Tag Archives: Mediterranean

Russia to hold major drills in Mediterranean off Syria as UN warns of 'perfect storm'

Russia to hold major drills in Mediterranean off Syria as UN warns of 'perfect storm'Russia has announced it will hold a week-long military drill in the Mediterranean off the coast of Syria, as the UN warned a “perfect storm” was brewing in the battle for the country’s last rebel stronghold. Moscow’s defence ministry said it will deploy 25 ships, including a Marshall Ustinov missile cruiser, and 30 jets for the exercises, which would focus on anti-air and anti-submarine defence. The armada is the biggest task force sent by President Vladimir Putin’s government since Russia’s intervention in the Syrian conflict in 2015. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the drills were justified by the situation around the Idlib, the northwestern province where Syrian and allied Russian forces are expected to soon launch an offensive. "The situation in Syria has the significant potential of exacerbating,” Mr Peskov said. “Nothing good can come out of this terrorist hotbed that formed there, if no one acts. So tightened security measures are totally justified and reasonable.” Syrian army soldier stands at a check-point as Russian military police vehicle, right, passes by near the village of Almajdiyeh, Syria, Credit: AP The manoeuvring in the Mediterranean came as Russia accused Britain and the US of preparing a “false-flag” chemical attack in Idlib to frame the Syrian government and justify a a Western attack on its forces. Russian embassies and a network of Kremlin-owned media outlets have been pushing stories of potential chemical attacks as part of a large-scale disinformation campaign. The Russian newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets said the buildup was connected to the prospect of an attack by the US, which last week sent guided-missile destroyer USS Ross to the eastern Mediterranean. Nato has expressed concern about the naval manoeuvering. Civil defense members carry out search and rescue works after the airstrikes in Idlib province Credit: Anadolu "We will not speculate on the intention of the Russian fleet, but it is important that all actors in the region exercise restraint and refrain from worsening an already disastrous humanitarian situation in Syria," said Oana Lungescu, Nato’s chief spokeswoman. Government forces have been massing around Idlib for days and looked poised to launch what could be the last major battle of the seven-year civil war. Some 2.7 million people are living in Idlib under the control of several thousand jihadists and other more moderate rebels. A major military operation would pose a particular humanitarian nightmare because there is no opposition territory left in Syria where people could be evacuated to and the country’s border with Turkey has been closed. 'There is a perfect storm based on warnings, counter-warnings (from the US and Russia)," said Staffan de Mistura, UN envoy to Syria. "There is no other Idlib," he added, stressing the need to ensure civilians can evacuate to nearby areas under government control, with guarantees their rights will be respected once they get there. "It would be a tragic irony frankly if at almost the end of… a territorial war inside Syria, we would be witnessing the most horrific tragedy to the largest number of civilians." Mr de Mistura offered to personally travel to Idlib to help ensure civilians can leave through a humanitarian corridor, though did not say to which safe area they would lead.  Syrian onlookers gather around rescue teams clearing the rubble in the morning of April 10, 2018 at the site of an explosion in the northwestern city of Idlib.  Credit: AFP The envoy said there were an estimated 10,000 al-Qaeda and affiliated fighters in Idlib, along with their families. The most powerful of them, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), appeared to leave the door open to a negotiated settlement on Thursday during last-ditch talks. "We in HTS are striving to find an effective solution in the liberated Syrian north that would protect our people from a possible offensive by the criminal regime and its allies," read a statement published on its propaganda agency Ibaa. Turkey, which backs the Syrian opposition, has been in talks with Russia and Iran to prevent an offensive, which it fears would send millions more refugees its way. Russia, in return, has demanded that Ankara remove all al-Qaeda elements, such as HTS, before any deal is made. While Turkey actively sponsors rebel forces in Idlib, its influence over HTS is less clear and experts warned the chances of success were slim.



