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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.

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin and Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad discussed plans for a peace conference and progress in the elimination of chemical weapons during a telephone call on Thursday, the Kremlin said.

    It gave few details but said Putin had urged Assad's government to do all it can to alleviate the suffering of civilians and "positively assessed" the Syrian government's readiness to send a delegation to the planned peace talks.

    Putin also voiced concern over what he called persecution of Christians and other religious minorities by extremists in Syria, apparently blaming this on Islamist militants fighting Assad's government.

    "The hope was expressed that the government of Syria will do everything possible to alleviate the suffering of the civilian population and restore peace between faiths," the Kremlin statement said.

    Putin also "expressed satisfaction" with Syria's cooperation with an international mission overseeing the elimination of its chemical arms under a deal brokered by Russia and the United States.

    Washington and Moscow are also trying to arrange an international peace conference in Geneva.

  • The Syrian government will send a delegation to Moscow on Monday for talks with Russian officials on preparations for a proposed peace conference in Geneva, an official said.

    The source said on Thursday the delegation would be made up of President Bashar al-Assad's presidential adviser Buthaina Shaaban, Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Muqdad and Ahmad Arnous, the ministry's senior official on European affairs.

  • Environmental activists hold up national flags and signs as they take part in a protest in front of the Albanian parliament in Tirana [AFP] 
    by Amna Bagadi

    Several hundred people protested on Thursday in the capital Tirana and number of other towns across Albania against the possible destruction of Syrian chemical weaponry on its soil as requested by Washington.

    "The parliament will not make any decision that could endanger lives and the well-being of (Albanian) citizens and the country," Ilir Meta, chairman of the assembly, told protestors in front of the parliament building in Tirana.

    "Every decision will take into account Albania's future," Meta said, as the crowd shouted "No to chemical weapons".

    Albania, along with France, Belgium, have been mooted as possible sites for the dismantling of Syria's entire chemical arsenal, estimated at about 1,000 tonnes.

    The Balkan country's right-wing opposition also called on the Albanians to keep up with the protests.

    "It is unacceptable for any chemical weapons to be destroyed in Albania," said opposition leader Lulezim Bashac.

    He urged the government to call a referendum for the people to decide on the issue.

  • Norway has said it would offer logistical support for the destruction of Syria's chemical weapons arsenal despite refusing to carry out the operation on its soil as requested by the United States.

    Oslo will offer a civilian ship to help transport the weapons to an as yet undecided location, along with a military frigate to escort any future convoy, the country's foreign ministry said on Thursday.

    The Scandinavian country would also promise 90 million krone ($15 mn) to the United Nations and Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to carry out the operation, the ministry added.

    Norway said on October 25 it could not accommodate an American request to help destroy Syria's chemical arsenal on its soil, saying the schedule was too tight and that it lacked the expertise required.

  • North Korea denied it was sending military aid to the Syrian government, one of its few close allies, in its battle against rebel forces after media reports said that Pyongyang had sent advisors and helicopter pilots.

    "Some foreign media are floating misinformation that the DPRK (Democratic People's Republic of Korea) supplied war equipment to Syria, its airmen are directly involved in air-raids on insurgent troops in Syria," the North's state run KCNA news agency said late on Thursday.

  • The world's chemical weapons watchdog met on Friday to approve a final timetable for ridding Syria of its entire arsenal by  mid-2014.

    Friday is the deadline for the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical 
    Weapons (OPCW) to agree "destruction milestones" for the more than 1,000 tonnes of dangerous chemicals in Syria.


    by Hamza Mohamed edited by Basma Atassi 11/15/2013 11:07:47 AM
  • Syrian government air raid killed Tawhid rebel group commander, Youssef al-Abbas,  in Aleppo on Friday, according to activists in the city.

    Tawhid's head, Abdelqader Saleh, was injured and taken to a hospital in Turkey, 45 km to the  north, along with Abdelaziz al-Salameh, another top commander.


    by Hamza Mohamed edited by Basma Atassi 11/15/2013 11:33:25 AM
  • Jordan said on Friday the total cost of hosting Syrian refugees in 2013 and 2014 would exceed $5 billion, more than previously estimated, but vowed to stick with painful economic reforms including the removal of power subsidies.

    Finance Minister Umayya Toukan attributed the escalating costs mainly to the need for more infrastructure to alleviate overcrowding in Jordan, now home to more than 600,000 refugees from the civil war in neighbouring Syria according to UN data.

