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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.


  • Activists claim that a further four civilians were killed in Aleppo's Al Mayisar district after government forces dropped barrel bombs on the neighbourhood.

  • Activist video claimed to show distribution of food baskets provided by UN to the besieged Yarmouk Camp in south of Damascus city.

  • A senior official with Syria's Western-backed main opposition group says its leadership will meet to name members of a delegation heading to a peace conference this week.

    Ahmad Ramadan says the meeting is planned for later Sunday in Istanbul. He says it will decide who will negotiate with the Syrian government delegation in Switzerland.

    Ramadan's comments came a day after the Syrian National Coalition voted in favour of attending the conference, paving the way for the first direct talks between the rival sides in the nearly three-year conflict.
     
    Ramadan says the 15-member delegation will include two representatives of the country's ethnic Kurdish minority, two for rebels and two for opposition groups based in Syria -AP

    Click here to read more about the Geneva II talks
  • UN chief Ban Ki-moon invited has invited Iran to attend Syria peace conference in Switzerland.


  • Rebel groups want a voice in Syria talks
    by Al Jazeera English via YouTube

    With just a few days left before peace talks in Switzerland, the Syrian National Coalition has announced that three rebel groups fighting on the ground also want to take part. 

    But a larger and more powerful alliance says it won't attend. 

    Al Jazeera's Bhanu Bhatnagar has the details.
  • Syrian Opposition says it will withdraw attendance from peace talks unless UN's Ban Ki-Moon retracts Iran's invitation. This comes from the Syrian Coalition spokesman Louay Safi's Twitter account. 

    [Reuters]
  • The US insists the UN must withdraw an invitation to Iran to attend Syrian peace talks unless Tehran fully supports a 2012 agreement that establishes a transition government in Syria.

    A senior State Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the chance of the January 22 peace conference going ahead was still "fluid" given Iran had not fully endorsed the Geneva 1 agreement to end the conflict.

    The official said Iran was providing substantial military and economic support for Assad and Tehran's participation in peace talks would not be helpful.

    They are doing nothing to de-escalate tensions
    "They are doing nothing to de-escalate tensions...and their actions have actually aggravated them, and so the idea that they would come to the conference refusing to acknowledge support for Geneva 1, we do not see how it could be helpful," the official said.

    [Reuters]


  • Assad meets with the official delegation tasked with participating in the international conference on Syria which will be held in Geneva [Reuters]

  • Syrian warplanes bombed several buildings in Aleppo on Sunday [Aleppo Media Centre/AP]

  • The Syrian Coalition posted a couple of tweets regarding Iran's invitation to Geneva II talks. It remains unconfirmed whether the UN will hold a press release. 





  • UN leader Ban Ki-moon is battling to save a Syria peace conference after the Syrian opposition threatened to withdraw if Iran takes part.

    Ban's spokesman said he was "dismayed" by Iran's refusal to back an international statement calling for a transitional government in Syria and the Syrian opposition's threat to boycott the talks.

  • The biggest bloc in Syria's opposition-in-exile, the Syrian National Council, said late Monday it was  quitting the umbrella Syrian National Coalition in protest over the Geneva II  peace talks with the Damascus regime.

    The group said taking part in the talks would renege on its "commitments" to not enter negotiations until Syrian President Bashar al-Assad left power - something he refuses to do.

    [AFP]
  • Syria guilty of 'industrial-scale killing': Qatar-backed report

    Three former international prosecutors have accused Syria of large-scale killing and torture in a report - based on evidence of a defector - commissioned by Qatar, which backs Syrian rebels, the 
    Guardian and CNN reported Monday.

    The report, which can be found online at both news outlets, relies on the  unauthenticated testimony and photographs given by the source, who remains unidentified for security purposes.

    The release came a day before talks were due to be held in Geneva aimed at  negotiating an end to Syria's bloody civil war.

    The informant, a photographer who claims to have defected from the Syrian military police, presented forensic experts commissioned by the London legal firm representing Qatar with around 55,000 digital images of 11,000 dead  detainees. 

    He claims they died in captivity before being taken to a military hospital  to be photographed.

    "Overall there was evidence that a significant number of the deceased were  emaciated and a significant minority had been bound and/or beaten with rod-like objects," said the report. 

    [AFP]
  • Bombs target vehicles entering Syria: In Syria itself, it's been another day of violence and destruction.

    Al Jazeera's Nick Schifrin was at the Turkish-Syrian border just moments after two explosions rocked the Bab al-Hawa crossing.
  • Al Jazeera's Basma Atassi has arrived to Montreux, Switzerland, where the Geneva 2 peace talks are to start on January 22. The venue has been cordoned off by security forces.

    "Only authorised journalists and diplomats are allowed to enter the area. Delegations of the countries participating are expected to arrive today," she said.




  • Follow Al Jazeera's Basma Atassi on @Basma_ for up-to-date coverage of the Geneva 2 due to start on Wednesday.




