Kabul, March 3 (Xinhua/UNB) - At least 20 people were killed and many others went missing after flash floods hit Afghanistan's southern province of Kandahar, authorities said Sunday.
Triggered by the heavy rain, the floods have killed 20 people, including a number of children, when their homes collapsed or the vehicles they were travelling in were swept away since early Friday, UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Afghanistan said in a statement.
Houses and infrastructure have been damaged or destroyed, the statement said, adding "Provincial Disaster Management Committee convened an initial meeting, and rapid assessment teams have been deployed. At least 10 people, including children, are still missing."
The Afghan officials and UN agencies are still working to find the full extent of needs for the victims, the statement added.
While heavy snow hit most parts of the country, floods also damaged dozens of houses and shops in western provinces over the period, according to officials.
Beijing, Mar 3 (AP/UNB) — In an unusual step, China's ceremonial legislature is due to endorse a law meant to help end a bruising tariff war with Washington by discouraging officials from pressuring foreign companies to hand over technology.
The battle with China's biggest trading partner is overshadowing the National People's Congress, the country's highest-profile event of the year. It brings 3,000-plus delegates to the ornate Great Hall of the People in Beijing for two weeks of speeches, meetings with senior leaders and political ritual to endorse the ruling Communist Party's economic and social welfare plans.
A gathering of noncommunist groups held at the same time brightens Beijing's drab winter, drawing tech billionaires, movie stars and ethnic minorities in distinctive traditional dress.
That gives President Xi Jinping's government a platform for advertising changes aimed at ending the fight with President Donald Trump that has disrupted trade in goods from soybeans to medical equipment.
The technology measure is part of a proposed law on foreign investment that aims to address complaints by Washington, Europe and other trading partners that China's system is rigged against foreign companies.
Trump cited complaints Beijing steals or pressures companies to hand over technology when he slapped punitive tariffs on $250 billion of Chinese imports in July. Europe, Japan and other trading partners disapprove of the tariff hikes but echo U.S. complaints.
China has balked at changing its strategy for nurturing technologies that American officials worry might challenge U.S. industrial dominance. But communist leaders face pressure to reach a settlement after economic growth sagged to a three-decade low of 6.6 percent last year.
On the domestic front, companies and investors are hoping officials announce details of how Beijing will carry out promises to curb the dominance of state industry and support entrepreneurs who generate much of China's new jobs and wealth. They are looking for details of a promised cut of up to 1.3 trillion yuan ($200 billion) in value-added and other taxes.
The congress opens Tuesday with an annual "work report" on government plans by Premier Li Keqiang, the No. 2 ruling party leader behind Xi and China's top economic official.
State media have cited other potential topics including revising China's patent law — another source of foreign complaints — and measures to encourage foreign investment in agriculture and technology and developing free-trade zones.
Chinese officials deny Beijing steals or pressures companies to hand over trade secrets and technology. But they are trying to mollify Trump and other governments by promising better legal protections.
"I think the (American and European) complaints have been reflected in the revision of the law," said Citigroup economist Li-Gang Liu.
Under the proposed law, officials would be barred from using "administrative methods to force technology transfers."
The chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce in China, Tim Stratford, called the measure a "step forward." But business groups say they need to see how it will be enforced.
It was unclear whether the vaguely worded measure would appease Trump. The American Embassy in Beijing said it had no comment.
Companies have been disappointed in the past after "hearing positive words," said Stratford, a former deputy U.S. trade representative.
The European Union Chamber of Commerce in China said the law's "vague language" gives regulators too much discretion. The focus on "administrative methods" would leave officials free to use other pressure tactics, it said.
The state press has cited other potential topics including revising China's patent law — another source of foreign complaints — and measures to encourage foreign investment in agriculture and technology and developing free-trade zones.
United Nations, March 2 (Xinhua/UNB) - More than two million boys and girls are currently out of school in Syria, people's resources are depleting, and more than eight in ten people live below the poverty line, the UN Humanitarian Needs Overview for Syria said on Friday.
Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, told reporters at a regular briefing that the 2019 overview is a reminder that the crisis is far from over for millions of people in Syria who have lived through eight years of war.
More than 11 million people remain in need of some form of assistance, including for food, health care, shelter, water, sanitation, hygiene and even their livelihood, Dujarric said.
"The UN and its partners are appealing for continued donor support to support the critical life-saving, protection and livelihood needs of over 11 million people," Dujarric said.
"Displacement continues to be a defining feature of the crisis, with an estimated 6.2 million people who are internally displaced," Dujarric said.
Syria, Mar 2 (AP/UNB) — U.S.-backed Syrian forces on Friday resumed military operations to liberate the last piece of territory held by the Islamic state group in Syria after evacuating thousands of civilians and hostages who have been besieged inside, a spokesman said.
Mustafa Bali said fighters from the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces have begun clashing with the militants and advancing after the last batch of civilians left the territory.
"Those left inside are fighters who do not wish to surrender," he told The Associated Press.
The military campaign to uproot the militants from the eastern banks of the Euphrates River began in September, pushing them down toward this last corner in the village of Baghouz, near the Iraqi border. The military operation was halted on February 12 as the SDF said a large of civilians and hostages were holed up in the territory, which sits atop caves and tunnels where they had been hiding.
