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Syria Blog

Updates on the situation in Syria, as attacks on ISIL by the US and its allies add a new dimension to the civil war that began in 2011 and has killed more than 190,000 people.


  • Here are just a few of Al Jazeera's correspondents who are covering Syria and its conflict:




    Who do you follow to keep up-to-date on developments in Syria? Let us know and we will try to incorporate their updates in to the blog.

  • The relationship between Syria and Russia has come to the fore recently as countries wrangle over the UN resolution.

    Here Al Jazeera's social media programme The Stream discusses Russia's take on Syria.

    The Stream - Russia's take on Syria
    by AlJazeeraEnglish on 5:35 PM yesterday

    If you don't have time to watch the full show, check out this infographic breaking down the relationship between the two countries.




  • Below is a slideshow of some of the interactives our team has been putting together to explain the developing situation in Syria.


    Click on the caption to be taken to the full page interactive.




  • Reuters news agency has released a series of photographs that go some way to showing the daily life of a Free Syrian Army fighter.

    Free Syrian Army
    fighters have lunch at the Al-Arbaeen mountain in the Idlib countryside.
    by AJE Staff
    A Free Syrian Army
    fighter aims his weapon as he takes up a defensive position during clashes.
    by AJE Staff
    A Free Syrian Army fighter fires from a truck during clashes the FSA said were with pro-Assad forces.
    by AJE Staff
    Free Syrian Army
    members take Islam lessons in Aleppo's Saif al-Dawla district.
    by AJE Staff
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  • Good afternoon from Doha and welcome to the new Al Jazeera English liveblog, Graeme Baker here updating all things Syria. With the new system it's easier for me to see any comments and interactions from readers, but you can also email me at graeme.baker@aljazeera.net or find me on Twitter @gbaker76. Many thanks.

    Let's kick off with an update of the situation in Syria today:

    * At least 14 Alawites have been killed in a car bombing in central Homs, according to the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human rights.

    * Al Qaeda-linked rebels have tightened their grip on Azaz, a city on the border with Turkey, after attacking Free Syrian Army members there last night.

    * Bashar al-Assad has told the Fox News network in the US that he wants the US administration to pay for the destruction of his chemical weapons stocks. He again denied using them in Damascus on August 21, and rubbished the UN report into the attack, which the Americans say killed 1,429 people.

    * Over in the UK, two men have been arrested for alleged "involvement in terrorism in Syria" after they were found with ammunition after leaving a ferry in Calais, on the southern coast.
  • Here's a video from the UN refugee agency, with Syrians living in garages in Lebanon. With two million displaced Syrians, finding somewhere to live is getting more difficult by the day.


    Lebanon: Syrian Refugees Living Underground
    by unhcr on September 13 at 12:18 PM


  • German politicians are embroiled in a row over whether chemicals sent to Syria 2002-2006 were used to produce sarin gas. This at a time of a general election, Chancellor Angela Merkel has said that preliminary information shows that the chemicals were not used to produce the nerve agent. Note: the time of the chemical sales cross both Merkel's time in power and that of her predecessor, Gerhard Schroeder. Here's a tweet to the Der Spiegel website with the story:




  • Okay, John McCain has attacked Russian President Vladimir Putin in an article on the Russian website, Pravda.ru. The article is a response to Putin's piece in the New York Times.

    McCain says Putin "is not enhancing Russia's global reputation. He is destroying it. He
    has made her a friend to tyrants and an enemy 
    to the oppressed, and untrusted
    by nations that seek to build a 
    safer, more peaceful and prosperous world".

    You can read our article on the Pravda.ru piece here on Al Jazeera America.

    by Graeme Baker

    i
  • Vladimir Putin meanwhile says he cannot guarantee "100 per cent" that all of Syria's chemical weapons would be destroyed. It's a fairly significant  thing for the architect of the plan to say publicly after the events of the last two weeks...

    From Reuters:

    Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday he could not be 100 percent certain that a plan for the destruction of Syrian chemical weapons would be carried out successfully but he saw positive signs for hope.

