Millions of Syrians have fled to Idlib Province seeking safety. During a rare reporting trip, The Times found that President Bashar al-Assad and his Russian allies are still bombing them.
Wash your hands. Wear a mask. Keep your distance. Those are the rules. But when even adults struggle...how do you convince school kids? Critics say authorities haven't come up with consistent strategies to protect schoolchildren. The coronavirus pandemic closed German schools in March, then came the summer break. Now, some have reopened. But the process has not been without controversy and setbacks: a few schools have already closed again after COVID-19 cases were found. What's more important? Educating kids or keeping everyone healthy? Or can we do both? A new fire broke out on Wednesday night at Greece's largest refugee camp just a day after blazes forced thousands of refugees to flee the facility. The fires erupted in parts of the camp that had not caught fire on Tuesday night.
Greek authorities have launched an investigation to determine who started the blazes after local media reports suggested migrants had done so to protest lockdown measures enacted to contain a coronavirus outbreak at the camp.
Greek Migration Minister Notis Mitarachi backed those allegations, saying that although the initial cause of the blazes remain unknown, "what is certain is that the fire was started because of the quarantine by asylum seekers in the facility."
But critics have also taken aim at Greek authorities as well as the EU for failing to find a sustainable solution for dealing with Greece's overcrowded migration facilities. Prior to the fires, the Moria refugee camp hosted more than 12,000 people, four times more than its maximum intended capacity.
Erik Marquardt, a Member of the European Parliament (MEP) with Germany's Greens, told DW that the fire represented a "political disaster" for Europe for failing to better manage the 2015 migration crisis. The Canada Revenue Agency reported in August that 11,200 user accounts were affected by cyberattacks. The Treasury Board of Canada now says it found suspicious activities on more than 48,000 accounts.
»» The talk in the Middle East these days is of "normalisation" - between Gulf states and Israel. However, the media push to normalise normalisation started before the deals were signed and is likely to go on for a while.
Maryam al-Khawaja - Bahraini human rights activist
Iyad el-Baghdadi - Founder, Arab Tyrant Manual; President, Kawaakibi Foundation
Ayala Panievsky, Media researcher; University of Cambridge
Hussein Ibish - Arab Gulf States Institute
On our radar
In the United States, an affiliate of the Al Jazeera Network - AJ+ - is ordered to register as a foreign agent. Meenakshi Ravi speaks to producer Nic Muirhead about the impact.
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They have reported on mounting crises, a chronically corrupt government, a collapsing state - and then came the explosion. What is it like to be a journalist in Lebanon today?
Idlib Province, in the northwest corner of Syria, is home to one of the biggest displacement crises in the world. In March, a small window between a cease-fire and the start of the coronavirus pandemic, gave us a rare chance to see what was happening on the ground. We found a landscape battered by airstrikes, and people with nowhere left to hide — indiscriminately bombed in tents, schools and on the road. Among them are Rawda al-Bakour and her family, who fled their home to this poultry farm. But moving here didn’t spare them from the bombs. Even as families began to flee in March 2019, at the start of a new offensive to retake Idlib, Syrian and Russian warplanes bombed them scores of times, killing around 200 people. Two of the worst strikes were in Maarat Misrin, a town near the front line of this conflict, now in its 10th year. Like the rest of Idlib, it’s a mix of rebels and jihadists, overworked doctors and people trying to survive. On Feb. 25, the neighborhoods surrounding the town’s hospital came under attack, including a school across the street. It was hosting dozens of displaced families when an explosion sprayed shrapnel across the courtyard. Fadila Zarifa is a nurse who treated the wounded. Nine days later, on March 5, there would be another attack in Maarat Misrin. This one on the poultry farm, where Rawda al-Bakour’s family had taken up home. It was just after 2 a.m. when a warplane made its first strike on the isolated farm around a mile outside town. Over the radio, flight observers warned rescuers that a Russian warplane was circling overhead. Rawda’s wasn’t the only family that had found shelter on the farm. One of their neighbors, Salem Qteish, was trapped under rubble by the first strike. Rescuers pulled Salem’s brother, Muhammad, out from the rubble. Salem and his brother were badly wounded. Salem’s mother, father and two daughters didn’t make it. Sixteen people were killed, and around 35 wounded. The Times has documented 33 airstrikes on displaced people in northwest Syria since March 2019, when the offensive began. But the actual number of attacks is probably much higher. Around 1,800 civilians in the northwest have been killed in the past year, in shelling and airstrikes. [explosion] “That was definitely Syrian.” “As long as it missed us.” Only Syrian and Russian jets are bombing these parts of Idlib. It’s an attempt to retake the last pocket of opposition to President Bashar al-Assad. Indiscriminate and reckless bombing like this may be a war crime. But just hours after the strike on the poultry farm on March 5, it was Russia and Turkey, which keeps hundreds of troops in Idlib, signing a cease-fire in Moscow. That cease-fire has held, but it’s not a solution for millions of displaced families. Formal and informal camps here have swelled. And families are living in packed tents without running water, health care or reliable food. They’re an indefinitely displaced population, unable to flee any farther. And if the cease-fire breaks, under siege again. Rawda’s family still lives where they were bombed.