NGOs appeal for immediate end to attacks on civilians and hospitals in Idlib

Heads of 48 NGOs working in Syria have signed an open letter to the UN Security Council calling for an immediate end to attacks on civilians and hospitals in Idlib. Three million civilians in northwest Syria are scared and many are homeless. According to the United Nations, over 200,000 people were forced to flee the continuous bombing and shelling of towns in southern Idlib and northern Hama. SAMS President Dr Ahmad Tarakji says the United Nations has a responsibility to protect the schools, hospitals and homes and present a tangible plan to deter such attacks. Human rights organizations are now urging all parties to act quickly to ensure the protection of civilians in northwest Syria.

IIRA rates Al Baraka Bank #Syria strong for second year in a row

Al Baraka Bank Syria was granted a BBB investment grade rating by the International Islamic Rating Agency (IIRA). The bank was also assigned a sufficient credit capacity, with a rating of (71-75) as a total credit score. It also earned a strong credit rating, with a rating of 76-80 for the Asset Quality Management. The Bank’s corporate governance was assessed in the range of 66-70, and the Shari’a governance within the range (71-75). Mohammed Abdullah Halabi, CEO of Al Baraka Bank Syria said this result confirmed the accuracy of the strategy adopted by the Bank and the high quality performance of the management team.

#UNICEF Needs $860 Million to Save 18 Million Children in #Yemen and #Syria

The United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) has revealed the urgent need to provide humanitarian aid to 8 million of Syria’s children, who are suffering from the ravaging civil war. The aid is estimated to be around $800 million and according to UNICEF there are more than 14 million children in war zones in the MENA region. Furthermore, there are around 10 million Yemeni children who are in need for urgent humanitarian aid. UNICEF spokesperson Juliette Touma pointed out that Saudi Arabia has donated $30 million to aid Yemeni children, but there is still a $60 million shortage of humanitarian funding.

IMF: A Minimum Level of Security Must Be Adopted in Syria in Order to Assess the Economic Needs

The Deputy Director of the Middle East and Central Asia Department (MCD) at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Adnan Mazarei said that it is necessary to establish a minimum level of security in Syria before the IMF and international institutions can evaluate its economic needs. In an interview, Mazarei said that the Fund estimates the urgent humanitarian needs and costs, the costs of reconstruction and contributes to the reconstruction of the institutions that were destroyed. He also said that the removal of sanctions on Iran will have a positive effect by allowing the country to produce and export more oil, it has also regained access to its international reserves which will also allow greater investment, and all of these things will encourage growth.

Crowdfunding campaign gave destitute Syrian refugee father a new life in Beirut

Abdul Halim al-Attar, 33, fled the war in Syria more than three years ago, moving first to Egypt and then to Lebanon. His wife returned to their home country just months after their departure, but Mr al-Attar resisted; he didn't want to go back to a place where he saw no future for their children, a nine-year-old son and a four-year-old daughter. Day after day, Mr al-Attar relied on selling pens and other small items to support his family. At the time, Mr al-Attar was receiving the equivalent of $US36 ($50) a month from the UN Refugee Agency and supplementing that with painstaking sales - enough for a rundown apartment and the bare necessities, but not to send his son to school. An Indiegogo campaign raised $US188,685 for Mr al-Attar.

New bond scheme for Mideast, N. Africa World Bank: World Bank official

A new international bond and grant scheme to help countries dealing with the fallout of war and instability in the Middle East and North Africa should be in place by spring, a senior World Bank official said.
In a Reuters interview, Hafez Ghanem, the World Bank's vice president for the Middle East and North Africa, said the type of investment targeted by the plan - education, infrastructure and jobs - was vital to addressing the region's refugee crises. He said that humanitarian aid alone was not enough and the alternative was “one or two lost generations” in a region with 15 million refugees or internally displaced people.

As Syria refugee aid falters, new approach considered: Massive investment in Mideast hosts

Bold new ideas for helping Syrian refugees and their overburdened Middle Eastern host countries are gaining traction among international donors, shocked into action by this year's migration of hundreds of thousands of desperate Syrians to Europe.
Rather than struggling to gather humanitarian aid for refugees, the plans center around investing billions of dollars, much of it to be raised on financial markets. The money would go for development in countries such as Jordan and Lebanon to improve lives for both their own populations and refugees.
More controversial is a demand by some in the aid community that, in return for such a "Mideast Marshall Plan," Jordan and Lebanon must allow Syrian refugees to work, integrating them more into society. The host countries, however, point to high domestic unemployment in arguing they cannot put large numbers of refugees to work legally.
"We need to be ambitious," the regional chief of the World Bank, Ferid Belhaj, told The Associated Press. "Development is the key."

