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As soon as the police arrived, everything changed.

Tensions at Hong Kong international airport had been high all day. The protesters had clearly chosen it under the impression that police would hold back (at least from firing tear and pepper gas) if the protesters were in close contact with civilians who were trying to go about their journeys.

At first it seemed like their strategy had worked. When the announcement came over the tannoy that the airport was closed, cheers erupted from the demonstrators.

Then things began to sour.









Hong Kong pushed into deeper turmoil

A group identified someone they thought was suspicious and mob mentality took over. They claimed he was a Chinese undercover policeman.

They beat him up badly and bound him with cable ties. The man was surrounded by a rabid pack of demonstrators. Some of the protesters wanted to protect him, but others had serious intentions of harm.

The man could well have been a policeman, as shortly after police began to arrive and tried to get inside.

What unfolded next was unlike anything I have ever witnessed in a building like an airport in all my years of reporting.

It was already remarkable that this number of people were able to shut an airport for two days and get away with it. The demonstrations had already been violent, including police having full-on fights with protesters and carrying out very physical arrests.

We all assumed this would simply be a clear-out operation, although I wondered how a situation like this – with many civilians present and thousands of demonstrators, could be dispersed. It would clearly be a big operation.

Protesters barricaded themselves in with luggage trolleys
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Protesters barricaded themselves in with luggage trolleys

When the first officers arrived – just nine or 10 of them, if that – and stepped into the main airport building, pandemonium erupted.

As paramedics tried to weave through to reach the man, more chaos raged in the crowd.

The police drew back. The mob drove forward. Luggage, trolleys, umbrellas were lobbed like missiles at the officers.

In full retreat, this small group of cops dove back into their vans and attempted to escape but were blocked in by barricades erected by the protesters, who then tried to smash the windows.

I would not be surprised if the officers inside the vans were frightened for their lives.

Luckily for them, reinforcements arrived and riot officers poured out, smacking into protesters to clear a route. They were on a mission to get the stuck police out of danger.

The atmosphere changed. More and more arrived. This was going to be a confrontation.

Hong Kong police were pushed and shoved by protesters
Image:
Hong Kong police were pushed and shoved by protesters

Some of the protesters realised and ran back inside, but others tried to keep charging forward only to be beaten back.

All the time police kept arriving and now seemed to know who they were looking for, ignoring some but grabbing others and throwing them into detention in the back of their vans.

To add to this scene of chaos, because only outbound flights were cancelled at this stage, an enormous jet arrived and passengers began to get off – greeted by the wall of noise coming from the protest.

What tipped the scales for the police was the arrival of a special forces unit. Dressed all in black and highly skilled in martial arts, these guys are serious business. They really are rock hard and you would not be surprised if they could kill a man with one punch.

No one went anywhere near them.

They calmly grabbed the other officers still stuck outside and disappeared.

Meanwhile, inside, a scene from earlier appeared to replay. Another group caught a man they found suspicious. Again, they cable tied him and beat him furiously. He was in a pretty serious condition and not well at all.

An injured man is rescued by medics
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An injured man is rescued by medics

Some people seemed to be considering killing him. Among the items used to hit him with, they pelted him with the now famous symbol of their resistance – umbrellas.

Throughout this 10-week battle, paramedics have assisted both sides and have managed to stay as neutral as possible. Because of this, a group of medics managed to reach the injured man, despite some of the protesters not liking it.

They got him on a gurney and tried to get out. Hands of demonstrators could be seen grabbing and pulling at the man in an attempt to slide him off this life-saving raft.

But the medics managed to save him. Without them, he would probably still be here and dead.

As I write this, many protesters have left. The smell of pepper spray lingers in the air and on my clothes, still involuntarily making my eyes water.

The sit-in made it virtually impossible for people to check-in and move around the departure area
Image:
The sit-in made it virtually impossible for people to check-in and move around the departure area

A surreal scene of dazed, frustrated and tired passengers wondering around waiting for check-ins to open and glancing at the boarding signs is beginning to replace the mass of bodies that filled almost every inch of this cavernous airport entrance.

