‘Staggering loss of civilian life’ during US-backed siege of Raqqa – UN

The ongoing siege by Syrian Kurdish militia, supported by airstrikes of the US-led coalition, on terrorist stronghold Raqqa has been marred by at least 300 civilian fatalities and the displacement of some 160,000 people, a UN commission says.

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a group of militias dominated by ethnic Kurds, launched their offensive on Raqqa last week amid weapons and military hardware supplies from the US. The effort is taking a serious toll on civilian residents of the city controlled by Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL), chairman of the UN Commission of Inquiry into the Syrian conflict said on Wednesday.

“We note in particular that the intensification of airstrikes, which have paved the ground for an SDF advance in Raqqa, has resulted not only in staggering loss of civilian life, but has also led to 160,000 civilians fleeing their homes and becoming internally displaced,” Paulo Sergio Pinheiro told the UN Human Rights Council, Reuters reports.

The chairman did not give an estimate for civilian casualties in the city, but Karen Koning AbuZayd, one of the panels’ commissioners, said it has documented about 300 civilian deaths from the airstrikes supporting the Raqqa offensive.

“We have documented the deaths caused by the coalition airstrikes only and we have about 300 deaths, 200 in one place, in al-Mansoura, one village,” she said.

Lavrov: Russia considers the US-led coalition airstrike against pro-Damascus fighters in Syria an act of aggression http://on.rt.com/8dv4 

The US troops deployed in Syria are supporting the SDF offensive providing artillery and air support on the battlefield as well as “advice and training” for the militias.

The Pentagon calls the deployment, which is done with no UN Security Council mandate or invitation from the Syrian government, a limited-scale operation. The Americans have attacked pro-government troops in Syria on several occasions over the past few weeks, claiming it was necessary to protect its SDF allies.

Also on Wednesday the Human Rights Watch (HRW) expressed its concern over the toll the Raqqa offensive operation is taking on civilians. The group criticized the US troops for allegedly using white phosphorous munitions as part of the offensive, saying the chemical may cause serious injuries and trigger fires when used in residential areas.

In his speech, Pinheiro also criticized Damascus for negotiating a series of evacuations of opposition fighters and their families from various areas around Syria, including the December evacuation from Aleppo. He said in some cases the residents had no choice but to leave and that their relocation may amount to a war crime.

The evacuation from Aleppo came after years of fighting for control of the city as it was split between pro-government forces and parts held by rebel. The fighting resulted in numerous deaths among residents. The evacuation was negotiated by Russia, Iran and Turkey and came as an alternative to continued street-to-street battles for Aleppo.

The US-led coalition is showing “extraordinary hypocrisy” by not abiding by the so-called “red line” it sets for other countries, Vanessa Beeley, a journalist and editor at 21stCenturyWire.com who has visited Syria on many occasions during the conflict, told RT.

Beeley said she has information the coalition has employed depleted uranium and white phosphorous in Syria. On Wednesday, a New Zealand general confirmed for the first time that the US-led coalition has used munitions loaded with white phosphorus in Iraq’s Mosul, claiming that the incendiary substance was utilized “to screen areas within west Mosul to get civilians out safely.”

“One wonders why the ‘red line’ that they keep imposing upon target nations – ‘prey’ nations – doesn’t apply to the US or the US-led coalition?” Beeley said, claiming that the US-led operation in Raqqa “is no attempt to protect the civilians.”

“After a five-year-long media, NATO-allied, NGO campaign to try and demonize the Syrian government and its allies, trying to liberate east Aleppo from terrorists… here [in Raqqa], as we saw in Mosul, we have the US-led coalition basically carpet-bombing entire areas – bombing in a country that they don’t have any UN mandate to be doing so,” she said.

Beeley expressed the belief that the US-led coalition is bombing Raqqa “frantically” because “there’s something that they want to hide or destroy before it’s discovered by the advancing Syrian army.”

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Soros ‘mafia state’ speech a declaration of war – Hungarian PM Orban

Soros 'mafia state' speech a declaration of war – Hungarian PM Orban
The war of words between George Soros and Hungarian PM Viktor Orban is threatening to boil over after the billionaire philanthropist claimed Hungary is a ‘mafia state’ posing as a democracy.

