Amidst reports of misuse of consumer data, a powerful Congressional committee has summoned the CEOs of top three social media platforms: Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, Indian-American Sunder Pichai of Google, and Jack Dorsey of Twitter for a hearing on data privacy.
The hearing by the Senate Judiciary Committee has been scheduled for April 10.
In a statement, Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley said Zuckerberg has been invited to discuss the company’s past and future policies regarding the protection and monitoring of consumer data.
The hearing will broadly cover privacy standards for the collection, retention and dissemination of consumer data for commercial use.
“It will also examine how such data may be misused or improperly transferred and what steps companies like Facebook can take to better protect personal information of users and ensure more transparency in the process,” a media statement said.
Grassley also invited Pichai and Dorsey to discuss the future of data privacy in the social media industry and how to develop “rules of the road” that encourage companies to develop tailored approaches to privacy that satisfy consumer expectations while maintaining incentives for innovation.
Senator Mark Warner also sought answers from these social media companies on data protection.
“I celebrate the success of Facebook, Google & Twitter; but with their power comes responsibility that they must acknowledge. This isn’t a Russia problem. If we value civic discourse and fair elections, they have to step up and answer to more than their shareholders,” he said.
Senator Ed Markey said Facebook’s failure to protect millions of Americans’ private information in the Cambridge Analytica breach shows “why we cannot rely on corporations” to police themselves.
“We need laws that prevent corporations from abusing Americans privacy rights,” said Markey.
Meanwhile, online news publication ‘Intercept’ reported that US Immigration and Customs Enforcement uses backend Facebook data to locate and track immigrants that it is working to round up.
Congressman Bobby L Rush has introduced a legislation that would require the FTC to issue regulations requiring companies like Facebook that own or possess data containing personal information to establish specified security policies and procedures to treat and protect such information.

 

The United States has imposed sanctions on seven Pakistani companies over suspicion they have links to the nuclear trade, potentially hurting Pakistan’s ambitions to join the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).
Pakistani government spokesmen could not be immediately reached for comment on Monday.
Relations between the United States and Pakistan have been strained in recent years over Pakistan’s alleged support for Islamist militants waging war in Afghanistan, something Pakistani officials deny.
The US Bureau of Industry and Security, Commerce imposed the sanctions on the Pakistani companies on March 22 by placing them on its “Entity List”.
The companies had been “determined by the US government to be acting contrary to the national security or foreign policy interests of the United States”, the bureau said in a report on a US government website.
The Department of Commerce’s Entity List does not freeze assets but requires that US and foreign companies doing business with those on the list first obtain a license.
Companies placed on the Entity List will need special licenses to do business in the United States.
None of the seven sanctioned Pakistani companies, which are not well known, could be immediately reached for comment, nor could a Singapore-based company which the bureau said was linked to one of the Pakistani companies.
Pakistani officials have in the past been accused of handing over nuclear secrets to North Korea. The government has denied the accusations though Pakistan has a poor record on nuclear proliferation.
The Pakistani scientist lionized as the father of Pakistan’s atomic bomb, Abdul Qadeer Khan, in 2004 said he had sold nuclear secrets to North Korea.
A UN nuclear watchdog said in 2008 that Khan’s network smuggled nuclear weaponization blueprints to Iran, Libya and North Korea and was active in 12 countries.
Of the latest companies to be sanctioned, Singapore-based Mushko Logistics and Pakistan-based Mushko Electronics “procured items for several Pakistani entities on the Entity List”, the US bureau said in its report.
Another company, Solutions Engineering, “has been involved in the procurement of US-origin items on behalf of nuclear-related entities in Pakistan that are already listed on the Entity List”.
Three of the companies - Akhtar&Munir, Proficient Engineers and Pervaiz Commercial Trading Co. (PCTC) - were on the list due to “involvement in the proliferation of unsafeguarded nuclear activities that are contrary to the national security and/or foreign policy interests of the United States”.
Marine Systems was placed on the Entity list for helping other already-sanctioned bodies obtain items without a license, while Engineering and Commercial Services (ECS) was sanctioned for “involvement in supplying a Pakistani nuclear-related entity on the Entity List”.
The sanctions could deal a blow to Pakistan’s application to join the NSG, a 48-nation club dedicated to curbing nuclear arms proliferation by controlling the export and re-transfer of materials that could foster nuclear weapons development.
Nuclear-armed Pakistan applied to join the NSG in 2016 but little progress has been made.
The United States has been concerned about Pakistan’s development of new nuclear weapons systems, including small tactical nuclear weapons, and has been trying to persuade Islamabad to make a unilateral declaration of “restraint”.

