syrian rebels fight back after a major government offensive south of damascus. hello. this it al jazeera live from doha. also coming up, al jazeera meets some of the thousands of members of minority communities who fled from i.s.i.l.-controlled areas in iraq. a vote for peace counting gets underway in car.
and new zealand's biggest city welcoming in the new year, one of the first for 2016 rebel forces in syria fighting back against government forces in the south of the country. these pictures are said to show the aftermath of an attack on an army tank. it is the first government offensive in southern syria since the strikes began three years ago. we haven't been able to verify these pictures. >> reporter: the fighting has been the heaviest since the rebels took control of the area four years ago. government troops backed by russian fighter jets are flying
now to claim some of the territory which has been under the control of the rebels. we understand from different sources that the rebels have called for general eau mobilization. they are asking for different factions in the north and the west to come to the defense. there are different factions operating in the last few years. al-nusra front, which is an al-qaeda, another backed by the western allies, and there are different other groups. the problems that these groups have been fighting for a bigger say here, but they do understand now that if they lose the area, that could be the beginning of their decline in the whole area which has been the focal point or the birth place of the bashar al-assad. all sources tell al jazeera that this fight is a critical one and there is absolutely no way for the opposition to lose it because if they do that could be the beginning of the end
russian forces have carried out more than five thousand air strikes since september targeting various groups. they had been losing front from the rebels. a direct threat to the stronghold of latakia. that is when russia's campaign began to push rebels back in latakia and the provinces of aleppo and ham ma. regime forces have made gains in the eastern capital. it is said those strikes have killed more than 2300 people. it is said more than a third of those killed were civilians, including 180 children. russia has described the allegations as absurd. a retired lebanese army general. thanks for being with us. how much territory have bashar al-assad's forces been able to take since the rival of russian air strikes in syria?
>> i think that the russian rival is like game changer. it added more military assets, more air power, more intelligence. since we know earlier when president al-assad in his speech said he doesn't have enough personnel in order to fight. accordingly, the russians are here trying to limit the spill over or spill back of the regime, in idlib first, and secondly in homas, and then in the northern parts. it is like air base in aleppo. however, if you look from above to this map, it is in the periphery, it is fought in the periphery of i.s.i.l. at the same time it is fought in the periphery array gym area towards this area.
lightly-- regime area that particular battle, the russians are involved in that. the correspondent is saying the rebels cannot lose control of it. why is it so significant to both sides? >> historically speaking, for syria the southern part, including the area now, it is the center of gravity where they used to fight israel. the center for the regime is in the south. if you take that area and you relate it to abadani, it is trying to make like a buffer zone in order to protect the scheme. here comes the role of alhuta, where zahran alloush was killed. the regime is trying to create much depth in order to recreate
this buffer. this area - they will protect the military base. it is so close, in addition to this it is very close to the m5, the strategic highway. it is really considered in the periphery and reshaping the situation. however, the regime has really achieved a lot of things. they are tactical in nature, but if you add all these practical issues, it will create with the long-term like strategic effect forces have been held by the fracturing of the rebels. we're looking at various different groups battling for control. what are the chances of those rebels uniting to take on the bashar al-assad forces? >> the time as one of the - as one of the rebels said, the time is in their favor. there is a high degree of attrition. when you say that, the regime
has really gained territory, all you say that the rebels has gained territory or victory, the measure of victory in this is difficult to measure. it is like surviving in order to fight another day. it happened elsewhere and it is happening now. the most important issue for the regime is the fighting in the southern area, because the dynamics are different there. you have the free syrian army, al-nusra and you have the rebels that really may be accepted in the long-term political process in the future. so maybe they are the main competitor for the regime you for that. hospitals in the yemeni city of thies are on the verge of shutting down. they don't have enough supplies.