    "Will we be able to accomplish it all? I cannot be 100 percent sure about it," Putin told a gathering of journalists and Russia experts. 

    "But everything we have seen so far in recent days gives us confidence that this will happen." 




  • More from Putin:

    Putin urged the international public not to place the onus on Russia to deal with Syria's CW. "This is not the first time I hear that special responsibility rests with me.

    "Special responsibility rests with all of us, and it is equally shared. If the attempts to resolve the problem peacefully fail, it will be very bad."

  • I'll be writing a story for our main site on Putin's comments in the next few minutes. Twitter is quite busy with traffic on McCain's piece in Pravda, here are a couple of other good lines:



  • Our latest story on violence in Syria is now live on our main site, along with the latest video report from Azaz, the Syrian border town controlled by al-Qaeda linked rebels. You can access it here: http://aje.me/18dtKMj


    by Graeme Baker




  • Here's Al Jazeera's story on Putin's statements today about not being 100% certain if the plan for Syria would work. 
    Access the story by clicking this hyperlink. Reading between the lines it seems he's trying to deflect Russia's responsibility. The Russian defence minister, Sergei Shoigu, said that Moscow would not destroy Syrian chemical weapons on Russian territory. 

    Assad also said last night that the US should be able to foot the costs of the weapons destruction. It's worth noting that while Russia has facilities to destroy chemical weapons, they were part funded by the US. The US has lots of weapons destruction facilities, as this map shows:



  • Quick tip: Our new live-blogging system has a lot more opportunity for readers to interact with Al Jazeera's blogs team. You can comment on the sticky message at the top of the blog, or reply to individual posts by clicking the reply icon. Give it a go - tell us how we're doing, forward me some info on the subject, or tell us what you'd like to see on this new system. All input is welcome.
  • Some moves on the diplomatic front, from AFP: 

    The world's chemical weapons watchdog will meet on Sunday in The Hague to discuss a Russian-US plan to destroy Syria's arsenal, it said. The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has postponed the meeting several times this week as a draft text was not yet ready.

    The OPCW is responsible for implementing the terms of the Convention on Chemical Weapons in Syria.

    I think I'm right (although I'm not an expert) in saying that the permanent five members of the UN will not agree on any resolution on Syria until the OPCW meets to discuss the issue, and forward its recommendations on the plan (which at the moment says all of Syria's stockpiles will be destroyed by mid-2014).

    There is a UN General Assembly meeting next Tuesday, where it is hoped that the resolution will be formalised. So there will be very little time between the OPCW and the GA for the P5 to agree its resolution. 

    Apologies for the acronym overload.

  • Back on Putin's comments, and his unequivocal position on August 21: The attack was a "sly and ingenious" provocation by the rebels. Read the full story by clicking here.




  • Followers of this liveblog may remember yesterday a row over footage aired by Russia Today stating that it was evidence that Liwa al-Islam rebels were behind the August 21 attack (and saying it was provided by prominent blogger @Brown_Moses).

    The brigade, which is aligned to the Free Syrian Army, today issued a statement about the footage.

    http://www.etilaf.org/en/press/liwa-al-islam-brigade-issues-a-statement-in-response-to-fabricated-videos.html

  • Okay, more on the diplomatic situation.

    James Bays, Al Jazeera's diplomatic editor, says that the decision by the OPCW to postpone its meeting until Sunday means it is now possible there will be no resolution before the UN general assembly starts on Tuesday. 

    Diplomats suggest Russia might want to wait until Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov is in town. And it is being suggested he could take the Russian seat at the Security Council for the vote.


  • Here are those three videos used as evidence of rebel involvement in the August 21 attack.





  • And returning to the diplomatic issues, the deadline for Syria to give up its full inventory is the middle of next week - but without a resolution there will be no way for the international community to enforce  it. There are suggestions that the UN will let that deadline - the first thing Assad has to meet - slip by a few days. Not a very good start to a plan with a very tight deadline.
  • Here's something for the mix, the latest Stream programme focusing on Syria.