    Toukan said Jordan's own estimates put the number of Syrian refugees somewhat higher, at between 700,000 and 1 million.

    "The numbers are continuing to increase... Our schools and hospitals and all our infrastructure are overcrowded," he said on the sidelines of a Union of Arab Banks' conference in Beirut.

    "This is not just to accommodate refugees in the same classroom any more, you have to build new schools, new hospitals," Toukan told Reuters in an interview, adding Jordan would need more international support to host the Syrians.

    The United Nations has estimated the cost of hosting the refugees at $2.1 billion for 2013 and $3.2 billion for 2014, he said. Jordan's own estimate just for 2013 was $1.5 billion.

  • A Syrian government delegation is due to meet officials in Moscow on Monday to discuss an international peace conference that Russia, the United States and the United Nations are trying to convene, a Russian diplomatic source said.

    Russia and the United States announced in May that they would try to organise a conference to bring Syria's government and opposition together for talks. No date has been set but diplomatic efforts to hold the talks have intensified in recent weeks.

    The Syrian delegation may meet Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Tuesday, the source said.
  • Albania will not host the destruction of Syrian chemical weapons, the country’s prime minister says -Reuters
  • The US said it respected a decision by Albania not to host the destruction of Syria's chemical weapons and that it was confident of eliminating the nerve agents within a time frame agreed with Russia.

    "The United States will continue to work with Allies and partners as well as the OPCW (Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons) and the United Nations to ensure the elimination of Syria's chemical weapons program," the US embassy in Tirana said in a statement.

    "We remain confident that we will complete elimination of the (weapons) program within the timeline agreed upon," it said.
  • The world's chemical watchdog adopted a final roadmap for ridding Syria of its arsenal by mid- 2014, hours before a deadline expired, a spokesman said.

    "The plan is adopted," Christian Chartier, a spokesman for the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), told AFP after a meeting of its 41-member Executive Council in The Hague.

  • French police have arrested four men suspected of belonging to a "militant cell" channelling fighters to Syria to join Islamist rebel groups battling President Bashar al-Assad's government, police sources said on Friday.

    The suspects, aged between 22 and 35, were arrested in the Paris suburb of Vitry-sur-Seine by the DCRI internal security service following an investigation that started in mid-2012.

    One 24-year-old man, suspected of organising journeys to Syria, was in touch with several "fixers" who facilitated travel between Turkey and Syria, while another previously fought with an Islamist group in Syria, the sources said.

    A court ordered the men to be jailed temporarily pending further questioning.

  • Albania has rejected a request from the US for the Syrian chemical weapons to be destroyed on its soil.

    The Balkans nation says it's ill-equipped to handle the disposal of thousands of tonnes of toxic waste.

    Al Jazeera's Jonah Hull reports.

  • Al Jazeera's Zeina Khodr says dozens of Syrian families have crossed intro Lebanon, fleeing Qarah, a town about 20 kilometres from Lebanon's border after the Syrian army started an offensive in the town. 
  • Al Qunayta: bombing Al Nasiriya village 

    القنيطرة -الناصرية الصورايخ التي سقطت على القرية 16-11-2013
    by ahrar grgis via YouTube on 11:05 AM

  • Shelling by government forces targets the town of Al Houla in the countryside of Homs.

    شام حمص الحولة القصف العنيف الذي استهدف المدينة صباح اليوم 16 11 2013 جـ4
    by SHAMSNN via YouTube on 10:41 AM

  • Rebels shell Aleppo airport by homemade mortar shells 

    ريف حلب الجيش الحر يستهدف تجمعات حزب الله الإرهابي في مطار حلب الدولي 16 11 2013 جـ1
    by SHAMSNN via YouTube on 9:47 AM

  • Thousands of Syrian refugees have poured into Lebanon over the past two days as fighting between government forces and rebels has flared near the border, a local official said on Saturday.

    The refugees were fleeing the Qalamoun mountains north of Damascus, a strategic border district with a mixed Sunni Muslim and Christian population where both sides have been massing forces.

    "Some 1,000 families have fled to Arsal since Friday," said Ahmad al-Hojairi, a local official in the Sunni Muslim Lebanese border town.

    "We are trying to accommodate them in people's homes and in tents, but there is no way we can cover for their needs," he told AFP news agency.

    "We need urgent help from the international community to adequately support them."