20 banks still operating in Syria with a notable increase in liquidity, profits and deposits

The public and private banks in Syria have worked on developing their products despite of the current crisis as they have continued to fund the imports and the economic processes according to the needs of the national economy during the current stage. Some 20 banks are operating in Syria, six of which are private and 14 are public, while three of those banks are Islamic. Contrary to most of the economic sectors in Syria, the profits of the private banks have witnessed a significant development reaching SYP 45 billion by the end of the first half of the current year with an increase of 80.3 percent in comparison with 2014 while between the years 2013 and 2014 they were increased by 65.5 percent.

Defining Syria’s Future

Syria now has one of the lowest education rates in the world. A 2015 Save the Children report estimates that 2.8 million Syrian children are not attending school and a quarter of school buildings have been damaged or destroyed. Many youth must forego education and work to help their families survive. Yet what often gets lost in this picture is the resilience shown by many young Syrians and their determination to play a role in building a better Syria. The Syrian Economic Forum (SEF) is helping Syria’s youth to play an active role in society through a CIPE-supported course for recent high school graduates that provides an immersion in entrepreneurship, leadership, and civic skills.

Al-Baraka Bank Syria opens branch in Tartous

A branch of al-Baraka Bank Syria had been opened on Thursday in the coastal Tartous city with the participation of official and economic figures. Governor of the Central Bank of Syria (CBS) Adib Mayaleh affirmed in a press statement that banks in Syria have had an effective contribution to national economy, considering it a sign of growth and recovery despite the critical stage that Syria is passing through. Several branches of a number of banks are under construction in different areas in Syria, Mayaleh added. For his part, Mohammed Halabi, Chief Executive Officer of Al Baraka Bank Syria highlighted the importance of opening the bank’s tenth branch in Syria.

UPDATE 1-EU court annuls asset freeze on Syria International Islamic Bank

The European Union's second highest court has annulled an EU asset freeze on Syria International Islamic Bank, dealing another blow to EU sanctions following legal victories last year by several Iranian companies. The EU imposed sanctions on SIIB in 2012, alleging that it had acted on behalf of two other banks, Commercial Bank of Syria (CBS) and Syrian Lebanese Commercial Bank (SLCB), that were both under EU sanctions. But the court said the bloc's governments had failed to provide evidence. The bank has also been sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury. The ruling is subject to appeal.

EU Lifts Sanctions on Syrian Bank, Businessman

The European Union on Thursday lifted sanctions on the Syria International Islamic Bank and businessman Sulieman Maarouf with ties to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad who lives in London. The moves came as part of a decision to extend the Syria sanctions on nearly all targets for another year, until June 1, 2015. A European diplomat said the decision to lift sanctions against the bank was taken because of a lack of strong evidence linking it to Mr. al-Assad's regime. The Syrian International Islamic bank was placed on the list because the EU alleged it facilitated transactions for the Commercial Bank of Syria and the Syrian Lebanese Commercial Bank. The list now includes 179 people and 53 entities that the EU says are "linked" to violent repression by Mr. al-Assad's regime.

Al Baraka Bank Syria signs deal for new HQ in Damascus

Al Baraka Bank Syria and Arabia Engineering & Contracting (AEC) have signed an agreement for the construction of the bank’s headquarters in Damascus. The agreement was signed by Al Baraka Bank Syria CEO Mr Mohammed Halabi , and Nizar Obaid, CEO of AEC. The bank said the nine floor-building will be the first of its kind in Syria; built on eco-friendly’ principles. Al Baraka Bank Syria’s latest results show assets rising by more than 68 per cent in Q3 2013 to a record SYP 71.219 billion with profits of SYP 3.683 billion.