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Spain will accept disputed migrant rescue boat 'running out of provisions' in Mediterranean 

Spain will accept disputed migrant rescue boat 'running out of provisions' in Mediterranean A rescue boat stranded in the middle of the Mediterranean with more than 600 asylum seekers on board could head for the city of Valencia after Spain said it will accept the ship.  The crew of the Aquarius boat had said it had food and water for just two to three days, amid a tense standoff between Malta and Italy. Rome and Valletta have both refused to accept the Aquarius, which was left in limbo between Sicily and Malta until the Spanish prime minister’s office said it would be accepted by Valencia. The Aquarius, operated by the humanitarian organisation Medecins Sans Frontieres, has 629 migrants on board after carrying out a series of rescues off the coast of Libya at the weekend. They include 123 unaccompanied minors, 11 younger children and seven pregnant women. The number of migrants on board is well over the ship’s capacity of 550 people. Migrants are rescued by crew members of the Aquarius search and rescue ship in the central Mediterranean Sea Credit: Karpov/Reuters Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, who took office just over a week ago, has given instructions for the boat to be admitted to the eastern port of Valencia, his office said in a statement on Monday afternoon. If the Aquarius began to run out of food, water or medicines, Italy could have sent vessels from Sicily, 35 nautical miles away, to replenish supplies. Map: Asylum seeker boat stranded off Italy Many of the adults on board, particularly the men, have scars and injuries from having been beaten or tortured in Libya, where migrants are routinely subjected to shocking human rights abuses, the crew said. Others are suffering from burns caused by the noxious mix of petrol and seawater that often sloshes around in the bottom of the rubber boats in which the migrants are packed. “All the migrants are exhausted and dehydrated,” Dr Beversluis told La Repubblica newspaper. Life jackets are handed out to migrants as they are rescued on Saturday by the crew of the MV Aquarius Credit: Karpov/Reuters The closure of Italy’s ports to the Aquarius was announced on Sunday by Matteo Salvini, the interior minister, who is also the leader of the hard-Right League party. He has long called for “the business of clandestine migration” to be shut down and has accused NGOs of operating a “taxi service” that brings largely economic migrants, rather than refugees, from Libya to Italy. He posted a photo of himself in Twitter, staring at the camera with his arms crossed, under the hashtag #chiudiamoiporti – “We’re closing the ports”. #chiudiamoiportipic.twitter.com/TusUnoHUiw— Matteo Salvini (@matteosalvinimi) June 10, 2018 He said Italy would deny permission to a second NGO vessel, with hundreds more migrants on board. "Today the Sea Watch 3 ship of a German NGO flying a Dutch flag is off the Libyan coast waiting to take on the umpteenth load of immigrants to bring to Italy again," Mr Salvini wrote on Twitter. "Italy has stopped bowing its head and obeying, this time there is someone who says no.” A file photo of the rescue vessel MV Aquarius, taken 24 nautical miles off the Libyan coast Credit: Louisa Gouliamaki/AFP Giuseppe Conte, Italy’s new prime minister, said that the country had once again been abandoned by the rest of the EU and left in “total isolation”. The government accused Malta of having refused to accept boatloads of migrants for years, instead palming off the responsibility to Italy. The migrants were rescued by the Aquarius, which is operated by the Medecins Sans Frontieres and Sos Mediterranee charities Credit: Karpov/SOS MEDITERRANEE But the mayors of several Italian port cities, including Palermo, Naples, Reggio Calabria and Messina, said they were ready to defy the government and accept the migrants. “We’ve always welcomed rescue boats and ships who saved lives at sea. We will not stop now,” said Leoluca Orlando, the mayor of Palermo in Sicily. “Salvini…has once again shown that we are under an extreme far-Right government.’’ Macron Africa migration plan In reality, however, the mayors would need the cooperation of the Italian coast guard and other national authorities in order to accept the stranded migrants. MSF called for a swift end to the crisis and a safe port in which to disembark the migrants. The charity retweeted a video on Twitter of migrants praying onboard. Las mujeres, al despertarse, rezan. 'All I have to say: thank you, God' ( Sólo puedo dar gracias a Dios). #aquarius@MSF_Sea@rnepic.twitter.com/gtlIx5mx4n— SaraAlonsoEsparza (@SAlonsoEsparza) June 11, 2018 As they woke up on Monday morning they began to ask the crew why the ship was no longer moving. “All 629 people rescued in Mediterranean are unaware of ongoing diplomatic standoff,” MSF tweeted on Monday.



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A Planner's Guide to the Mediterranean Diet

A Planner's Guide to the Mediterranean Diet2018 might well be dubbed the year of the Mediterranean diet. Not only did it tie for the best overall diet in the U.S. News Best Diets rankings in January, but this year also marks the Mediterranean diet pyramid’s 25th anniversary. Beyond being linked to a host of powerful health benefits including a reduction in heart disease risk, potential weight loss, improved brain health and longevity, much of the eating pattern’s staying power can be attributed to its flexibility — there aren’t entire food groups excluded, and followers don’t calorie count or track macros.