    The Stream - Russia's take on Syria
    by AlJazeeraEnglish on 5:35 PM yesterday


  • And also, if you've not seen it, here is the first episode of Al Jazeera's documentary on the history of the modern Syria: the Reckoning. Well worth a watch, and you find the other episodes on Youtrube. thanks.

    Al Jazeera World - Syria: The Reckoning - Episode 1
    by AlJazeeraEnglish on April 17 at 5:03 PM





  • Further to the arrests in the United Kingdom today, France's interior minister has said that he is concerned about the hundreds of French nationals and resident who have signed up to fight with more extreme rebel elements in Syria. 

    The AFP news agency reported that Manuel Valls, told France Inter radio that there were more than 300 of them; mostly young men who had become radicalised.

    "This is a phenomenon which worries me because they represent a potential danger when they return to our soil," Valls said. "We have to be extremely attentive."

    France is home to several million Muslims.
  • Back to Azaz, Twitter reports state fighting is continuing.



  • by Graeme Baker

    Here are some notes on US Secretary of state John Kerry's statement, given just a few moments ago. It's not verbatim and some parts are missed out. We'll have a full transcript soon.

    We really don't have time today to pretend that anyone can have their own

    set of facts, approaching the issue of chemical weapons in Syria. 

    This fight about Syria's chemical weapons is not a game. The UN report made the case more compelling. Findings were categorical.

    Every single data point, munitions, launchers, origins, trajectory, markings and confirmation of sarin confirms what we already knew.

    The UN report confirms that nerve agent sarin was used and despite regime's best efforts to destroy evidence, the UN interviewed 50 survivors.

    They documented survivors, 30 soil and environmental samples. They returned with crucial details that showed Assad was guilty of the attack even though that was not the mandate.

    Anyone who puts the dots together will understand what those facts mean.

    There is clear and compelling evidence that surface to surface rockets used in attack contained sarin. We know Assad has sarin, no evidence that the opposition does.

    Sarin was used, sarin killed. The world can decide if it was used by the regime, which had the rockets, or whether the opposition fired rockets they don't have, containing sarin that they don't possess, to kill their own people.

    Please, this is not complicated. We know what is true. We have a definitive UN report strengthening our case.

    Now the test comes. The Security Council must be prepared to act next  week.
    It is vital for the international community to stand up and speak out.

    The international community must stand up and rid the world of Syria's chemical weapons. Time is short. Let us not spend time debating what we already know. The world is watching to see if we can avert military action and achieve through peaceful means ... the removal of Syria's chemical weapons.

    That will be determined by the UN and the agreement in Geneva that clearly said this must be real. We need everyone's help to achieve the goal and make that Geneva agreement achievable, and to do it with full accountability. It is important to accomplish that goal.

  • This from AFP reporting on an article in the Guardian, which interviewed the regime's deputy PM Qadri Jamil.  

    The Syrian government believes the civil war  ravaging the country has reached a stalemate and would call for a ceasefire if  long-stalled peace talks in Geneva were to take place, the deputy prime minister told the Guardian.

    "Neither the armed opposition nor the regime is capable of defeating the other side," Qadri Jamil told the newspaper.

    When asked what his government would propose at the stalled Geneva-2  summit, he replied: "An end to external intervention, a ceasefire and the launching of a peaceful political process".

    Jamil stressed that his comments represented the government's position, according to the newspaper.

    Very significant if true, although the Syrian opposition have so far refused to sit down with the regime with Assad still at its head.


  • The National newspaper reports that the opposition Syrian National Coalition has agreed a deal for the Kurdish National Council to join its alliance. A significant move. The alliance includes an agreement to drop word "Arab" from the country's name, the Syrian Arab Republic. 

    Several regional correspondents have commented on the development. 



  • Here's a recap of the latest developments on Syria.

    • At least 20 people have died in a car bomb attack in a district near Damascus, and at least 19 have died in a bomb attack on an Alawite area in the central region of Homs.
    • Fighters from the Islamic state of Iraq and the Levant are still battling members of the FSA in the border town of Azaz after negotiations broke down for a ceasefire.
    • Russian President Vladimir Putin says that he is not 100 percent certain that the plan to remove Syria's chemical weapons will work. He also says the August 21 attack was a "sly" provocation by the rebels.
    • The chemical weapons watchdog has delayed its meeting on Syria until Sunday.
    • John Kerry said that the UN must act to pass a binding resolution on removing Syrian chemical weapons, and that there is no time to pretend the facts of August 21 are in dispute.
    • The Syrian deputy PM says that the regime would consider a ceasefire if peace talks were organised.