 

Poland, Latvia and Lithuania have recalled their ambassadors from Moscow, Russian news agency RIA Novosti reported, citing "unknown reasons" for the move.
More than 10 European Union countries - including Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Ireland, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Estonia, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic and Denmark - are also expected to expel Russian diplomats this week in show of support for the UK in its diplomatic dispute with Russia over a spy poisoning case.
The decision was made last Friday during a meeting of EU leaders.
Also on Friday, Bloomberg reported that US President Donald Trump's aides are also urging him to expel Russian diplomats in solidarity with the UK.
Brussels already recalled, Markus Ederer, head of the European Union Delegation in Russia, for consultations. The move came days after London expelled 23 Russian diplomats and Moscow responded with the same measure.
Dmitry Peskov, press secretary of the Russian presidency, told Russian media that Russia has not received any official notification from the US regarding expulsion of Russian diplomats and that Moscow is ready to respond in kind.

"Of course, in any such case [of expulsions], it is clear that the principal of reciprocity will be employed," he said.
Tensions in UK-Russian relations escalated after UK Prime Minister Theresa May accused Russia of poisoning former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia with a nerve agent.
On March 4, Skripal and his daughter were found unconscious on a bench near a shopping center in the town of Salisbury, 120km southwest of London. They are both still in a critical condition at Salisbury District Hospital.
Skripal is a former Russian military intelligence officer accused of spying for the UK. He was imprisoned in 2006 and later exchanged for Russian citizens accused of espionage in the US.
On the eve of the latest expulsions of Russian diplomats, Russian state media dedicated much time to appearances of officials and coverage of the Skripal case, claiming that Russia has been falsely accused of poisoning Skripal.
"What Britain is doing right now is black PR on an international scale," said foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zaharova on state TV channel Rossiya 1.

She said that Britain is rushing in its investigation and sending "illiterate" responses to inquiries of the Russian embassy in London.
She also questioned the validity of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons investigation. Representatives of the OPCW collected samples on March 19 and their results are expected to be released in a week.
Earlier the same day, Peskov told Russian state channel NTV that the Britain's behavior "is bordering on banditry in international relations. What is behind this? Either internal problems in Britain or problems between Britain and its allies, or something else."
Meanwhile, state TV channel Rossiya 24 aired an extensive report on the Skripal case claiming that May is "lying" because nerve gas agent "Novichok" does not exist.
The same day, a popular on Rossiya 1 late-night talk show with Vladimir Solovyev, a media personality thought to be close to Russian President Vladimir Putin, featured an interview with a Russia chemical weapons specialist who alleged that the US has also developed a substance like the one believed to have poisoned Skripal and his daughter.
According to Mark Galeotti, senior research fellow at the Institute of International Relations in Prague, the targeting of Skripal was meant to send a signal to the West.
"Presumably, if they decided to target Skripal […], they had two options - one, do it subtly, and two, do it demonstratively and they clearly made a choice," Galeotti told Al Jazeera.
In his opinion, Russia will continue to employ similar provocative tactics with the West.
"[These tactics] keep Russia bubbling up in the news and in the attention of the West," he said.
"Putin's aim is to force the West into recognizing Russia as a big power."