  • شبكة حلب نيوز اا آثار القصف بالطيران الحربي على دوار جسر الحج وعملية إجلاء الضحايا
    by شبكة حلب نيوز via YouTube
    Aleppo activists told Al Jazeera that at least 12 residents were killed when a government air strike hit a residential area in the rebel-held neighbourhood of al Sukkari  in south of the city.
  • At least 10 people were killed in a regime air strike on Tuesday targeting an opposition-held neighbourhood of Aleppo in northern Syria, a monitoring group said.

    "An air strike hit the area of a bus station... in Jisr al-Hajj," said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, whose director told AFP news agency that "we have documented 10 deaths".

    The Observatory distributed amateur video footage showing a huge fire in the area, located in the westernmost part of Aleppo city.

    Warplanes also targeted the Ansari neighbourhood farther east, the Observatory said. [AFP]


  • Al Jazeera's Zeina Khodr reports live from Montreux, Switzerland.

  • Haitham al-Maleh, a member of the opposition delegation, commented on the report about Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem's upcoming speech published by Al Jazeera.

    "If they want to fight terrorism they should fight themselves. The criminal regime is the one who killed more than 100,000 civilians and destroyed houses. The regime forces are the ones who possess tanks, fighter jets and barrel bombs," he told Al Jazeera from Geneva.

    Commenting on the timeframe of negotiations, he said: "We want a specific timeframe to be set up for the transfer of power. The negotiations cannot drag forever."
  • Syrian opposition delegation members:


    Haitham al-Maleh
    Nazir Hakim
    Hamid Darwish
    Michel Kilo
    Bader Jamous
    Anas al-Abdeh
    Hadi Bahra
    Suhair al-Atassi
    Mohammad Hosam Hasoud
    Obaida Nahhas
    Ibrahim Barro
    Abdel Ahad Stefo
    Mohammad Sabra
    Rima Fleihan
    Louay Safi  
  • The first direct talks between the Syrian regime and the opposition, which start this week in Geneva, will last seven to 10 days and be followed by another round, a senior Russian official said on Tuesday.

    "The first round of negotiations will last for seven to 10 days. There will then be a short break, and then the talks will resume," the Interfax news agency quoted a source in the Russian delegation to the talks as saying.

    The so-called Geneva II conference begins on Wednesday in the Swiss lakeside city of Montreux, where representatives from nearly 40 regional and world powers will be seeking a way out of the nearly three-year Syria crisis.

    US President Barack Obama called Russia's Vladimir Putin as the clock ticked down to the start of talks, the Kremlin said late on Tuesday.

    The two leaders "discussed the issues of the conference," it said in a short statement. The discussion was "the initiative of the American side," it said.

    The Montreux meetings will be followed on Friday by direct talks in Geneva between representatives of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the opposition, which will be overseen by UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi.

    The Russian source said Friday's meeting will also be observed by US and Russian officials, who will be assisting the two sides.

    "If it becomes necessary, the seniority level of the Russian and US representatives in Geneva observing the negotiating process may be raised," the RIA Novosti news agency quoted the Russian source as saying.

    Russia is represented at the talks by Deputy Foreign Ministers Gennady Gatilov and Mikhail Bogdanov. [AFP]




  • Syria peace talks, bringing together rivaling sides, are about to start in Switzerland, with prospects of a breakthrough is marred by a divided opposition and an unwavering regime.


    You can read the full story here.

    You can also follow Al Jazeera's reporters covering the talks on the following twitter handles:

    Zeina Khodr: @ZeinakhodrAljaz


    James Bays: @baysontheroad


    Basma Atassi: @Basma_

  • Speakers on the first day of the Geneva 2 peace talks include:

    US general-secretary Ban Ki-moon,
    Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov,
    US Secretary of State John Kerry,
    Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem,
    Head of the Syrian National Coalition Ahmed Jabra,
    Secretary General of the Arab League Nabil Elaraby
    European Union's High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton.
  • Al Jazeera's Basma Atassi says:

    Syria's opposition have no backing on the ground and they come from different blocs. Some of the members have received some negotiations training over the past weeks but they mostly have little to no diplomacy experience. They are set to sit in front of very experienced diplomats - such as Mouallem and Mokdad-  with one united vision and leadership. 

    Mouallem last night made it clear in comments to his media entourage that arrived with him that Assad is a 'red line'. so no concessions are expected. 

  • "To refugees it looks like a play set up by world powers. They don't think that is waht is going to sole the problems. Those still fighitng are not going to commit to the decisions of Geneva2."

  • Aleppo airport functional after a year of fighting:

    The first civilian flight has landed in Aleppo international airport after one year of suspensions due to fighting after Syrian government forces managed to secure Aleppo airport and its surrounding.


  • The Democratic Autonomy, which has been formed by the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), announced its first executive assembly, as a local government, in Al Hasakah province in north east of Syria, sources told Al Jazeera.

    This executive assembly consists of a president and two deputies in addition to 22 authorities (Ministries) to run all affairs of the region; defence and security, health, economy, education and culture, agriculture, justice, interior and foreign affairs, religious affairs, communications, transportation, social affairs, Women affairs and others.

     According to the system of the autonomy, the managed areas will be divided to three cantons:

    • Jazeera Canton: in Al Hasakah province.

    •  Kobaneh Canton: in north-east of Aleppo province.