rob matheson has the report. >> reporter: at the closing of the year no let up in the fighting in yemen. houthi rebels fire shells at a hospital killing a child. hospitals are on the front line in the battle between the rebels and supporters of the internationally recognised government. medical staff are struggling to cope. they're pleading for more oxygen supplies. without them they say medical care will suffocate. >> translation: we are protesting today because we are no longer able to save our patients. they arrive injured but we cannot help them. there is no oxygen or surgery equipment. >> reporter: people with family and friends being treated in the hospital are having to bring in their own oxygen bottles. >> translation: i had to get it from outside the hospital because none are available here. >> reporter: the united nations says more than 21 million yemenis need humanitarian aid. that's roughly 80% of the
population. aid agencies say houthi fighters are not allowing that through. some aid is being provided by saudi arabia which has led a coalition fighting the houthi rebels. both sides have been criticized for the number of civilians killed and injured in bombing campaigns. saudi arabia says its humanitarian convoys are being targeted. >> there are attacks on some of ours and other organizations. people are attacking the humanitarians. we are telling all those people you are violating international law. >> reporter: the patients here are unlikely to care where the aid comes from, just as long as it comes. rob matheson belgium police have arrested a tents person in connection with november's paris attacks which killed 130 people. the police say 22-year-old
belgium man is accused in participating in a so-called trow arist group. it follows the cancellation of fireworks due to security threats. at least 24 people have died after four days of heavy rain new zealand the u.s. states of missouri and illinois. hundreds of people have been moved from their homes. waters rose rapidly in the mississippi river. the national guard has been called in to help. further south a latin american nations are experiencing their worst flooding. more than 100,000 people have been displaced due to the el nino weather pattern. >> reporter: people fleeing the floods caused by the el nino phenomenon. scenes like these are repeated themselves all around south america. areas of argentina, par gay, brazil and uruagay have been
destroyed by the water. over 160,000 people have been forced to flee. paraguay has been the hardest hit with almost 100,000 people forced out of their homes near the capital. >> translation: this is how we pass the time. the street is dangerous because of traffic. >> reporter: this area has now been affected. the residents in the amazon say they're afraid. >> translation: it has been raining too much. there's too much water. it has rained here so much it's scary. only god knows what he is doing. it is raining too much >> reporter: el nino is driven by a warm surface water in the eastern pacific ocean. it generates climate fluctuations. n.a.s.a. says el nino is still building and it could even rival the record weather effects of 1997. with conditions set to worsen, aid organizations warn that this
el nino could leave millions of people exposed to disease and hunger coming up here on al jazeera, we will be taking a look at the gender imbalance that could have a major consequence for india's future. ndia's future. when you're on hold, your business is on hold. that's why comcast business doesn't leave you there. when you call, a small business expert will answer you in about 30 seconds.
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brazil and the yemeni city are shutting down. doctors and nurses protested after a hospital refused to take on any more patients. 24 people have died after days of heavy rates in missouri and illinois. hundreds of people have been moved from their homes. iraq's government says the battle to retake ramadi from i.s.i.l. has destroyed 80% of the city. the government claimed control of central parts on sunday, but i.s.i.l. remains entrenched in certain districts. now the prime minister is promising to turn his attention to mosul which was also taken by i.s.i.l. last year. hundreds of thousands are estimated to have been displaced in the country's second largest city. many have escaped to er bill. >> reporter: his holidays haven't been the same for the
last two years since he lost his arms in a car bomb explosion in mosul. it is hard he says to learn to write with the other hand. that's why he goes to a class for younger students. the family left their home when i.s.i.l. arrived when chris tense were told to pay awe any tax. they left 20 kilometres away. when i.s.i.l. left that town town, they left that one too. >> translation: my family and i can't celebrate. my son lost his arm, my brother is missing. i.s.i.l. took him as a prisoner. it is very hard to feel happy when your loved ones are missing. >> reporter: more than 50,000 families here are from mosul. although they have been welcomed in, they still miss their homes. they are living so close to the front lines of i.s.i.l. locally known as d.a.e.s.h.