    The families were crossing the border by car, by motorbike or on foot, he said.

    "We expect more to arrive in the coming days as the fighting in Qalamoun intensifies."

    Lebanon already hosts more than 814,000 Syrian refugees and is ill-placed to cope with a new influx fleeing the conflict in its larger neighbour.

    But Syrian Observatory for Human Rights director Rami Abdel Rahman warned that Qalamoun area was "witnessing the lead-up to a major battle". [AFP]
  • Free Syrian Army fighters launch a locally made weapon towards forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad who control Aleppo International Airport [Reuters, Nov. 15]

  • Syrian activists say al-Qaeda-linked fighters have mistakenly beheaded a wounded fellow fighter.

    Rami Abdurrahman of the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and another activist in the northern province of Aleppo say fighters of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant found the wounded rebel in a hospital after a battle with government forces on Wednesday.

    They said he was moaning phrases typical of Shia. Shia Muslims in Syria and its neighbours have fought on behalf of President Bashar al-Assad, who comes from an offshoot of the sect.

    The activist spoke on Saturday on condition of anonymity, fearing retribution.

    The fighters later displayed the man's head before a crowd in Aleppo city. But residents identified it as belonging to a leader of another hard-line rebel group, Ahrar al-Sham. [AP]

  • Syrian troops have clashed with rebels in the mountainous western Qalamoun region of the country, in an offensive to cut an opposition supply route. Hundreds of civilians were forced to flee for safety across the border to Lebanon, activists and officials said.

    Syrian government warplanes struck rebel held areas around the area, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, as they try to regain control of the border with Lebanon.

    The Observatory said that Lebanon's militant Hezbollah group has deployed thousands of fighters on the Lebanese side of the border in preparation for the battle. Hezbollah's fighters openly joined Syria's civil war earlier this year, tipping the war in favor of government forces mostly in the central province of Homs and in the suburbs of Damascus.

    Hundreds of Syrian men, women and children have crossed the border into the Lebanese town of Arsal seeking refuge from the fighting. "We have a major crisis," the town's former mayor Bassel Hojeiri told The Associated Press. The town has been sought as refuge by thousands of refugees from the past two years of violence, he said.

    More than 120,000 people have been killed so far in the war, now in its third year, according to the Observatory, which closely monitors the violence in Syria through a network of activists across the country.


  • More Syrian refugees flee to Lebanon
    by Al Jazeera English via YouTube on 4:53 AM

    Approximately 1,000 Syrian families have escaped to Lebanon in the last two days as fighting has increased in the town of Qarah on the Syrian-Lebanese border.

    Syrian military has launched an offensive in an attempt to close an opposition supply route from Lebanon. Government forces appear to be trying to regain control of the whole border with the country.

    Al Jazeera's Zeina Khodr reports from Arsal in Lebanon.

  • The United Nations agency for refugees is reporting that around 1,000 families have fled from a high-stakes battle in central Syria to the Lebanese border town of Arsal, walking more than 30 kilometres over ridges and valleys to safety.

    Dana Sleiman of the UNHCR said Sunday that the families have been driven from border towns in the mountainous Qalamoun region, where Syrian forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad are clashing with rebels in a drive to cut supply lines to opposition-held areas near Damascus.

    She says they have been fleeing since the battle began Friday. Activists say the fighting has been intensifying.

    Syrian refugees have overwhelmed Lebanon since their uprising began three years ago.

    Lebanese officials estimate there are 1.4 million Syrians in the country, including 800,000 registered refugees. [AP]

  • Syrian bank accounts frozen abroad are gradually being freed up for use in food purchases, the head of Syria's General Foreign Trade Organisation (GFTO) told Reuters news agency on Sunday, with France being the most committed to releasing the funds.

    The European Union, United States and other Western countries have imposed sanctions on President Bashar al-Assad's government over his crackdown on the revolt in his country, but these do not apply to food.

    The Union De Banques Arabes Francaises (UBAF) has approved the release of funds for purchases, Tarek al Taweel, Director General of GFTO, said over the telephone. 

    "UBAF bank in France has been very cooperative," Taweel said. 

    France in September cleared the use of frozen Syrian bank assets to fund the export of food to the country as part of a European Union system that allows such funds to be used for humanitarian ends. [Reuters]
  • Airstrike targets Inkhil town in Deraa.

    Al Jazeera cannot independently verify this activist video.