The question now is what is going to happen next?

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US demands Syria ceasefire as it announces sanctions against Turkey | World News

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President Trump has told the Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan to end the incursion into Syria, as the US announced sanctions against Turkey.

Vice President Mike Pence said Mr trump spoke directly to president Erdogan demanding an immediate ceasefire and talks with Kurdish forces.

“President Trump communicated to him very clearly that the United States of American wants Turkey to stop the invasion, implement an immediate ceasefire and to begin to negotiate with Kurdish forces in Syria to bring an end to the violence,” Mr Pence said.

He, along with national security adviser Robert O’Brien, is being sent to Ankara as soon as possible to try to negotiate an end to the fighting.

Mike Pence is being sent to Turkey to try to negotiate a ceasefire
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Mike Pence is being sent to Turkey to try to negotiate a ceasefire

Turkey’s incursion into northern Syria has raised international alarm – and came after Mr Trump’s surprise move last week to pull a group of US forces, who had fought alongside Kurdish militia against IS, from a section of the border.

The US withdrawal freed Turkey to begin operations against the Kurds in Syria – action which it considers a matter of survival, and insists it will not tolerate the virtual self-rule that the Kurds succeeded in carving out in northern Syria.

Ankara wants to create a corridor – a so-called “safe zone” – clearing out the Kurdish forces.

Tens of thousands of people have already fled the latest fighting
Image:
Tens of thousands of people have already fled the latest fighting

The latest conflict has sparked yet another humanitarian crisis in the region with tens of thousands of people fleeing the fighting.

The US has strenuously denied that the US pull out amounted to a green light for the Turkish incursion.

A senior US official said on Monday: “This was not caused by any action of President Trump…Nothing we did was going to deter the Turks from what they wanted to do. President Erdoğan was going to act regardless.”

Faced with the Turkish onslaught, Syrian Kurdish forces previously allied with the US said they had reached a deal with President Bashar Assad’s government to help them fend off Turkey’s invasion.

Syrian government troops have already moved into towns and villages in northeastern Syria.

President Assad’s return to the region his troops abandoned in 2012 is a turning point in Syria’s eight-year civil war, giving yet another major boost to his government and its Russian backers and is like to endanger, if not altogether crush, the brief experiment in self-rule set up by Syria’s Kurds since the conflict began.

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Bloodshed, betrayal and a huge battlefield: 24 hours in northeastern Syria | World News

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I cannot remember a sequence of events, bloodshed and geopolitical machinations in a single day that involved so many countries and so many people. In a single day.

We were on the road again, had been for four days, but as each hour passed, our ability to move safely in Kurdish northeast Syria lessened.

We overtook cars, trucks, flatbeds, and pick-ups laden with belongings, but there were fewer and fewer. Almost anyone who could, had already left the border lands between Syria and Turkey.

On the side of a road, near a truck stop, we came across five lorries, they were full of families. They had grouped together and were living there.

They were so confused by the fighting and the ever-changing shape of this battle that they decided to be mobile so they could move in any direction at any time.

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Children of young families take shelter under a lorry

The families had left the battle for Aleppo six years ago to find safety. The war has caught them up. They are fleeing once again.

This day on the road and the subsequent 24 hours became one of the most remarkable of my entire career.

The fighting between the Turkish backed militia and the Kurds intensified along a huge battlefield – basically the border between Turkey and Syria.

Claims and counter claims of success and failure filled the airways as the battle raged on. In truth nobody knew what was going on. We constantly had to stop to assess our routes.

News emerged that in the chaos of fighting, hundreds of Islamic State families and fighters had escaped from a camp and prison.

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Many families have decided to be mobile so they could move in any direction at any time

We had been in the de facto capital of Kurdish Syria, Qamishli, when an Islamic State car bomb destroyed a restaurant this week; now we were told in frenzied messages by Kurdish intelligence that IS sleeper cells had been activated and that our hotel was a target.