Nearly half of Japanese voters believe Prime Minister Shinzo Abe should quit to take responsibility over a cronyism scandal and cover-up that have sent his support sliding, according to an opinion poll released on Monday.
Suspicions have arisen about a sale of state-owned land at a huge discount to a nationalist school operator with ties to Abe’s wife, Akie, setting off the biggest political crisis Abe has faced since returning to power in 2012 and prompting protestors to call almost nightly for him to quit.
Abe has denied that either he or his wife intervened in the sale or were involved in altering documents related to the deal, in which mention of his and Akie’s names were removed.
According to a public opinion survey covered by the liberal Asahi newspaper at the weekend, 48 percent of those polled said Abe and his government should quit, compared to 39 percent who said that wasn’t necessary.
Those who said they supported Abe slid to 32.6 percent, down 11.7 percentage points from a month ago, while those who said they did not rose 13.2 percentage points to 54.9 percent.
Asked why they supported him, the largest number - 37.8 percent - said it was because his government “seems better than others,” a reflection of the fragmented opposition and voter memories of the rocky tenure of the rival Democratic Party of Japan, one part of the reason Abe has managed to stay in power as long as he has.
No margin of error was given for the poll, in which 66.7 percent of 1,606 people contacted responded.
Asked about the land sale scandal in a parliamentary committee on Monday, Abe reiterated that as head of the government he was responsible for voters losing trust in his administration but repeated his denial that either he or his wife had been directly involved in the land sale.

 

Malaysian Prime Minister NajibRazak’s government tabled a bill in parliament on Monday outlawing “fake news”, with hefty fines and up to 10 years in jail, raising more concerns about media freedom in the wake of a multi-billion dollar graft scandal.
The bill was tabled ahead of a national election that is expected to be called within weeks and as Najib faces widespread criticism over the scandal at state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB). Under the Anti-Fake News 2018 bill, anyone who published so-called fake news could face fines of up to 500,000 ringgit ($128,140), up to 10 years in jail, or both. “The proposed Act seeks to safeguard the public against the proliferation of fake news whilst ensuring the right to freedom of speech and expression under the Federal Constitution is respected,” it said.
It defines fake news as “news, information, data or reports which is or are wholly or partly false” and includes features, visuals and audio recordings. The law, which covers digital publications and social media, also applies to offenders outside Malaysia, including foreigners, as long as Malaysia or a Malaysian citizen were affected. The bill states it is hoped the public would be more responsible and cautious in sharing news and information.

Opposition lawmakers have questioned the need for such a law, arguing that the government already had broad powers over free speech and the media. “This is an attack on the press and an attempt to instill fear among the rakyat (people) before GE14,” opposition lawmaker OngKian Ming said on Twitter after the bill was tabled, using a Malaysian term for this year’s election.
The 1MDB scandal, exposed by foreign media and news blogs in 2015, refuses to die down despite Najib’s consistent denials of any wrongdoing and his government’s firm grip on Malaysia’s state-owned mainstream media. Transactions related to 1MDB are under investigation in six countries including the United States, where the Department of Justice has launched civil cases to recover assets linked to the fund after investigations under an anti-kleptocracy initiative.
The Malaysian government has acted harshly against media reporting on 1MDB. It suspended one newspaper, The Edge, in 2015 and blocked other websites for publishing stories critical of Najib’s role.
A deputy minister was quoted in Malaysian media last week as saying that any news on 1MDB that had not been verified by the government was “fake”. Governments elsewhere in Southeast Asia, including Singapore and the Philippines, have proposed laws aimed at clamping down on the spread of “fake news”, moves decried by media rights advocates.

Thousands of Australians marched in major cities across the country to protest the government's treatment of refugeeswhile demanding an end to its controversial policy of processing asylum seekers overseas.
Thousands took part in rallies in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Perth among other cities to call on the Liberal Party-led government to allow refugees under its care on Manus Island and Nauru to come to Australia.
Almost 10,000 people marched in Melbourne, according to the organizers, including religious leaders, community organizations and refugee advocates.
Protesters chanted "shame" and "free, free the refugees" while accusing Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton of punishing people fleeing persecution and war.
Under strict border control policies, asylum seekers who arrive by boat are sent to processing centers the Australian government manages in the Pacific and permanently bans them from settling in Australia.
Many have been waiting for a country to resettle in for years. Although the US has agreed to take some of the 1,700 asylum seekers currently on the islands, most still face an uncertain future.
"I think it's cruel and unethical," said Miron Mizrahi, a protester in Melbourne.
"It's shameful and damning, the fact that this society - one of the richest and safest on the planet - is suddenly so afraid of these people and that this is what we have to do to them to protect ourselves."
Abdul Aziz, a Sudanese asylum seeker, addressed the crowd from Manus Island, Papua New Guinea, where he has been kept for the last five years.
"We will keep fighting and we will never give up," said Aziz while speaking over the phone.
"Despite the brutality, the hardship, the torture and trauma that we are seeing every single day on Manus Island and Nauru, we will not stop fighting for our freedom."
Turnbull's center-right government insists off-shore processing is necessary to secure the border and deter human smugglers from claiming they can give asylum seekers a new life in Australia.
Under laxer policies overseen by a previous Labor Party government, about 50,000 people arrived in Australia by sea - 1,200 asylum seekers drowned while making the journey.
The center-left opposition party has supported the government's stance on off-shore processing.
An opinion poll released by Roy Morgan last year found Australians to be evenly divided on whether refugees at off-shore centers should be allowed to enter the country.
The UN and rights groups such as Amnesty International have condemned the off-shore processing system as cruel and inhumane, causing widespread despair, self-harm and suicide attempts among those affected.
Last month, a judge overruled the Department of Home Affairs and ordered a 10-year-old boy on Nauru, who had repeatedly attempted suicide, to be brought to Australia for treatment.
"There's got to be a better way of doing it," said Mizrahi outside Melbourne State Library of Victoria. "In other words, it's like having an infection and cutting your figure off. It makes no sense."