    •  Afrin: in west of Aleppo province.
    These areas, with a Kurdish majority, are under control of Kurdish fighters of Kurdish Popular Protection Units (YPG), and each canton has its own executive assembly.

     There are some Arab and Christian parties and organisations who joined this autonomy and share
    the management, but Kurds represent the majority.  

    Below are some Items of the Autonomy's Social Charter (Constitution):

    • Syria is a free, democratic, independent and sovereign state, and its system is
      federal, democratic, pluralistic, and consensual.
    • The Democratic Autonomy cantons (Jazeera - Kobaneh - Afrin) are geographically parts of Syria, and the city of Qamishli is the Center (Capital) of the autonomy administration. 
    •  The official languages in Jazeera canton are Kurdish, Arabic and Syriac.
    •  Any city or geographical area in Syria has the right to join a canton of the, after the acceptance of the social charter (constitution).
    •  This administration is a model of self-management in Syria, and it is part of the Syria future, which should be based on a political decentralization system, as the federal system.
    • Kurdish Popular Protection Units (YPG) is the only
      national organization responsible for the defense and security.

    • The administration depends on Human Rights Charter, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the cultural, social, economic and other relevant conventions.
    • All citizens have  the right to live by their ethnic or religious identities.
    • The right of life is a fundamental one and maintained, and under this charter death penalty has been canceled.

    • Women have the rights to participate in political and social life, economic and cultural and in all fields.

  • Syria's Information Minister said on Wednesday that President Bashar al-Assad will not step down, as demanded by some of the international powers seeking to end the country's protracted conflict.

    "Assad isn't going," Omaran Zoabi told journalists on the sidelines of U.N.-sponsored face-to-face peace talks in the Swiss resort of Montreux.
    [Reuters] 




  • Kerry: Assad is using the weapon of starvation, which is a war crime, along with missiles.

  • Syrian ambassador to the UN Bashar Jaafari : the delegations attending #Geneva2 are all against the Syrian regime which created an unbalance to the format of the conference
  • While Ban Ki-moon described the meeting as constructive, the Syrian ambassador to the Un thinks it is "fruitless" 



  • Nearly 1,400 people have been killed in Syria since clashes between rebel forces and the jihadist Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant erupted this month, a monitor said Thursday.

    "The number of people killed in fighting between the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and Islamist and rebel forces since January 3 has risen to 1,395," the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. [AFP]
  • An Al Jazeera source says 3 people have been killed and several injured after government
    warplane targeted Al Salhien neighborhood in Aleppo according to activists. 
  • Valerie Amos, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, has urged both delegations to keep the welfare of the Syrian people in mind. 

    "If the (Syrian) parties can come to the recognition about what this crisis is doing to the people then (peace envoy) Lakhdar Brahimi will cease on this. We have all been talking about: can we get localised truces, can we get localised pauses to let the aid to besieged communities we are ready to come in right in on the back of that. So I hope that that would happen," she said on Thursday. 

    "We have been hearing terrible stories about people running out of food, being literally on the brink of starvation. People being sick and injured, not being able to get healthcare in, people fearing for their lives. There are about 245,000 people that are in this kind of situation, and there are places we have not been able to reach for (almost) a year."

    "What do you appeal to the two delegations: remember your people. Remember that you are all Syrians. You can be talking about your child, your mother, your father of your all family that could be facing this horror. Put the people first."

  • The leader of Al-Qaeda has called on rival rebel groups in Syria to end their infighting and focus on battling President Bashar Assad's force.

    In a recording released Thursday, Ayman al-Zawahri's call came as activists said that fighting between the Al-Qaeda linked Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and an array of other groups intensified in northern Syria.

    The infighting "between the holy warriors of Islam has bloodied our hearts" and should stop immediately, Al-Zawahri said. 

    He called on the groups in Syria to set up an Islamic court that would mediate and resolve their differences.

    He said Islamic fighters should focus on "bringing down Assad's secular, sectarian, unjust and criminal regime to set up a just Islamic state."

    [AP] 
  • Syrian Kurds have protested their exclusion from UN-brokered peace talks in Switzerland, and vowed to forge ahead  with their own freedom drive in territories they control.

    "Some forces are trying to exclude us from the solutions they are looking for, and they're not representing anybody," said Saleh Muslim, leader of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party
    (PYD), on Thursday.  

    "How can you bring democracy to Syria without solving the Kurdish issue in Syria? The Kurdish issue should be solved within Geneva II,"  he told reporters in Geneva.

    Speaking on behalf of the Syrian Kurdish Supreme Council - made up of a range of groups from the country's Kurdish minority -  Muslim said its efforts to join the talks had failed.

    The opposition delegation in Geneva includes Abdel Hamid Darwish, head of the Kurdish Progressive Democratic Party, which has questioned the PYD's drive for self-rule in northeastern Syria.

    But Muslim complained that rights for the Kurdish minority were not on the table. 

    "All we want is constitutional recognition of our existence," he said. "We couldn't do it with the coalition, the people who are going to take decisions for Syria, and for the future of Syria," he lamented.


    [AFP]
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