  • Okay, there ends my stint on the liveblog for tonight. A member of our overnight team shall be taking over shortly. Thanks for checking in with us tonight.
  • Here's a tweet from the non-profit organisation Good Neighbors, which is raising money for Syrian refugees:


  • French President Francois Hollande has said that Iran's new President Hassan Rouhani has requested to meet him on the sidelines of next week's UN General Assembly in New York to discuss the crisis in Syria.

    Speaking on his way back to Paris after a visit to the Malian capital Bamako, Hollande said on Thursday there was a planned "meeting with the Iranian president, at his request, on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly meeting."

    The meeting would be the first of its kind between heads of state from the two countries in years, diplomats travelling with Hollande said. - AFP



  • A World Bank report has said spillover from the Syrian war has cost Lebanon billions of dollars, deeply damaged its economy and harshly strained social services such as health and education.

    The new report, published on the website of Lebanese daily al-Safir on Thursday, was prepared for a meeting during the United Nations General Assembly in New York next week to draw donor aid for Lebanon.

    It said the war has sent nearly one million refugees pouring into Lebanon from neighbouring Syria so far. Spillover costs will shave nearly 3 percentage points off gross domestic product growth per year between 2012 and 2014, according to the assessment.

    It will double unemployment to more than 20 percent and push about 170,000 Lebanese into poverty on top of 1 million currently in poverty. - AP

    by AJE Staff

    Majdal Anjar refugee camp, Bekaa Valley: Nearly half of the 2m Syrian refugees have sought refuge in Lebanon, according to the UN. Photo: Reuters/ Jamal Saidi.

  • Iran's President Hassan Rohhani has said
     that his government is ready to "help facilitate dialogue" between the Syrian government and the opposition.

    "We must join hands to constructively work toward national dialogue, whether in Syria or Bahrain. 

    We must create an atmosphere where peoples of the
    region can decide their own fates," Rouhani wrote in a column for The Washington Post  on Thursday. - AFP
    by AJE Staff




  • by AJE Staff

    French President Francois Hollande has suggested for the first time that Paris could arm Syrian rebels in a "controlled framework," in response to some rebels linked with al-Qaeda.

    Noting that Russia was supplying arms to the Syrian government, Hollande, speaking in Mali on Thursday, said France could provide arms to rebels.

     "But we will do it in a broader context with a number of countries and in a framework that can be controlled because we cannot accept that weapons could fall into the hands of jihadists that we have fought against here," he said.

    Hollande spoke at a news conference in Bamako where he was attending a ceremony to mark the swearing-in of the country's new president. - Reuters
  • DEVELOPING STORY | The US has called for a binding UN resolution on Syria's chemical weapons next week, as a senior Syrian official said the country's conflict has reached a stalemate. John Kerry, the US secretary of state, said the "definitive" UN report had proved that the Syrian regime was behind an August chemical weapons attack.  Full story: http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2013/09/201391912254205742.html
    by AJE Staff

     
  • Al Jazeera's Tim Friend meets the UN chemical inspectors at The Hage as they prepare for their next visit.

  • A doll lying amid debris on the front line in Saif al-Dawla,  Aleppo, northern Syria, is a reminder of the devastating impact war has had on Syrian children's lives. Photo: AFP/ Jim Lopez
    by AJE Staff


  • A trainer points to a spot on a mannequin during military training for female members of the "Mother Aisha" battalion in Aleppo's  Salaheddine district. Photo: Reuters/ Loubna Mrie
    by AJE Staff



  • DEVELOPING STORY: The Guardian spoke to the Syrian Deputy Prime Minister who has said that neither government forces nor the rebels are currently capable of outright military victory in the country's civil war. Read more. 
  • Syria's opposition National Coalition condemned attacks by al-Qaeda loyalists of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) on mainstream rebels of the Free Syrian Army.

