zika causing birth defects. fighting for an apology. the women who were sex slaves to japan soldiers in the second world war. first, activists say syrian government forces have retaken one of the most important towns in the south of the country. it is on a key supply line linking the capital and the city of deraa. it is close to jordan and there are a number of highways crossing through the area. >> reporter: the syrian flag flys again here. it has taken the army to retake this town in the south-western province of deraa. military forces entered after
securing supply lines. battles are reported to be continuing on the outskirts. the importance of the town conditioned be understated. government forces had given up how much of this territory until russian armed forces began their military campaign last september. their intervention has been seen as a game changer. >> things have turned around 180 degrees in the regime since the russians came in. just last summer the al-nusra front, the al-qaeda affiliate, were making gains in the province. now there's this significant reversal which will affect the rebel logistics. >> reporter: russian jets have carried out thousands of missions helping the syrian government regain control of the territory nationwide. it has just recaptured the town
of rabia in the northern province of latakia. the bombardment has been criticized for being indiscriminate. i.s.i.l. and other armed groups are being targeted. some human rights groups say the air strikes have killed more civilians than fighters. gerald tan meanwhile diplomatic efforts continue ahead of friday's indirect talks to syria for which invitations are likely to be sent out in the coming hours. james bays is here. before we talk about who is likely to be in geneva and invited, tell us about what is happening on the ground and the retaking of this important town is impacting efforts to get the warring sides to talk. >> reporter: it will certainly be causing concern here at the united nations. we've seen quite a bit of fighting, not just in the last few hours, but in the last few
weeks. it is a pattern that we've seen over the last five years of the war in syria. when there is talk, diplomatic talk, there is often a last-minute grab to try and get land before the talks start. remember, that if these talks start on friday, the u.n. envoy has said one of the first things he wants to discuss is the possibility of ceasefire. if there is a ceasefire, that stops things in the conflict, increases where it is. if you were on the ground and you were a million free commander on the ground, you would like to take some ground before there is a ceasefire. that, i think, explains why there is an increase of military activity as there has been and was two years ago before the talks that took place last time, failed talks last time, here in geneva the overall picture is that since the air strikes in october the regime has been shored up on
several fronts. does this mean the regime is in a stronger negotiating position now when they head to geneva? >> reporter: yes. i think militarily they were in a stronger place than they were two years ago and certainly a lot stronger than where they were one year ago. certainly since the end of the summer and the russian intervention, that has happened the government in damascus, but remember what this is supposed to be about, if eventually all of the sides come here, and the key fighting groups, which haven't yet decided whether to join these talks on friday, if they come here as well, is to come up with a transitional government in syria, something that is made up of some members of the current government and some members of the opposition that rule syria for 18 months leading to elections. i don't think that is necessarily what the government in damascus wants because,
clearly, opposition commentator yous you would speak to say it would mean president bashar al-assad wouldn't have much of a role or any role at all in the end, by the end of that 18 months because all of the opposition that he shouldn't have a role one final question before we let you go. do we know, then, when do we find out who is going to be attending these talks in geneva and who does each side want represented there? >> reporter: we're going to find out who is invited in the coming hours in geneva because the invitations are being sent out today, tuesday, from geneva by the envoy. he says he wants the broadest spectrum possible of the opposition at the talks. that is angering those that gathered in saudi arabia, the
opposition groups, because under the so-called vienna process of international countries and regional countries who gather together to get these talks going, it was going to be saudi arabia that was coming up with a list of opposition. moscow didn't like the saudi list and mr mistura has listened and brought in a wider list. it's not clear that they were on the saudi group, and an important decision we need to hear in the coming hours thank you for that. in other world news the w.h.o. is warning the zika virus could spread to almost every country in the americas. scientists are investigating a suspected link between the mosquito born illness and birth defects in thousands of babies in brazil. the u.s. government is warning pregnant women against visiting zika hot spots.