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Putin says Russian frigates in Mediterranean on standby over Syria threat

Putin says Russian frigates in Mediterranean on standby over Syria threatRussian President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday that Russian military vessels with Kalibr cruise missiles would be on permanent standby in the Mediterranean to counter what he said was the terrorist threat in Syria. The deployment shows how Russia has increased its military presence in the Middle East since it launched an intervention in Syria in 2015, turning the tide of the civil war in favor of its close ally, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Russia has in the past fired Kalibr cruise missiles from frigates and submarines stationed in the Mediterranean Sea at militant targets to support Syrian army offensives.



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U.S. Navy jets begin sorties against IS in Syria from Mediterranean

U.S. Navy jets begin sorties against IS in Syria from MediterraneanBy Karolina Tagaris ABOARD USS HARRY S. TRUMAN (Reuters) – A U.S. naval strike force led by aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman began sorties on May 3 against Islamic State in Syria, continuing missions by a U.S.-led coalition against the militants. The force joined the U.S. Sixth Fleet on April 18, nearly a week after the United States, Britain and France launched air strikes targeting what Western powers said were Syrian chemical weapons installations. The Navy said it was a scheduled deployment to support coalition partners, NATO allies and U.S. national security interests.



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Mount Etna slowly 'sliding towards the Mediterranean Sea'  

Mount Etna slowly 'sliding towards the Mediterranean Sea'  Mount Etna, Europe’s largest and most active volcano, is slowly sliding towards the Mediterranean Sea, scientists have observed. The entire 3,350m (11,000ft) stratovolcano, located on the east coast of the Italian island of Sicily, is currently moving downslope at an average rate of 14 mm per year – or 1.4 metres over 100 years. Experts have warned the sliding could eventually lead to greater risk of large scale slope failure, which could trigger landslides, however researchers at The Open University emphasised there is currently no sign of that happening. Dr John Murray, lead author of the paper published in the Bulletin of Volcanology, stressed the minute movement currently posed no danger to life, but warned that monitoring the volcano for more significant changes was crucial. “At the moment there is no cause for concern from the sliding of the volcano towards the sea, the movement is just too small,” Dr Murray told The Telegraph. “However, the possibility of things changing in the future needs to be taken seriously, so it is important to keep monitoring the movement.” At a glance | Deadliest volcanic eruptions The UK-led team, who monitored the changes using GPS technology placed around the mountain, found the sliding is lubricated by the weak sediments beneath Etna and the slope of the basement. Dr Murray, who has been working for 49 years studying the active volcanoes of Mount Etna, said if a sector collapse were to occur, the results could be “catastrophic”. “Around one million people live on Etna and its immediate surroundings, so the destruction of property and loss of life could be catastrophic; but I cannot emphasise enough that there is no sign of this happening at the present time,” he explained. “Clearly even the mention of such a dangerous event would be very unnerving for the people who live on Etna, so I am anxious that they don't get the wrong impression.” At a glance | Where are the world's most famous volcanoes? It is the first time basement sliding of an entire active volcano has been directly observed, with the team suggesting that similar edging may be taking place at other active volcanoes such as Mexico’s Volcán de Colima and Mount Teide in Tenerife. Dr Murray said he did not expect the rate of movement to increase, but added: “I regard it as essential to keep measuring our stations, and will be on the lookout for any kind of change in rate of downslope sliding.”



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Two Men Are Accused of Smuggling After 26 Girls Were Found Dead in the Mediterranean

Two Men Are Accused of Smuggling After 26 Girls Were Found Dead in the MediterraneanSome of the dead were as young as 14



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Bodies Of 26 Female Teenage Migrants Found In The Mediterranean

Bodies Of 26 Female Teenage Migrants Found In The MediterraneanThe latest search and rescue operation in the stretch of sea separating Libya and Italy highlights some of the brutal treatment that female refugees and migrants are subjected to.