    "The Coalition condemns the aggressions against the forces of the Syrian revolution and the repeated disregard for the lives of Syrians, and considers that this behaviour runs contrary to the Syrian revolution and the principles it is striving to achieve," a statement said.

    The group denounced in particular ISIS's seizure of the town of Azaz on the border with Turkey on Wednesday after an hours-long firefight with FSA fighters and its attempt to take control of the Bab as-Salameh border crossing.

    It accused ISIS of "repeated repressive practices against the freedom of civilians, doctors, journalists and political activists in recent months".

    It also accused it of having "links to foreign agendas" and of seeking to create a "new state inside the Syrian state entity in violation of national sovereignty".

    Azaz was one of the first towns to be overrun, in July 2012, by FSA rebels, who set up their own administration.

    Tensions between FSA loyalists and ISIS have spiralled in recent months, especially in northern Syria where the opposition controls vast swathes of territory.

    [AFP]
  • As the fighting in Syria continues unabated, three straight days of talks at the United Nations on the government's chemical weapons arsenal have so far failed to produce a resolution.

    Ambassadors from the five permanent Security Council member states held their latest meeting on Thursday in New York.

    They're still trying to reach agreement on a deal to bring Syria's chemical weapons under international control.

    So far no deal but optimistic noises.

    Mark Lyall Grant, the British ambassador to the UN, said:

    Well, I don't want to comment in detail on the text but we're having constructive discussions and I hope progress is being made.


    Vitaly Churkin, the Russian ambassador to the UN, said:

    Not bad, I think, not bad.


    Russia and the United States brokered an agreement last week to avoid possible US military strikes.

    The deal would require Syria's president to account for his chemical weapons stocks within a week and their destruction by the middle of next year. 

    The sticking point at the UN is Russia's unease over a section in a draft resolution which still mentions a possible military strike on Syria.

    Russia still says there's no proof government forces carried out a chemical attack that Uweapons investigators have confirmed involved Sarin nerve gas.

    [Reuters]
  • Hello Graeme Baker here starting the evening on the Syria liveblog. First up we'll start off with the Syrian National Coalition responding to Qadri Jamil, the deputy prime minister for Bashar al-Assad, who said the regime would consider a ceasefire if peace talks are organised.

    Anita McNaught, in Antakya in Turkey, spoke to Louay Safi, an SNC spokesman, who said he was not aware specifically of Jamil's interview with the Guardian so was speaking in general terms:

    • The proposal is not genuine or serious. It was raised in the international media, not in negotiations with the SNC. 
    • It was designed for an international audience.
    • It's designed to show the world that they care about the situation in Syria when they do not.
    • Until now, the regime did not recognise the SNC or begin any discussions with us.


  • Also note that the Syrian National Coalition has repeatedly stated it would not negotiate with the regime with Assad at its head. 

    Something interesting in the Guardian's report which I don't think was covered in our main news story was Jamil's claims that the rockets used in the August 21 chemical attack in Damascus. 

    He told the Guardian that:

    Russia produced evidence showing that the rockets identified by the UN as carrying sarin were Soviet-made, but were in fact exported from Russia to Muammar Gaddafi's Libya in the 1970s.

    "They were loaded with chemicals by Gaddafi and exported to fundamentalists in Syria after Gaddafi fell," he told the Guardian.

    I'll be trying to find someone to comment on the plausibility of that statement tonight.

  • More on Jamil's statements in the Guardian: His party, the Peoples' Needs' Party, claims that he was misquoted, and that the newspaper "misunderstood the interview". The party states that: 

    Qadri Jamil's party has written to the Guardian saying that he spoke only as an opposition party leader, and not in any official government capacity. The party told Al Jazeera English:

    The statement that the Syrian government will ask for a ceasefire in Geneva 2 is not  true.

    Jamil was speaking as a representative of his party only, and not the Syrian government.

    The party claims Jamil did not say "ceasefire", he said "stopping the violence". 

    They blame a "translator error".

    The Guardian stands by its story.

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