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SYRIA

French journalists evacuated to Beirut

Two French journalists, trapped for days under bombardment in the Syrian city of Homs, were being kept under observation by doctors in neighbouring Lebanon on Friday after being brought out to safety, a diplomatic source has told AFP.

French journalists evacuated to Beirut

A French hospital plane was expected in Beirut later in the day to fly Edith Bouvier and William Daniels home but the diplomatic source said:

“Doctors will first have to carry out the necessary tests to see if they are up to the journey.

“They are both under observation in Beirut’s Hotel-Dieu de France hospital,” the source said.

Bouvier, who sustained serious leg wounds in Syria, was in a “stable” condition, the source added.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy announced on Thursday that the two journalists had been safely evacuated from Homs as regime forces overran the city’s rebel Baba Amr neighbourhood ending a nearly four-week pounding.

“Edith Bouvier and William Daniels are currently safe on Lebanese territory and will within moments be under the protection of our embassy in Beirut,” Sarkozy said during a brief news conference on the sidelines of an EU summit in Brussels.

“I have just spoken with Edith Bouvier, who is naturally exhausted, having suffered hugely but she knows she is free and that she will soon be taken care of,” said Sarkozy.

“I want to thank all those who contributed to this happy ending after a week of efforts to evacuate them involving the International Red Cross and the Syrian Red Cross, which didn’t succeed,” he added.

Le Figaro reporter Bouvier has multiple fractures from a February 22 rocket attack on a makeshift media centre in Baba Amr, a rebel stronghold in the central Syrian city of Homs, in which US veteran reporter Marie Colvin and French photographer Remi Ochlik were killed.

Photographer Daniels was also on assignment for Le Figaro, and was trapped alongside Spaniard Javier Espinosa of El Mundo daily.

The Spanish daily said Espinosa had safely escaped to Beirut, despite claims in Syria that his body had been found alongside those of Colvin and Ochlik.

Another journalist wounded in the attack, British photographer Paul Conroy, was evacuated to Lebanon on Tuesday.

SYRIA

French group to open two hotels in Damascus

France's Louvre Hotels Group has signed an agreement to open two hotels under its own name in Damascus, the first with a western hotel operator since Syria's brutal civil war began in 2011.

French group to open two hotels in Damascus
Louvre owns the Golden Tulip five-star brand. Photo: Louvre Hotels Group
The confirmation of the two hotels opening, after recent media reports, came a day after the UN announced an internal investigation into the bombing of hospitals in Syria, and as at least six civilians were killed by the Syrian regime and Russian fire in northwestern Idlib province in the past days, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
 
The region of around three million people, many of them displaced by fighting in other areas, is one of the last holdouts of opposition fighting against the forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
   
The Hayat Tahrir al-Sham alliance led by Al-Qaeda's former Syria affiliate controls most of Idlib as well as parts of neighbouring Aleppo and Latakia provinces.
   
The hotels “will open soon under the brand name of Louvres Hotels Group,” the company, which is owned by China's Jin
Jiang, said in a statement.
 
Louvre Hotels Group said the deal was signed between Syria's Nazha Investment Group and “a partner with whom Louvre Hotels cooperates in the Middle East”.
   
The exact number of people killed in Syria's war is unknown but hundreds of thousands have died.
   
Several dozen medical facilities with links to the UN have been damaged or destroyed by bombs this year. Russian has denied deliberately targeting civilian installations.
   
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Friday said an internal inquiry would look into the bombing of hospitals in Syria which had previously flagged their coordinates to avoid air strikes.
   
“The deal is strictly in line with international law and all international directives regarding Syria,” the French company statement said.
   
According to the website, The Syria Report, it is the first agreement with a western hotel operator since 2011, when the devastating conflict began. Louvre Hotels Group was taken over by China's Jin Jiang in 2015 and it operates more than 1,500 hotels in 54 countries.
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