58

Israel strikes Hamas in Gaza after rocket attack injures British-Israeli familyIsraeli warplanes carried out intense strikes against Hamas in Gaza on Monday night after a rocket attack wounded several members of a British-Israeli family, including two infants, and destroyed their house.  Israeli jets bombed the offices of Hamas’ leader and several other facilities in what a military spokesman said was just "the beginning” of a major operation against the Islamist militant group.   There were no immediate reports of casualties in Gaza but Hamas vowed to “retaliate immediately and forcefully”, raising fears that the two sides could be hurtling back towards a full-blown conflict.   Palestinian factions reportedly began firing rockets into southern Israel on Monday night as Israeli aircraft continued their raids in Gaza.  However, Hamas said late on Monday that Egypt had brokered a ceasefire to end the fighting. Hamas authorities said schools and government buildings would be open as usual on Tuesday.  Monday's escalation was sparked by a long-range rocket fired by Hamas from Gaza towards the town of Mishmeret in central Israel at around 5.20am Monday morning, the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) said. The rocket hit the home of Robert and Susan Wolf, originally from London, who had their children and grandchildren staying with them. The family were woken by rocket sirens and escaped moments before the house was struck.  “If we hadn’t got to the bomb shelter in time I would be burying all my family,” Mr Wolf said. “We would all have been dead if we didn’t do what we were supposed to do.”  Seven people were wounded in the blast, including his wife, who suffered a shrapnel wound to the head, and his six-month-old granddaughter who lightly injured. None of the injuries are life-threatening, Israeli authorities said.  The family’s two dogs were killed in the blast, neighbours said, while the home was almost completely destroyed.  The attack in Mishmeret came just a week after rockets were fired at Tel Aviv for the first time since 2014. Israel carried out a limited round of strikes in response. However, Monday’s attack was considered far more serious because it wounded Israeli civilians.   Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel's prime minister, was at the White House to watch Donald Trump sign an order formally recognising Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights “Israel is responding forcefully to this wanton aggression,” Mr Netanyahu said. “I have a simple message to Israel’s enemies: we will do whatever we must do to defend our people and defend our state.” Robert Wolf stands inside his house that was hit by a rocket in the village of Mishmeret, north of Tel Aviv Credit: Amir Levy/Getty Images Mr Netanyahu cut short his trip to Washington to take charge of the crisis. The prime minister, who is up for re-election on April 9, is under pressure from political opponents to launch large-scale strikes. Israel’s military said it had bombed the Gaza City offices of Ismail Haniyeh, the leader of Hamas. The offices are believed to have been empty at the time.  Warplanes also destroyed buildings belonging to Hamas military intelligence branch and its internal security forces, the IDF said.   "We are just at the beginning," said General Ronen Manelis, an IDF spokesman. "A large attack is planned. I think that Hamas understands this is a significant strike following a serious incident, and ultimately, this is a price that Hamas has been due to pay for the past year."   The military wings of Hamas and Islamic Jihad said in a joint statement that they intended to fight back against Israeli raids. “We will retaliate immediately and forcefully to every strike. The resistance can reach every Israeli target.”  At least one rocket was fired into Israel from Gaza while the airstrikes were unfolding, according to the IDF.  The group is under intense pressure within Gaza to raise living standards and deal with horrendous economic conditions in the strip, where unemployment is at around 50 per cent.  Anti-Hamas protesters took to the streets last week under the slogan “We Want To Live”. Hamas responded with a major crackdown and arrested dozens of people. Egypt and the UN have been trying to broker a long-term deal which would see Hamas promise to stop attacks on Israel in return for Israel lifting its crushing 12-year blockade on Gaza.  However, the negotiations have yielded few results and Hamas is believed to be trying to inject fresh urgency into the talks by firing rockets while at the same time avoiding a full-blown war.


May Faces Endgame as U.K. Leader Is Losing Control of Brexit

Mon, 03/25/2019 - 02:55

May Faces Endgame as U.K. Leader Is Losing Control of BrexitTheresa May will face up to her own desperately weak political position on Monday as members of Parliament move to take over Brexit policy and her own ministers plot to oust her. The U.K. prime minister is under pressure from colleagues inside her Cabinet to name a date when she will step down, with some arguing this would help her win support for her Brexit deal, people familiar with the matter said. May is hoping for one more chance to put the divorce agreement she’s negotiated with the European Union to a vote in the House of Commons this week.


Mueller report: Bernie Sanders and Beto O’Rourke respond to Trump investigation

Mon, 03/25/2019 - 02:50

 Bernie Sanders and Beto O’Rourke respond to Trump investigationDemocratic presidential candidates have issued calls for transparency over the findings of the Mueller report, and made it clear they believe Donald Trump is guilty of wrongdoing. Special counsel Robert Mueller’s report was delivered to the Justice Department on Friday and is now in the hands of attorney general William Barr. “It is beyond a shadow of doubt that, once in office, the president of the United States sought to obstruct justice,” former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke said during a campaign stop in South Carolina.


The Mueller report is a massive win for Trump and a huge boost to his chances of re-election

Mon, 03/25/2019 - 02:45

The Mueller report is a massive win for Trump and a huge boost to his chances of re-electionMueller did not say definitively that Trump did not collude with Russia to influence the 2016 election, or that he did not try to interfere with investigations into such accusations. It was attorney general Bill Barr and his deputy, Rod Rosenstein, who decided the president’s actions did not constitute a crime.


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