this man is a priest who was also forced to leave his home in mosul. >> translation: we like to give our people hope. we all believe that god is always with us. i.s.i.l. is close to where we are. insist a threat for not only christians but muslims. >> reporter: every year the congregation at this church grows with more displaced christians joining in. many still hold on to the one thing they can, hope. >> and i everybody hope to return to our home. >> translation: we want to go back to our lives and go back home to peace and safety. >> reporter: as the politicians search for a solution to the conflict, in areas like this just out of the reach of i.s.i.l. fighters, christians have fled and the local people who have sheltered them can only wish that the coming year will
be better than the last one votes are being counted in car. a landmark presidential and parliamentary vote passed without major violence. many are hoping it will mark an end to the conflict that has killed it tens of thousands people. turn out was high. no irregularity has been reported. tania page reports from the capital of bangui. >> reporter: the police are here to make sure people feel safe. security is fight. this is a muslim enclave. the officers' presence is reassuring. they say if they dare to leave the area they could be killed. >> translation: we want a president so we can live in peace, so we can walk and go wherever we want, to leave this neighborhood. we are stuck here like prisoners. we can go anywhere and feel good, we will sleep well and we won't hear gun shots any more if
we get a good president. >> reporter: they're voting to start over. many have lived in fear since abuses against civilians in the overthrow of the president francios bozize. neighbors turned on neighbors. this man is a christian. he left pk5 when the violence was at its worst. although things are better now he still lives in a camp. >> translation: with the muslims we have been together since we were young. i have decided to come back to vote in my neighbourhood so that muslims and christians can than together. >> reporter: last week a leader dropped his call for an autonomous state. security has been improving. during the referendum this was where there was a gun battle between hard liners within the community and u.n. peacekeepers. the fighters were trying to
intimidate people from voting. we're told some of those who were shooting then are now voting. >> reporter: but there were problems. this man has been told he can't vote because he is not on the list. >> translation: voting is a duty. i want to do it but i cannot. i'm not happy. one voice can mean a lot. >> reporter: there were delays at polling stations and in two parts of the state it was cancelled because there was no material >> what the people want is a new way of handling this country. what i'm hearing is equity, rule of law, democracy. they want the leaders to be accountable. >> reporter: whoever wins has a huge task to mend divided communities and build a united country. expectations are high and there is hope that the mistrust and violence is behind them. tania page. al jazeera.
bangui the nigerian government says it is ready to negotiate with boko haram for the release of nearly 200 school girls missing for almost a year. talks will only happen if credible leaders of the group are identified. the girls were taken in april last year. the international criminal tribunal for rwanda officially closes on thursday. it was set up to prosecute those suspected of involvement in the 1994 genocide, but some of the courts indictees are still on the run as malcolm web reports. >> reporter: these men say they killed dozens of their neighbours. they all spent years in prison for it. it was during the rwanda's 1994 genocide and they all say the mayor here at the time organized the killings in this area. >> translation: i killed because he had already filled our hearts with hate and if you refused to kill, he ordered others to kill you. >> reporter: after more than 20 years on the run, the mayor was
arrested earlier this month in neighbouring democratic republic of congo. he was flown to the capital. the u.n. international criminal tribunal for rwanda had indicted him in 1996. in 1994 thousands of toutsies fleeing violence had gathered around this church for safety. the mayor ordered villagers to kill them all. there is a memorial next to it. here are some clothes of the people who were killed here. over on this side some of their skulls and other human remains and here some of the weapons that were used to kill them. the indictment says that the mayor oversaw the killing of thousands of his country men and also rape and sexual violence against women. >> reporter: the tribunal indicted him sat in neighbouring tanzania. it sentenced genocide suspects since 1994. it is now closing.