“He [Orban] sought to frame his policies as a personal conflict between the two of us and has made me the target of his unrelenting propaganda campaign,” the Hungarian-born American financier said during his keynote address at the annual economic forum of the European Commission Thursday.

The speech was Soros’ first public comment in response to a controversial bill proposed in April which threatens to close his Central European University.

“[Orban] cast himself in the role of the defender of Hungarian sovereignty and me as a shady currency speculator who uses his money to flood Europe — particularly his native Hungary — with illegal immigrants as part of some vague but nefarious plot,” he added.

Orban did not take such accusations lightly, however, and fired back at Soros Friday.

‘Like being accused of murder while victim is alive’: fights accusations over university https://on.rt.com/8a1s 

Photo published for ‘Like being accused of murder while victim is alive’: Orban fights accusations over Soros univers...

‘Like being accused of murder while victim is alive’: Orban fights accusations over Soros univers…

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has called allegations he wants to close a university funded by US billionaire George Soros unfounded, as the EU opened a legal case against Hungary over a…

rt.com

“This is a declaration of war, no doubt,” Orban told state radio Friday, as cited by Reuters. “The only network which operates in mafia ways, which is not transparent… in Hungary is the Soros network.”

“This is why we must insist, and I personally insist on having a parliament decision on making these organizations transparent,” Orban added.

Soros founded the Central European University (CEU) in 1991 as an independent American academic institution in Hungary. However, the bill introduced by the Hungarian parliament in April would force the university’s closure as it does not have a physical campus in the United States. The move was seen by some as an attempt to limit free speech and liberal values in the country.

70k rally against new Hungarian govt rules targeting Soros-funded college
DETAILS: https://on.rt.com/88fu 

During his speech, Soros praised the tens of thousands of people who marched in protests across Hungary in April while decrying “the deception and corruption of the mafia state the Orban regime has established.”

The European Commission began ‘legal action’ against the Hungarian government in April and the European Parliament voted to introduce penalties against the Hungarian government for a breach of EU values. With all sides refusing to stand down, discussion reached a dead end.

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo broke the legal deadlock last week, however, when he said in a statement that New York, where the CEU is registered, would be open to negotiations on the matter, with the Hungarian government reciprocating by opening a dialogue with the European Commission.

Soros also railed against Poland’s ruling party for its similar treatment of NGOs while describing the EU as “cumbersome, slow-moving” and in need of a “radical” reinvention.

“This is difficult to achieve when two countries, Poland and Hungary, are conspiring to oppose it,” Soros said. “It will require resolute action by European institutions and the active engagement of civil society.”

“Democracy cannot be imposed from the outside; it needs to be asserted and defended by the people themselves,” he added.

George Soros and Viktor Orbán go to war in Budapest (Op-Edge) https://on.rt.com/88bq 

Photo published for George Soros and Viktor Orbán go to war in Budapest  — RT Op-Edge

George Soros and Viktor Orbán go to war in Budapest  — RT Op-Edge

Hungary’s pressure on George Soros’ Budapest university is about more than the future of one school. It’s part of an ideological battle which will dominate European and North American discourse in…

rt.com

In his annual state of the nation address in February, Orban pushed back against foreign-funded institutions operating in Hungary and throughout the European Union.

“Here there are large predators swimming in the water, and this is the transnational empire of George Soros,” Orban said, adding that Soros-funded organizations “are working to bring hundreds of thousands of migrants into Europe.”

In 2015, Orban described Soros as “the strongest example of those who support anything that weakens nation states, they support everything that changes the traditional European lifestyle,” in an interview on public radio Kossuth.

“These activists who support immigrants inadvertently become part of this international human-smuggling network.”

The Hungarian parliament is expected to pass the controversial bill later this month despite widespread condemnation from activists and politicians and a resolution passed in the European Parliament which condemned the “serious deterioration” in the rule of law and human rights in Hungary.

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