Syrian refugee children’s education must continue

In the two Jordan camps for Syrian refugees, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) is running an education programme with the help of Unicef and supported by Jordan’s education ministry. The camp schools have a Jordanian curriculum. The teachers are both Jordanian and Syrian, drawing on qualified camp residents to teach in the classrooms. NRC also runs a Youth Training Centre. It provides students life skills and leadership training to ensure they acquire traits that can be useful, both in the camp and upon their return to Syria. As winter sets in, relief agencies are concerned with stepping up a winterisation programme. Heaters and blankets are needed while old tents are being replaced with new trailers. Also needed are food, non-food items and medical care.

Decline in education for Syrian children “worst and fastest in region’s history”

The decline in education for Syrian children has been the sharpest and most rapid in the history of the region, according to the paper “Education Interrupted” published today. Since 2011 nearly 3 million children from Syria have been forced to quit their education as fighting has destroyed classrooms, left children too terrified to go to school, or seen families flee the country. Progress achieved over decades has been reversed in under three years. At best, children are getting sporadic education. At worst, they drop out of schools and are forced to work to support their families. The paper details some of the factors that have contributed to the rapid emptying of classrooms.

In Syria, go after banks before bombs: Column

As the White House considers taking military action against Syria for its use of chemical weapons against civilians, the president should also consider using an additional tool to force the Syrian regime to change course: stepping up economic warfare against Syrian banks and institutions that do business with them. This type of effort can have measurable impact for a simple reason: the Assad government needs money. Without hard currency and access to the international market, the regime will find it far more difficult to fund its military and its ability to purchase Russian weapons will be limited. Syria is vulnerable to economic warfare, which would hurt the regime where it is weakest: its pocketbook.

Profits of Syrian affiliates of Lebanon banks sink 98.2%

Profits of Lebanese banks operating in Syria in the first three months of 2013 fell by 98.2 percent to $640,000 from $49.8 million in the same period of 2012. That was compared to aggregate net losses of 489.5 million pounds in the fourth quarter of 2012. The aggregate shareholders’ equity of the seven banks reached 35.3 billion pounds, or $406.5 million, at end-March 2013, unchanged from end-2012. The banks’ total operating income reached 4.7 billion pounds in the first quarter of 2013, down 35.7 percent from 7.3 billion pounds in the same period last year. Lebanese banks in Syria have increased provisions for nonperforming loans, though they realize this will affect profits considerably. All of the Lebanese banks said they had no intention of withdrawing from the Syrian market now or in the future because they believed the situation would get back to normal eventually.

IDB suspends Syrian membership, Syrian National Coalition received invitation for meeting in Amman

The opposition Syrian National Coalition has received a last-minute invitation to Wednesday’s Friends of Syria meeting in Amman, which acting chief George Sabra will attend. The meeting is expected to focus on efforts spearheaded by the United States and Russia to organise a peace conference in Geneva next month. In the same time, Islamic Development Bank has temporarily suspended Syria’s membership, according to IDB President Ahmad Mohamed Ali Al Madani. Mr. Madani said the decision was taken by the bank’s Board of Governors, citing a Syria resolution by the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation that was discussed at the board’s recent meeting. He added the IDB was set to give Syrian refugees any kind of help, but stressed its humanitarian funds were strictly limited.

Suspect in brazen Syrian bank robbery held in Egypt

The main suspect wanted in connection with a brazen daylight robbery of more than US$10 million (Dh36.7m) from Syrian International Bank for Trade and Finance (IBTF) has been held for questioning in Egypt. In January, $3.4m in cash, €4.75m (Dh22.8m) and 33m Syrian pounds (Dh1.7m) was allegedly stolen from the vault of the IBTF in Damascus. The bank learnt that the suspect fled Damascus to Egypt immediately after allegedly committing the crime. The suspect was arrested last month, upon the discovery by Cairo authorities that his passport was fraudulent. The bank has hired a lawyer to expedite the extradition of the suspect from Egypt.

Syria's banks brace for worst as civil war batters economy

Syrian banks prepare for worst-case scenarios after profits tumbled by between 40 and 90 per cent last year as the civil war further weakens the financial sector. Banking transactions such as trade finance or corporate lending have taken a big hit, while basic banking services continue despite the challenging environment. Therefore, several banks, including Byblos Bank Syria, have developed emergency plans to preserve business continuity. However, Syria's private lenders, an important part of president Bashar Al Assad's economic modernisation plan, are struggling with a mismatch of assets and liabilities.

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