cri the rwanda defeated the militia that were involved in the genocide but u.n. investigators say it also massacred houthis >> those killings are in no way equivalent to the genocide and should not be compared to it, but nevertheless those were war crimes and crimes against humanity that fell squarely within the rehit of the ictr. >> reporter: it denies its army did not commit atrocities. >> i do not believe in this idea that both sides should count in the question of canned rwanda and the ictr. the ictr was established to deal with people who committed genocide. i believe they have enough job to do. >> reporter: the rwandan government criticized it for being slow and expensive and the people on the run, if caught,
will have to be tried elsewhere. the mayor may be tried here at the supreme court but only if he is extradited. rights groups say rwandan trials are only sometimes fair. the killing of hundreds of thousands in rwanda led to a regional conflict in which millions died in the democratic republic of congo. few have faced trial. the utcr was unprecedented and it did bring some justice to some of the victims. malcolm web web hundreds of children are believed to be stranded at a refugee camp in calais in northern france. a british rights group is saying little is being done to help them. e.u. rules are being broken. lawrence lee went to calais to meet some of the stranded youngsters. >> reporter: this camp has grown and grown this year. in the chaos of life here are any number of children who ended up raising themselves in this
brutal place. through an turbt 16-year-old described how he had fled from syria with his mother but separated in turkey she got to the u.k. as a refugee and he hasn't seen her in 15 months. >> translation: what can i tell you. i can't find the words. it is a disaster. >> reporter: sayed also from syria lost his older brothers even before they reached turkey. now they too are in britain. he is 16 as well and he made the entire refugee journey alone. >> translation: it is not a good place. there is nothing for me here. it is horrible. >> reporter: what these young men have in common, what it seems hundreds of others here too, is what should be an exit route out of all this. the so-called dublin regulation is supposed to mean that a refugee can claim asylum in the first european country that they
enter. there's another part of the dublin regulation that is absolutely crucial for children living here in the camp in calais because it says that if those children have a family member already living inside the e.u., then they can claim asylum in that country. the u.k. government had argued that the dublin regulation meant children would have to stay in the first e.u. country that they went to. a court has over ruled them. that should mean the u.k. authorities having to mean the children be matched with their parents. this volunteer has found 200 children that fit the profile. >> the consequence is that children are being forced into the hands of traffickers and forksd to jump on trains and jump in lorrys which is extremely dangerous and some of them are dying. >> reporter: every month that passes is another one lost.
children here have families just an hour away by train and the law says that they are entitled to be with them. but this is calais and normal rules do not apply. lawrence lee. in calais it appears that cultural traditions in india are continuing to contribute to the country's declining sex ratio. there are now only 918 girls for every 1000 boys in the country. that is down from 927 girls in 2001 and 976 in 1961. india's genderer imbalance has been fuelled by a preference in many families to have boys. it is said it is not just a cultural issue. >> i think that it is time for us to wake up and realise that the policy measures being applied to supposedly improve the issue of sex ratio issue are
not working and those policies are themselves flawed because they are infected by the patriarchal kinking and by a resistance to really identify the source of the problem. the source of the problem lies in the fact we can't just talk about it as though it's a cultural problem. we can't just have big programs saying have daughters, please have daughters and so on, and not recognise the fact that governments are not cracking down on the medical fraternity and the medical industry that encourages sex selection, that allows sex selection. they're turning a blind eye to that. the third thing to realise is that families as well as the state and market all of them are relying on the control of girls and the control of wives, the control of women within families. the entire economy is depending on that. that is why they're so reluctant to challenge it. if you were really to strengthen
women's position in society as well as inside society to assert themselves against sex selection, that would make a difference. that would also upset a whole lot of other apple carts which are relying on this kind of surveillance and control of women china has defended its decision not to renew press credentials for a french journalist, effectively expelling her from the country. ursula gauthier says it is in response to a story she wrote about crack downs about the muslim community. she believes the chinese government didn't read the article before refusing to renew her parliamentary. the government says she should apologise for her reports. >> translation: first of all, china has come in contact with all correspondents on a daily basis. i think that the journalist ursula gauthier, if she recognises her mistake, she should apologise voluntarily instead of being asked to people around the world are