The remaining speck of IS-controlled land in Baghouz village is also along the Euphrates from one side and the desert near the Iraqi border from the other. Thousands of civilians were living in a tent encampment and houses along the riverside.
Over the last two weeks, thousands of civilians have been evacuated, many of them women and children in desperate conditions. The only aid group at the evacuation site, the Free Burma Rangers, estimated that at least 10,000 civilians have left the IS pocket since Feb. 20, in trips organized by the SDF.
The evacuees, who included IS family members, said food was running low and clean water and medicine were scarce. Despite its demise, many defended what remained of the group's territorial hold, which once spanned a third of Iraq and Syria.
As they trickled out, SDF and coalition officials screened them. Women and children were transferred to camps miles away. Men suspected of links to the militant group were taken into custody at other facilities.
U.S. President Donald Trump said Thursday that IS has lost "100 percent" of the territory it once controlled in Syria, but officials estimate there are hundreds of militants left in the small patch of territory in Baghouz, and that they will likely fight till the end.
Bali would not speculate on how long the military operation might take but said he expects a "fierce battle."
He said the battles are expected to take place in a very small area that includes a complex network of tunnels, as well as suicide bombers and land mines.
"The battle to finish off what is left Daesh has started," said SDF commander Adnan Afrin, using the Arabic acronym for IS.
Afrin said he expects "resistance" from the remaining fighters who are likely to deploy all their weapons, including suicide bombers.
He said most of the remaining fighters are Europeans, Asian, Iraqi and Arabs from the area.
On Friday, the smallest batch of evacuees, just over 200, came out of the pocket in around six trucks used to transport sheep. About 10 trucks sent to the perimeter of the IS pocket came back empty, and drivers said no more evacuees came out after hours of waiting.
The evacuees Friday included wounded men but were mostly women and children. There were Russians, Indonesians, Bosnians, Dagestani, Kazaks, Egyptians, Syrians and Iraqis. They dragged along few belongings, distraught children and broken spirits.
Umm Mohammed — or mother of Mohammed — a 38-year-old Syrian, left Baghouz with her three children Friday but her husband stayed behind in support of IS. "There are many fighters and families inside," she said. "The Islamic State is weak only in Baghouz but elsewhere it is expanding and growing."
The capture of the last pocket still held by IS fighters in Baghouz would mark the end of a devastating four-year global campaign to end the extremist group's hold on territory in Syria and Iraq — their so-called "caliphate" that at the height of the group's power in 2014 controlled nearly a third of both Iraq and Syria.
It would allow U.S. President Donald Trump to begin withdrawing the estimated 2,000 U.S. troops from Syria, as he declared in December he would do. Though last week he partially reversed course and agreed to keep a residual force of perhaps a few hundred troops as part of an international effort to stabilize northeastern Syria.
The resumption of military operations against IS breaks a dayslong standoff while the civilians were being evacuated. In the last week alone, 13,000 people, most of them women and children, arrived at the al-Hol camp in Hassakeh province which now houses approximately 45,000 people, according to the United Nations.
In a statement Friday, the U.N. cited reports that more than 84 people, two thirds of them young children under five years of age, have died since December on their way to al-Hol camp after fleeing the extremist group in Syria's Deir el-Zour province.
"Many of the arrivals are exhausted, hungry and sick," according to Jens Laerke, spokesman of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, at a news briefing in Geneva.
Syria, Mar 2 (AP/UNB) —Syrian activists and a war monitor say at least seven people have been killed in a suicide bombing inside a restaurant in the northwestern city of Idlib.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says a suicide bomber detonated his explosives at a city restaurant after opening fire on those inside, killing eight people, including six jihadists. The Idlib Media Center said the explosion killed seven people.
Thursday's explosion is the latest in a string of bombings in Idlib where lawlessness is rampant. Idlib is the last major rebel stronghold in Syria, controlled by the al-Qaida-linked Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, or Levant Liberation Committee.
The city has been hit with blasts over the past months that have killed and wounded scores of people.
A spokesman for U.S.-backed forces in Syria says the group is resuming military operations against Islamic State militants holed up in their last pocket of territory in eastern Syria.
Mustafa Bali, spokesman for the group known as the Syrian Democratic Forces, says the operations to liberate the village of Baghouz resumed Friday evening after all civilians were evacuated and hostages that were kidnapped by IS were freed.
"Only terrorists are left in Baghouz," Bali said in a tweet.
Officials estimate there are hundreds of IS militants in the small patch of territory in Baghouz that sits atop caves and tunnels. The military operation was halted last month to allow for the evacuation of civilians. In the last week alone, 13,000 people left the territory, according to the United Nations.
More civilians evacuated from the last territory held by the Islamic State group in eastern Syria Friday, amid a warning by the United Nations about the plight of thousands who have fled the area in recent weeks.
In a statement, the U.N. cited reports that more than 84 people, two thirds of them young children under five years of age, have died since December on their way to al-Hol camp in northeastern Syria after fleeing the extremist group in Syria's Deir el-Zour province.
In the last week alone, it said, some 13,000 people have arrived at al-Hol camp.
"Many of the arrivals are exhausted, hungry and sick," said Jens Laerke, spokesman of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), at a news briefing in Geneva.