Today, the top United Nations human rights official declared that the targeting of eastern Aleppo in Syria constituted war crimes rarely seen before. "The violations and abuses suffered by people across the country, including the siege and bombardment of eastern Aleppo, are simply not tragedies; they also constitute crimes of historic proportions," Zeid Ra'ad al Hussein told the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.
Although we've all heard of the horrors of the Syrian war where President Bashar al-Assad with the help of Russia is fighting rebel groups, we rarely catch a glimpse of the war's striking complexity. Reporting for French newspaper Le Figaro, Georges Malbrunot, offers us a rare on-the-ground view of what's happening in Aleppo, in an article that will be published tomorrow in English on Worldcrunch.
Malbrunot visits the Bustan al-Qasr neighborhood, which divides government-controlled western Aleppo from the eastern part of the city held by rebels, and describes stark differences between the two sides. "In Bustan al-Qasr, the only things the two sides exchange are hostages and dead bodies. On the regime-controlled side, people are still alive as reflected by the clothes drying on balconies. On the rebel side, which holds the Citadel of Aleppo, the few humanitarian volunteers who have been able to enter the area share stories of a lifeless scenery dotted with snipers watching from what's left of local homes," the journalist notes.
"Civilians in eastern Aleppo are paying the heaviest price for Russian airstrikes. More than 350 people have been killed over the past month," Malbrunot writes, adding that a rebel killed a 15-year-old girl in Bustan al-Qasr just hours before he got there. Even as defenders of human rights make strongly-worded speeches in Switzerland, this report is a reminder that a war is claiming lives by the hour in Syria.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR TODAY (& WEEKEND)
- After lashing Philippines, Typhoon Haima heads toward southern China.
- Lady Gaga drops her fifth studio album, Joanne.
- Bill Murray to receive the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor (Sunday).
ISIS ATTACKS KIRKUK
ISIS militants have raided government buildings, killing at least 11 people in and around the oil-rich Iraqi city of Kirkuk, even as Iraqi and Kurdish forces continue their offensive to retake Mosul, Al Jazeera reports.
WALLONIA BLOCKS EU-CANADA TRADE DEAL
Negotiations for the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement with Canada were stalled late Thursday by Belgium's regional government of Wallonia, local daily La Libre reports. Failure to complete the deal would be a significant blow to Europe's credibility as a trading partner on the international stage, financial news website MarketWatch writes.
— ON THIS DAY
Oct. 21, 1879: Thomas Edison invents the light bulb.
Oct. 21, 1980: Kim Kardashian is born.
Coincidence? Discover the truth in today's 57-second shot of history.
"I announce my separation from the United States," Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said yesterday during a visit to Beijing, in what CNN calls the latest sign of his "pivot away from the U.S. and toward China."
NEW BATCH OF WIKILEAKS EMAILS
WikiLeaks dropped a new batch of Podesta emails last night, allegedly obtained from a secret address used by President Barack Obama prior to his 2008 election.
Unlike the ethnic Uighurs, the Hui are a much more assimilated Muslim minority, which gives them more religious freedom, Cyrille Pluyette writes from Linxia for French daily Le Figaro. "Linxia city has more than 80 mosques for some 250,000 people. â€˜We are perfectly free to practice our religion. The mosque is open 24/7, the faithful can come in and pray at any time,' says Ye Wenxin, Yihewani's imam, or ahong to use the Chinese term.
Ye sits in a dark office inside the mosque filled with books. Unlike the Uighurs, the Hui increasingly make pilgrimages to the Islamic holy city of Mecca and can celebrate important religious dates. Hui civil servants are allowed to fast at Ramadan and women can wear Islamic headscarves."
Read the full article, In China, Hui Muslims Enjoy Rare Religious Freedom.
SOUTH AFRICA WITHDRAWS FROM COURT
South Africa has formally notified the UN that it wants to withdraw from the International Criminal Court. Read more about it from the BBC.
QUAKE JOLTS JAPAN
A 6.2-magnitude earthquake rocked western Japan this morning, the Japan Meteorological Agency reports. No casualties have been reported yet and no tsunami warning was issued, though strong aftershocks are expected in the coming days.
SOUTH KOREA CORRUPTION SCANDAL
Two of South Korean President Park Geun-hye's closest advisors have been accused of using their influence to coerce big conglomerates into making multimillion-dollar donations to non-profit foundations. The allegations represent "the biggest political crisis of the president's career," writes the Financial Times.
— MY GRAND-PERE'S WORLD
The Condor Offer — Arequipa, 1996
MORE STORIES, EXCLUSIVELY IN ENGLISH BY WORLDCRUNCH
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Remember the failed "restoration" of a 19th-century mural of Jesus Christ in Spain four years ago? Well this replacement head for a statue of baby Jesus in Canada may actually be worse.