Syrians cheer on rescue efforts after the earthquake

Search for survivors of the 2011 earthquake in Turkey: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s visit to the city of Kahramanmaras

The window for finding survivors from the earthquake that hit Turkey and Syria was closing Thursday as rescue workers continued their search.

The magnitude 7.8 earthquake that took place in southern Turkey and collapsed several buildings is considered the most destructive earthquake in a decade. There was a disaster in Japan in 2011 that killed more than 20,000 people.

On Wednesday, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited Kahramanmaras, a city near the epicenter of the quake, telling survivors that “we are face to face with a great disaster.” The rescue response to the earthquake has been slow and there were shortfalls by the government. The president cited the destroyed infrastructure and winter weather as complicating factors.

“I know my son is inside and I think he’s still alive. She told NPR that his brother dug with his hands to find him. After diggers tore down the remains of the building, rescuers found the body of Sedat and wrapped it in a blanket for his mother to say goodbye.

The Syrian crisis is not over: Countering extremism and terroristism in the region of the largest victims of the earthquake hit on Monday

Millions living in the rebel-held areas of northern Syria were already suffering from the effects of extreme poverty and a cholera outbreak when the quake hit. Many of them are fighting for themselves.

In contrast to Turkey, where 70 countries and 14 international organizations have immediately offered teams of rescuers, donations and aid as of Thursday, UN groups have only been able to send two convoys since Monday.

Turkey’s emergency management agency, AFAD, reports it has set up more than 70,000 tents for emergency shelter to the more than 380,000 people who have been temporarily displaced by this disaster.

Editor’s Note: A version of this story appears in today’s Meanwhile in the Middle East newsletter, CNN’s three-times-a-week look inside the region’s biggest stories. Sign up here.

Syrian victims of the devastating earthquake that hit their country and Turkey on Monday may become hostages of the politics that have divided Syria for over a decade, analysts have warned.

“The Assad regime has systematically siphoned off aid and/or blocked it from reaching non-regime areas (in the past),” tweeted Mai El-Sadany, a Washington-based human rights lawyer and managing editor at the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy. “The international community must urgently find ways to ensure that emergency assistance and support reaches the people of northwest Syria.”

Turkey is a NATO member whose international stature has only grown in recent years. Syria, on the other hand, is ruled by a myriad of disparate groups. Its regime, internationally sidelined and heavily sanctioned due to its brutal suppression of an uprising there that started in 2011, counts Iran and Russia as its closest allies – both global pariahs.

Most Western countries don’t like the Syrian regime. As regional states welcome him back into the fold, leader Bashar al-Assad has begun forging ties with his former enemies. Last year, the United Arab Emirates welcomed Assad in Abu Dhabi, and last month Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that the pair may soon meet for peace talks.

“It’s still an active conflict zone, the Syrian crisis is far from over,” said Charles Lister, senior fellow and director of the Syria and Countering Terrorism & Extremism program at the Middle East Institute in Washington, DC. There is a complicated set up of the UN aid mission.

Activists fear that the regime could hamper aid to people in rebel-held areas, where many are women and children, according to the UN.

In northwest Syria, where the UN says more than 4.1 million people already depend on humanitarian aid, a political and military standoff between Assad and opposition forces is only expected to stifle international assistance.

“We are exploring all avenues to reach people in need and conducting assessments on feasibility,” Madevi Sun-Suon, a spokesperson for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance (OCHA), told CNN on Tuesday. “We do have aid but this road issue is a big challenge as of now.”

The Syrian regime has also used the opportunity to call for sanctions against it to be lifted. Its UN envoy Sabbagh said on Tuesday that planes refused to land at Syrian airports because of American and European sanctions. He said that the countries who want to send humanitarian assistance cannot use the airplane cargo because of the sanctions.

In November, a UN-appointed human rights expert called for the immediate lifting of unilateral sanctions against Syria, saying they are exacerbating the destruction and trauma suffered by ordinary citizens there.

“It would be quite ironic, if not even counterproductive, for us to reach out to a government that has brutalized its people over the course of a dozen years now – gassing them, slaughtering them, being responsible for much of the suffering that they have endured,” US State Department spokesperson Ned Price told a media briefing on Monday.

“It’s a very convenient time for the regime to be making that argument because if sanctions were dropped, the ramifications of the much broader geopolitical situation would be game changing,” said Lister.

A thaw in relations between two Gulf states after the Arab boycott of Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the UK and Egypt: The announcement of an Iran-based underground base

The announcement comes less than a week after a missile attack on an Iranian military plant that US media outlets attributed to Israel. IRNA reported that the new underground base was one the country’s most important air force bases, built deep underground, housing fighters equipped with long-range cruise missiles.