>> reporter: it all started last may with brz brazil's first case of the virus. even calling in the army couldn't stop it infecting 1.5 million people. it is spread by a specific kind of mosquito and is not normally life-threatening for adults, but doctors think it also causes microcephaly, a condition in which new borns heads and brains don't develop. they noticed a massive surge in the illness after zika arrived. the link between the two hasn't been definitively proven, but now slavld, eqador and colombia have taken the extraordinary step of advising women against getting pregnant in the immediate future - el salvador. some cases have issued warnings on travel to hot spots >> we are concerned about the potential compligss of the
foetus of the zika virus in pregnant women. we are advising pregnant women consider postponing travel to these areas if possible. >> reporter: according to the world health organisation there is 21 countries across the americas already with cases of zika. they say that it will probably spread to every country in the region except chile and canada who don't have the type of mosquitos that carry the virus. currently there's no vaccine or cure. >> reporter: mexico is also fumigating public spaces and houses in the south to try and get ahead of the virus. >> you will not stop the virus. we haven't been able to stop dengue or chickengunya which are caused by the same mosquito. we have to go to the breeding place and avoid being bitten. how? using long sleeve, pants and repellant. >> reporter: all this just months away from the brazil olympics where a huge influx of
visitors will also be vulnerable to the apparent threat of this virus malaysia's prime minister has been cleared of wrongdoing. more than 680 million dollars was transferred to his private account in 2013. the attorney-general says it was a personal donation from the vau deroyal family and most of it was later returned. however, more than 60 million dollars remains unaccounted for. >> reporter: various media outlets here in malaysia has been speculating as to what the conclusion of the attorney-general's report would be into his vision over allegations of corruption made against the prime minister. those allegations have been put to one side by his statement at a press conference on tuesday saying that the prime minister had done no wrong and that there
were no reasons for anyone to think that the prime minister had done anything corrupt and that the donation of over 600 million dollars was made by sources within the saudi royal family. the actual scenario now leads to as many questions as it does solutions. there will be questions within his own party as to what has happened to the money, and should it go into party coughers, about his-- coffers and whether he should stay in the party. this will not lie. they will completely or continue to hammer the ruling party as this country heads towards a general election within the next two years. do they want to allow the prime minister to step aside and allow a new face to take control and lead it into the next election. perhaps they will be answered
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it is on a key supply line linking the capital and the city of deraa. the world health organisation is warning that zika could spread to almost every country in the americas. scientists are investigating a suspected link between the illness and birth defects in thousands of babies in brazil. malaysia's prime minister has been cleared of wrongdoing in a long-running corruption scandal. the attorney-general says more than 680 million dollars transferred to his account was a personal donation from a saudi royal family and most of it was returned. more on our top story and the reported gains by the syrian government forces in their continued defensive against rebels. joining us is a retired lebanese army general and a strategic analyst. he is live from beirut. thank you for being on al jazeera. what is the significance of the
retating of the area just retaken, especially at this time when peace talks are about to happen. this is an important town for both sides, isn't it? >> first of all, we have to say that the taking over of sheikh space area is a tactical success, based of that city which is between deraa and damascus and the control cross-roa cross-roads. it is a road for opposition forces in the eastern side of damascus. this is a strategic point of view. tactical point of view, taken over the area after one month of
fighting by the army is really important because it's very difficult for any army to fight in a populated area, and especially inside the city. for one month the syrian army was fighting, but, of course, we have to remember that the russian air strike support were very decisive and important role in this military success you believe that the russian air strikes were-- >> we saw that-- sorry to interrupt you. it is important to understand that these air strikes have been very decisive. >> of course. before the russian intervention, the syrian army was a very, very difficult position, was in bad
shape, and talking about personnel and morale and weapons, russian intervention created a new era. within 100 days we saw dramatically change on the battle field and the syrian army under air support and military support also. beside their support because the russian, they gave new weapons and mission to the syrian army and et cetera, et cetera. we saw different places especially taken over. on many fronts talking, that front which was for six months or at least one year almost without any important fighting,
for one month the syrian army did decide to launch an offensive and for weeks. we saw today that had been taken. why? time is running out. everybody knows that everybody is going to geneva three and ahead of this month's, 29 i believe, and the syrian regime supported by the russian air strike and military support knows that they have to be in a strong position. very strong we talked about the russian support, but what about the support from the iranian troops or hezbollah fighters. how much of that has there been
for the bashar al-assad forces? >> of course. they did not interfere on the land, but iranians and hezbollah, they played a very important role to support the syrian army especially on latakia and elsewhere because it is very difficult mountains, very difficult for any army to make any success there. they have been there for three yea years. the i.s.i.l. and the militia, you know, it's very important for warfare. hezbollah and the iranians, they are making real warfare against fighters who are there. also they are very qualified. they indoctrinated, but the syrian army could not make any
success on the battle field without the support of the hezbollah and iranian. of course, this is on the land. also in addition with the russian air support, that's explain why they make success in many places thank you so much for taking your time to speak to us the emperor of japan is making an historic visit to the philippines. diplomatic relations were restored 60 years ago but there has been no apology to filipino women who were forced to be sex slaves. >> reporter: fighting for justice, these women have kept silent most of their lives. traumatised and ashamed of being forced into sex slavery by the japanese imperial army during
world war ii. this woman is nearly 90 years old. she clearly recalls the day she was abducted. >> translation: one japanese soldier started to rape me while the other two held my arms and legs down. when he was done the other one starred. even though i was screaming because of the pain my body was in, they they kept at it. >> reporter: she is one of almost 200 film piano women who first came forward 25 years ago. they say they were kept as sex slaves in so-called comfort stations to service imperial japanese soldiers. they're waiting to be recognised officially and offered an apology by japan. >> reporter: the emimportanter will be here for five days, but his view on sex slaves is not up for discussion. a 550 million reparation agreement was signed in 1996.