It brought panic to the staff and the guests, many of whom, like us, were Western journalists.

Our local producers rushed upstairs and said that we needed to stay away from the hotel front windows and pack and get out as soon as possible.

We peered into the street and could see armed intelligence officers surrounding the building, closing down the road and inspecting all cars coming and going.

We packed and left for a safe house.

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Some of the little girls who are camping in schools

It was eerie outside. The streets were quiet. The Turkish invasion and the news of the IS breakout and the threat of suicide bombers on the loose had spooked and depressed everyone.

On this day the Turkish invasion had intensified, nearly a thousand IS families and fighters had escaped, the capital was under attack and then from nowhere news of another even more shocking atrocity – a Turkish strike on a civilian convoy heading to act as human shields in the border town of Ras al Ain.

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Our local guys watched in horror on social media as the videos flashed around. The pictures were horrendous.

We have good contacts with aid agencies as well and soon they were sending us their own videos of the hospitals and clinics where the injured were being treated.

We wanted to file this story and all the others from the day so far, but were stuck in a courtyard waiting to be told we could move to yet another safe place.

We sat with our friends and talked. In those moments, as they spoke in Kurdish, smoked heavily and occasionally hugged each other, it dawned on me as it had with them that the Kurdish grip on the homeland they call Rojava was slipping away.

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Many families have decided to be mobile so they could move in any direction at any time

As night fell we moved to our new accommodation deep in a Kurdish only district of the city. They said it would be safe forever, until this bombshell: the Kurds had done a deal with the regime of Bashar al Assad and the Russians.

Abandoned by the USA, the UK and France, the Kurds had no choice. The Kurds have always done deals with some pretty dubious regimes to maintain their autonomy or even their existence for generations, but this latest move meant our safe area was soon to come under the control of Damascus once again.

“It is bad or very bad, those are the options,” our Kurdish cameraman said.

He sounds matter-of-fact. He had tears in his eyes.

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Children living on the side of the road

As the night skies filled with tracer rounds and as the sounds of gunfire echoed around the Arabic parts of the city in celebration that the regime was returning, our friends sat with their heads in their hands and wept. We all did.

How quick the regime would start to take back control of the region we did not know.

Local officials said we were fine but I was dubious. Syria considers us illegal entrants to the country and would accuse us of consorting with terrorists. The sentence is 12 years in prison.

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Celebratory gunfire in the sky in Qamishli

I have been wanted by the regime since 2012 and I’m on a blacklist. Given their previous form for murdering people, I was in no doubt Bashar’s people would kill me if they caught me.

We woke early after a few hours’ sleep. Everything seemed fine. Nothing much appeared to have changed. Rather than rush we had coffee and talked to our foreign desk about some live appearances on our morning show and where we could film.

Then messages came through.

The border would be taken back by the regime in four hours. We were three hours away.

We scrabbled downstairs with our kit – 20 plus pieces. We sped off towards the border with Iraq. Iraq a safe haven? You couldn’t make it up.

We made the final crossing from Rojava. We left our friends behind and waved as our bus moved away and past rows of people trying to leave as well. As foreigners we were given priority. There is no discussion. It’s the system.

As we crossed the pontoon bridge to safety I thought of the children I had seen within this 24 hours; displaced from home and camping in schools where they will be taught Arabic, not Kurdish from now on.

Rojava was a dream but it has gone.

For sure though, the children will learn one thing in Kurdish: the meaning of betrayal.

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Charleston to Tokyo: Conde Nast Traveller’s top 20 cities to visit | Travel News

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The port city of Charleston in America’s Deep South has topped a list of the best cities in the world.

Conde Nast Traveller magazine’s readers voted for their favourite cities to travel to in 2019 based on architecture, nightlife, accommodation and food.

Places in America and Japan featured the most in the list, with three each, while European cities also did well.

UK cities were notably absent, while African and South American cities also didn’t make the list.

Here are the top 20 cities to visit in the world:

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