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Rohingya refugees overtake 2016 Mediterranean migrant numbers in ‘unprecedented’ humanitarian crisis

Rohingya refugees overtake 2016 Mediterranean migrant numbers in ‘unprecedented’ humanitarian crisisThe mass exodus of Rohingya Muslims fleeing Burma in just under three weeks is now triple the number of refugees who have tried to enter Europe across the Mediterranean so far this year, leaving aid agencies overwhelmed by the crisis. An estimated 370,000 have escaped from Burma’s northern Rakhine state to overcrowded Bangladeshi refugee camps since August 25, compared to 128,012 people seeking to cross the Mediterranean since January. International organizations have reported claims of human rights violations and summary executions allegedly carried out by the Myanmar army Credit: EPA Burma’s government has admitted that 176 out of 471 ethnic Rohingya villages are now empty.  Antonio Guterres, UN secretary-general,on Wednesday called on authorities in Burma to end the violence against the Rohingya and acknowledged the situation there is best described as ethnic cleansing. Many of the Rohingya fleeing the violence in Myanmar had travelled by boat to find refuge in neighbouring Bangladesh Credit: EPA The humanitarian situation in Burma was "catastrophic," Mr Guterres said, and called on all countries to do what they could to supply aid. The Burmese government said on Wednesday its leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, will skip next week's UN General Assembly meetings, and give a domestic speech to address the crisis, amid growing international outrage at her refusal to condemn the killings.  Rohingyas have said their homes were set on fire and family members shot, slashed or burned to death. “This is the fastest growing refugee crisis in the past five years, with serious human rights concerns,” a UNHCR spokesperson told the Telegraph. Chris Lom, a UN aid worker in Cox’s Bazar, on the frontline of the humanitarian disaster, said people were “very vulnerable, traumatised,” while relief agencies struggled. “UN agencies and the government were expecting the possibility that as many as 100,000 more people could come across when there were already 600,000 Rohingyas in Bangladesh,” he told UN News. Rohingya refugees carry an old man towards the shore of Naf river as people arrive by boats, in Teknaf, Bangladesh Credit: EPA "But I don’t think anyone expected a mass exodus like this, unprecedented in terms of value and speed,” he said. On Wednesday one Red Cross mobile medical team at the makeshift Balukhali camp managed to treat 100 people suffering from diarrhoea, old bullet wounds and burns before its supplies ran out. “No-one expected this explosion of people, and there is unfathomable need. It is beyond the capacity of international actors to scale up this fast,” said Misada Saif of the International Committee of the Red Cross. Isolated rural locations with narrow, muddy roads, made worse by heavy rains and throngs of displaced people present major obstacles to supplying aid. Increasingly desperate refugees, weak from hunger, are clambering onto the few trucks that do get through, trying to claim whatever supplies they can, causing fights to break out. Roland Oliphant: The scale of the Rohingya crisis 'is mindblowing' 00:56 Aid that arrived by air earlier this week would not cover a tenth of refugee needs, said officials, estimating the relief effort would cost at least $ 77m [£58m]. Children being brought to an Action Against Hunger centre are being increasingly diagnosed as malnourished. One mother, Rozia Begum, arrived with her four infant children, after travelling for four days. “I had nothing to give my children, who were so hungry and thirsty they were crying. All I could do was give them river water to drink, even though I knew it was dirty and might make them sick,” she said. Children 'burned alive' say Rohingya refugees 01:48 Another woman, Sara Khatun, grieving the murder of her husband and daughter, said she had been so desperate for food that she had eaten tree bark. The scale of the humanitarian crisis has led to comparisons with the Rwandan exodus of 1994 when over two million people fled to neighbouring countries after a brutal genocide. Nigeria’s government on Tuesday expressed “deep regret” at the “horrendous human suffering” of the Rohingya, adding that it was “very reminiscent of what happened in Rwanda in 1994 and in Bosnia Herzegovina in 1995.” Meanwhile, terrorist group Al Qaeda issued a statement warning Burma it would face “punishment” for its “crimes”, calling for Muslims across the region to help secure Rohingya rights “by force.”



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Rescue on the Mediterranean: suffering, death and hope

Rescue on the Mediterranean: suffering, death and hopeBy Darrin Zammit Lupi ABOARD THE PHOENIX, OFF THE LIBYAN COAST (Reuters) – Reuters photographer Darrin Zammit Lupi has been on the Phoenix, a migrant rescue ship in the Mediterranean operated by MOAS, a Malta-based NGO, since April 1. From Good Friday to Easter Sunday, I experienced those raw emotions aboard a migrant rescue ship. All in a day’s work for the crew of the Phoenix, one of the rescue ships plying the waters of the southern Mediterranean trying to make the sea less of a cemetery.



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