 

Huge gun-control rallies sweep US

Monday, 26 March 2018 02:48

Hundreds of thousands of students, teachers and their supporters have converged on Washington, DC, and other cities worldwide to march for their lives, demanding US legislators address recent school shootings and strengthen gun control laws.
Edna Chavez, a teen from South Los Angeles, was among the students from all over the country who took the stage at the March for Our Lives rally on Saturday in the nation's capital.
"I am a survivor," she said.
"I have lived in South LA my entire life and have lost many loved ones to gun violence," she added, speaking about the death of her brother, Ricardo, who was killed by a bullet when he was in high school, and how the trauma and loss changed her life.
"This is normal; normal to the point that I have learned to duck bullets before I learned how to read."
The rally is led by survivors of last month's shooting at Florida's Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where 17 people were killed after a former student allegedly went on a shooting rampage inside the school.
Students, under the banner #NeverAgain, are demanding that Congress pass a law banning assault weapons, halt the sale of high-capacity magazines to restrict access to ammunition and tighten the background check process.
They are also calling for a bipartisan effort to ramp up gun control and demanding "a comprehensive and effective bill be immediately brought before Congress to address these gun issues".
"No special interest group, no political agenda is more critical than timely passage of legislation to effectively address the gun violence issues that are rampant in our country," the March for Our Lives website said.
Saturday's march comes off the back of the National School Walkout earlier this month when thousands of students and teachers walked out of the classroom for 17 minutes to remember the victims of last month's shooting and demand stricter gun control.
Winter BreeAnneMinisee, a high school senior from Los Angeles, was part of the committee that organized the national walkouts. She was not going to miss Saturday's rally.
"Today is a great day to stand in solidarity with students from across the country and make sure our voices are being heard," she said.
Angela Bahena drove 10 hours with her mother and two younger siblings from Paris, Kentucky, to attend the rally.
"It's my last year of high school and I want to make sure that I leave knowing my brother and sister are safe in school and they don't have to worry about someone just randomly coming in and killing people," she said.
KaleabJegol travelled from Cincinnati, Ohio because he says gun control is an intersectional issue.
"Gun violence ... not only affects people in school shootings but also black and brown communities, which is a community I come from," he said. "It's very personal ... because it can happen to me in my own school or community."
He told Al Jazeera legislators have ignored voters’ demands for extended background checks and the banning of assault rifles "for far too long".
"They're willing to take the NRA's (National Rifle Association) money and place it over my life and I and all the people that are marching are saying 'No, we won't take that'," he said.
More than 800 sister marches are paralleling the mass demonstration in Washington, DC, including protests in Los Angeles, New York City, London and Tokyo.
Deaths from gun violence have remained constant through the years and have a major impact on children and teens. Gun-related deaths are the third-leading cause of death for children and approximately three million are exposed to shootings each year, according to Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund, an organization advocating for gun control.
Meanwhile, pro-gun ownership special interest groups, including the NRA, in the country are calling for the arming of school teachers to prevent future violence - a proposal that has been slammed by many students and teachers.