The Prime Minister of Sweden, Ulf Kristersson, said on Tuesday that he was ready to restart the negotiations over NATO membership if Turkey were to reject it.

Turkey has yet to approve NATO membership applications from Sweden and Finn because most other member states have already done so. It was last week that Turkey stated that it supports both Sweden andFinland’s applications, but it did not support Turkey’s own application.

Why it matters: The three nations last year reached an agreement on a way forward, but Ankara suspended talks last month as tensions rose following protests in Stockholm, where a far-right politician burned a copy of the Quran. Turkey goes to elections in May.

Why it matters: The move is related to an apparent thaw in relations. Bahrain’s crown prince spoke with Qatar’s emir in a phone call last month, in a sign the two Gulf states could move towards repairing relations two years after the Arab boycott was lifted. After attending a small Arab summit hosted by the U.A.’s president in Abu Dhabi the emir and king ofBahrain talked.

The three year political and economic boycott ofQatar was ended by Saudi Arabia, the US, the UK and Egypt on January 31, 2021. There have been no bilateral talks between the two countries to resolve remaining differences. All but Bahrain restored travel and trade links in 2021.


The Quran, Twitter, and AlMosahf (The Quran): The Pursuit of the Closing of Musk’s Twitter Account

AlMosahf (The Quran), an account that tweeted snippets from the Islamic holy book, had more than 13 million followers before Twitter took action against it.

One user said he didn’t believe Musk violated the rules because his statements were from the Holy Quran. We demand the lifting of the suspension of this account.”

Not all users were upset with the suspension. Some decried the account’s use of incomplete Quranic verses that they said are taken out of context and thus change the meaning of the text.

The account owner appears to run sister accounts in English, French and German, on which it posts translations of Quranic verses. The original account has been the subject of campaigning by another account that shows Quranic videos.

Rescue crews braved freezing temperatures to pull bodies from the rubble of thousands of buildings that have toppled throughout southern Turkey and northern Syria. The 72 hour mark after the magnitude 7.8 earthquake has now passed and experts say that is when most survivors will be found.

“Allahu akbar,” a cry of reconciliation for God is Great, reminds NPR of the tragic earthquake in Syria’s northern hemisphere

Istanbul’s stock exchange closed until Feb. 15 after initial trading showed rapid declines, triggering a circuit breaker when declines reached 7%. Inflation was so out of control that the Turkish economy was already reeling from.

The crowd chants “Allahu akbar,” Arabic for God is Great. In rebel-held northwestern Syria, civil defense groups and volunteers pull a child out of the rubble.

NPR was able to talk to her on the phone. He spoke from Jinderes, a part of Syria’s Aleppo province that’s under opposition control. He said countless buildings there have collapsed. There are people waiting in the cold for help. Aftershocks have made buildings still standing unlivable.

“Humanitarian aid and international aid haven’t appeared 72 hours after the catastrophic earthquake,” he said, describing the little help that is trickling into the region as a haphazard grassroots effort by individual groups.

Civil defense groups are carrying out the rescue efforts and people are trying to help. “Everyone’s waiting for international rescue and aid just to be able to process what’s happened, this catastrophe.”

Local authorities say 11,000 families in the rebel-held part of Syria are now homeless after the quake. According to the United Nations, there have been as many as 2,000 deaths and thousands of injuries.

Rescue efforts continue as untold others remain trapped under the rubble. Stories of miraculous rescues, like that of a baby girl born under the rubble, are a bullhorn for what’s at stake.

“The situation remains grim in north-west Syria where only five percent of reported sites are being covered by search and rescue,” the U.N.’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said in a report.

The situation is particularly dire in northwestern Syria, with little heavy machinery to lift rubble, which is why people are digging with their hands. Power outages have resulted in fuel shortages in hospitals.

Assad’s visit to Syria during the February 8 earthquake: “We don’t care about the human condition”, says Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad

There is a humanitarian aid corridor between Turkey and Syria via the Bab al-Hawa crossing.

Freezing temperatures: The scale of the challenge is amplified by the fact that affected areas in both Turkey and Syria are facing colder than normal temperatures. For example, the Syrian city of Aleppo is forecast to have lows of -3°C to -2°C (27°F to 28°F) through this weekend, whereas February low are normally 2.5°C (36°F).

Standing near a building destroyed by the earthquake, Assad told reporters that Western countries “have no regard for the human condition.” This comment is similar to statements made by the government officials and the state-run media, who have claimed that the lack of humanitarian aid is down to US and EU sanctions.

Assad and his wife, Asma, visited different sites affected by the earthquake and visited survivors at a hospital in Aleppo, pictures on state-run news agency SANA showed.

There has been a conflict between the opposition and Assad’s government since the start of the year that has made it hard to deliver vital supplies to the quake-hit areas. Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad says any aid it receives must go through the capital Damascus.

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