the philippine considers the matter closed. >> reporter: japan has become the largest aid donor to the philippines. now with mutual concerns over china's intentions in the region, the two countries are strengthening their cooperation. that could see japanese forces back in the philippines >> i think the government has not done too much for the comfort women. they're so dependant on the economic situation. unfortunately, that relegates this aspect of history to the back door. >> reporter: women like this woman don't want to be cast aside. >> translation: no matter how hard it is for me, i am still here just to ask for a due for what was done to us by the government of japan. >> reporter: every year there
are fewer of them left, but beyond compensation they long for an official apology from the japanese government. only then, they say, can they start to reclaim the dignity taken from them 75 years ago in the high lands of nepal the village is near the epicenter of the earthquake in april and almost destroyed. people want to build on firmer foundations. >> reporter: this man has come from the united kingdom to repair his house here in the foothills of the himalayas. he is a soldier from the british army and has been living in britain for almost two decades. >> this was built by my forth. it is time to come around to sort out all the areas down here. >> reporter: like most people
here, he does not want to do too much right now. >> the government is planning to plant proper building, houses, everything here. so i'm waiting until that come out. i'm not going to do anything. >> reporter: waiting nor the government to act is not something that they usually like to do. for generations men have joined the british army. they say they don't need the government or ngos to come and rebuild their homes. what they do want is designs for earthquake resistant homes so that they can go ahead and rebuild their lives. back in october the national planning commission said it had drawn up designs for earthquake resistant houses, but the people here say they are still waiting for the details. making the best of a bad situation locals here have decided to go ahead with some basic improvements to their village.
roads have been widened. people say they need skilled help, not other forms of charity. >> translation: right after the quake we need ed blankets and everything. we are waiting. if people give charity to us all the time, we will get spoilt. if people want to help, they can give us building materials. we don't have enough human resources, carpenters, masons. we need to build. instead of charity we want to receive training. men and women are both ready for training. >> reporter: villagers here have been to the lock authority to push for action. even though they have been given assurances, they say not much has happened since. without guidance they're moving forward to rebuild their homes
as best they can for now iran's president is meeting pope francis in a few hours time on his second visit to italy. he is on his first tour since sanctions were lifted this month. he is expected to sign deals worth up to 18 billion dollars. >> reporter: the iranian delegation including around 100 business leaders dashes through the streets of rome towards the italian presidency. this is the prime minister's first trip to europe since sanctions were lifted a week ago. he chose to make rome rather than paris his first designation. italian companies have fought off fierce competition to clinch contracts with iran. these are among the first deals to be signed, an indication--
we interrupt that report to take you live to moscow where the russian foreign minister is holding a press conference. he is talking about the situation in syria right now. let's listen in. >> translation: we want the resolution of this which is very important. we want honest detailed reports about who and how - the allegations. it is clear that terrorists. measures - non-good admission by the terrorists of, of economic infrastructure has the e.u. has done in iraq and syria. they supply, smuggled oil and other smuggled goods to turkey.
it's important to think about the economic situation of the countries who suffered after the terrorist threat is stopped and supported to ideology. in september russia was the - the council. we had some sessions and dedicated to the analysis of the measures which should be taken into account in the region of the recent times. it was an interesting discussion and i think this discussion how to act, not just strategically, but in a comprehensive way. it is important to continue this discussion in the u.s. security council. they're actively contributed, as we did that's the russian foreign
minister speaking in moscow right now talking about the situation in syria. he says that russian action in syria drastically altered the situation. this is after we heard in the last few on hours that the russian hair strikes helped force $retake sheikh maskin in the south. dad. >> plane crashes. one-year-old. disorder. >> what is the number one cause of death for police officers in the country? >> suicide. >> it's policy with most departments workers comp to deny any kind of a stress claim. >> post-traumatic stress disorder drove me to become a mental case. >> what is the reluctance to rtionz this.