Syrian government forces are close to taking full control of Eastern Ghouta, the last rebel-held area near the capital, Damascus.
Two out of three rebel groups that had been controlling the enclave have already surrendered, with thousands of fighters and their relatives departing for opposition-held areas in the north of the country.
The third rebel group, Jaish al-Islam, which controls the city of Douma, has so far refused to give in.
However, it is understood that Jaish al-Islam is also close to reaching an evacuation deal following negotiations with the Russian army, an ally of Syrian forces.
Al Jazeera's ZeinaKhodr, reporting from Beirut, Lebanon, said yesterday that talks between Jaish al-Islam and the Russian military had earlier collapsed due to the group's refusal to be evacuated to Idlib, a northwestern province still largely under rebel control.
"Jaish al-Islam does not have good relations with the rebel groups which dominate Idlib province," said Khodr.
"What we understand is that they may be sent to an eastern region ... close to Lebanon's border," she added.

On February 18, Syrian government forces backed by Russian fighter jets tightened their siege on Eastern Ghouta with a heavy military offensive that killed 1,500 and wounded more than 5,000.
Nearly 400,000 people remained in the enclave - under opposition control since mid-2013 - before the latest offensive began.
On Wednesday, the Ahrar al-Sham rebel group agreed to surrender Harasta town after reaching an evacuation deal due to "the bombing and [government] siege and the lack of medicine and the lack of place to move".
Two days later, Faylaqar-Rahman, a group controlling the towns of Zamalka, Irbin and Jobar in Eastern Ghouta, announced a similar deal to evacuate fighters and civilians to Idlib.
As part of the deal, a prisoner exchange between Faylaqar-Rahman and the Syrian government was expected to take place, while the Russian military police would be deployed in the areas that the group controlled.
Syrian state television broadcast live footage of eight Syrian men who were released after being detained by Faylaqar-Rahman for more than a year.
Around 5,200 Syrians have been evacuated from Eastern Ghouta so far, according to a report by Anadolu news agency on Saturday.
"We will leave Ghouta but one day we will return," Hazem al-Shami, an evacuee, said. "They have managed to silence the revolution but it will never die.
"We repeatedly asked the international community for help but they didn't do anything. It's a very difficult time for us but we will return."
Syrian state media reported that the army has been removing barriers, landmines and improvised explosive devices along the road to Irbin to open a new corridor for the evacuation.
In the early hours of Saturday, bulldozers removed giant sand barriers from a main road in Harasta so that fighters and their families could be transported to the north.
"It was a very bad situation. The children were hungry because of the siege and scared because of the bombing," said a mother evacuating Harasta.
"They didn't have milk. We pleaded with the aid agencies but no one helped us."
However, those choosing to be evacuated are not heading to a safe place, according to Khodr.
"Idlib is not a safe place; it has been coming under attack from the skies for years now," said our correspondent.
"It's also overcrowded. More than a million internally displaced Syrians are there. Most of these people are going to the unknown; many of them will not find any jobs, so it is a very difficult situation for those people."
Syrian military and Russian air raids on Idlib have increased in the past week, killing dozens of people.
Idlib is also troubled with fighting between rebel groups.
On Saturday, a car bomb exploded at the headquarters for al-Qaeda's former affiliate in Idlib city, killing at least seven people and injuring 25 others.
According to UN officials, hundreds of thousands of people have been killed in Syria's seven-year civil war.

 

Catalan leader CarlesPuigdemont was detained on Sunday in Germany four months after he went into self-imposed exile from Spain, where he faces up to 25 years in prison for organizing an illegal referendum on secession last year.
Puigdemont had entered Germany from Denmark after leaving Finland on Friday when it appeared police would arrest him there and begin an extradition process requested by Spain.
The detention threatens to worsen the Catalan crisis which flared last year when the region made a symbolic declaration of independence, prompting Madrid to take direct rule.
German police said they had arrested Puigdemont in the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein on a European arrest warrant issued by Spain.
In a statement, police said Puigdemont was detained near a section of the A7 highway which cuts through the state from the city of Flensburg near the Danish border.
Police did not say exactly where Puigdemont was being held but the Spanish press said he was at a police station in the nearby town of Schuby.
German magazine Focus said Spanish intelligence informed the BKA federal police that Puigdemont was on his way from Finland to Germany. It gave no source for its report.
It is not clear if Puigdemont will be immediately extradited from Germany. Puigdemont had made clear his preference to fight the extradition process from Belgium.
The former Catalan regional president was at the time of his detention heading to Belgium, according to Puigdemont’s spokesman Joan Maria Pique.
“The president was going to Belgium to put himself, as always, at the disposal of Belgian justice,” Pique told Reuters.
Spain’s Supreme Court ruled on Friday that 25 Catalan leaders would be tried for rebellion, embezzlement or disobeying the state.
Supreme Court judge Pablo Llarena also sent five separatist leaders to pre-trial jail. Their detention sparked protests across Catalonia.
On Saturday the speaker of the Catalan parliament in Barcelona called for an alliance against Madrid, describing the spate of legal actions as an “attack on the heart of democracy.”

 

Syrian rebels left one besieged enclave on Friday and agreed to abandon another, leaving only the city of Douma still in insurgent hands in eastern Ghouta after a month-long army assault to drive them from the stronghold near Damascus.
It brings President Bashar al-Assad to the cusp of his biggest victory over the rebels since driving them from Aleppo in December 2016, though they remain entrenched in areas of northwestern and southwestern Syria.
The offensive to capture the towns and villages on the outskirts of the capital, which began on Feb. 18 with a massive bombardment, has brought 90 percent of eastern Ghouta back under government control. More than 1,600 people have been killed, a war monitor said.
Syrian army soldiers fired tracer bullets into the night air in celebration on Friday as the last groups of rebels in the town of Harasta boarded buses for opposition territory in the northwest along with family members.
They had agreed to surrender the town in return for safe passage out and a pardon for civilians who chose to remain there as the government took back control.
The government’s assault, backed by Russia, was one of the fiercest of the seven-year-old war and was carried out in defiance of international pleas to halt and honor a ceasefire.
At the start of the offensive, the United Nations estimated 400,000 people were trapped inside the besieged area without access to food or medicine.
Syrian state television broadcast the departure of rebels and their families. From behind a half-drawn curtain, a woman in a headscarf could be seen gazing out through a spider web of bullet holes and cracks in the window of a bus as it prepared to carry her to exile.
A Reuters witness near where the buses were gathering said some men had disembarked to pray while women and children walked nearby.
Meanwhile, rebels in a second pocket around the towns of Arbin, Jobar, Zamalka and Ein Terma said they had also agreed to leave for the northwest with their families and any other civilians who did not wish to come back under Assad’s rule.
People who wished to stay on would not face prosecution, said Wael Alwan, spokesman for the Failaq al-Rahman group there, adding that the group would also release captured government soldiers.
About 7,000 people would depart in the deal starting on Saturday morning, including fighters carrying light weapons, state TV reported.
After helping turn the tide of the war in Assad’s favor with air power and military support, Russia has increasingly cast itself as a peace-broker. Russian representatives have played a role in negotiating local ceasefires and evacuations.
Assad and his allies say their offensive in eastern Ghouta is necessary to end the rule of Islamist militants over the area’s people, and to stop them shelling government areas.
Rebel rocket fire has killed scores of people during the army offensive on eastern Ghouta, state television has reported including in a strike that hit a market place on Tuesday.
A source in the Syrian Arab Red Crescent agency said four of its members, as well as other civilians, were injured on Friday by an explosion in Harasta. The war monitor, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said the blast was caused by rebels detonating their arsenal before departing.
By the time the last convoy departed Harasta on Friday evening, state media reported that scores of buses had left, carrying thousands of people including well over a thousand fighters. Shortly afterwards, the army retook the town, the state media said.
State television broadcasted footage of what it said was about 3,400 people leaving Douma on foot on Friday morning, carrying small children and belongings. Thousands of civilians have made the same journey over the past week, making their way to reception centers in government-held territory.
They were leaving behind them a blast-wrecked landscape of smashed concrete and twisted metal, where for weeks people have cowered in basements from the unrelenting bombardment.
Already besieged for years, people in eastern Ghouta have suffered acute shortages of food and medicine, and during the weeks-long battle they were often unable to leave their homes even to bury the dead.
The United Nations estimates more than 50,000 people have fled besieged areas of eastern Ghouta in the past two weeks.