  • At least 31 troops, among them four officers, were killed in a massive bomb attack on an army base near Damascus on Sunday, a monitoring group said.

    "Three generals and a brigadier-general were among 31 troops killed in a bomb attack that caused a building in the army transport base in Harasta to collapse," said Syrian Observatory for Human Rights director Rami Abdel Rahman.

    "The timing of the attack is significant," as it comes amid a major regime offensive on rebel positions all around Damascus, Abdel Rahman told AFP news agency

    The bomb appeared to have been placed "either inside or beneath the building in a tunnel", he added, suggesting there was a possibility rebels had infiltrated the base.
  • Abdel Qader Saleh, head of the The powerful Liwaa al-Tawhid Brigade, is dead.

    He was killed in battle a few days ago, but the group withheld the information.

    The brigade, formed in July 2012, is said to have at least 10,000 fighters. It has been credited for the opposition’s control of vast areas in Aleppo province.

  • A statue of former Syrian president Hafez al-Assad, during the unveiling ceremony in the northern coastal city of Tartous.

    [Syrian Arab News Agency] 
    by Yermi Brenner

  • Refugee camp Za'atari in Jordan is home to thousands of Syrians.

    A Day in the Life: Za'atari
    by United Nations High ... via YouTube on 1:53 PM yesterday

  • A senior Syrian regime delegation is in Moscow to hold talks with top Russian diplomats about plans to hold a peace conference in Geneva to end the Syria conflict, the foreign ministry said.

    President Bashar al-Assad's presidential adviser Buthaina Shaaban and Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Muqdad are in Moscow and will hold talks on Monday with Gennady Gatilov and Mikhail Bogdanov, both Russian deputy foreign ministers, it said.

    According to the Syrian opposition, Russia also invited National Coalition head Ahmed Jarba to Moscow from November 18 to 21 for a trip which would have coincided with the visit of the regime officials, but they were unable to attend due to "preset official commitments". [AFP]
  • Hezbollah supporters during Ashoura rally carry pictures of fighters killed in battle against Syrian rebels in Syria [AP]

    by AJE Staff

  • Syrian youth have allegedly been fighting alongside opposition fighters [AFP] 
    by AJE Staff
    Power cuts have become a regular occurrence in Syria [AFP] 
    by AJE Staff
    Syrian families leave besieged town in eastern Ghouta, controlled by opposition fighters, in Damascus countryside [Reuters] 
    by AJE Staff

    1 of 3

  • The leader of one of Syria's most prominent rebel units died early on Monday of wounds sustained during a strike by government troops last week, his group said, dealing another blow to fighters reeling from a series of recent battlefield losses.

    The death of Abdul-Qadir Saleh, founder of the Tawhid Brigade, was announced by opposition groups and activists. 

    On Thursday night, a government air strike hit its command post in Aleppo province, according to local activists and the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. 

    The 34-year-old Saleh was severely wounded and later died in a hospital in Turkey, said a brigade spokesmen who goes by the name of Akram al-Halaby. 

    The strike also killed a senior brigade officer, Abu Tayeb, and wounded another spokesman, Saleh Anadan.

  • Russia hosted Syrian and Iranian delegations for separate rounds of talks on Monday in a renewed diplomatic push for a Syrian peace conference in which Moscow says Tehran must play a role.

    President Vladimir Putin, who has stepped up his personal involvement on the Syrian issue, also called Iran's president to discuss the conflict as well as efforts to end the dispute over Tehran's nuclear programme. 

    "We regard Iran as a very important partner in all Middle Eastern affairs," Interfax news agency quoted Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov saying at the start of talks with Iran's Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian.

    The meeting "will give us an opportunity to jointly look at how developments in and around Syria unfold," Bogdanov said.

  • No European Union nation came forward on Monday offering to host the destruction of Syria's poison gas stockpile, with many instead calling for the arsenal to be eradicated close to Syria itself.

    While Belgium had been considered a strong candidate after the withdrawal of Albania, due to its previous history of destroying the gas arsenal from World War I, the Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders said that they "have to find a way to send experts and the technology on site."

    "To transport them over long distances to bring them on our soil _ we do not really see how to do that, and not only in Belgium, also in other European states,''Reynders said, highlighting a reluctance found across the 28 EU nations.

    The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has adopted a plan to destroy Damascus' estimated 1,300-ton arsenal, which includes mustard gas and sarin, outside Syria, but has yet to find a country willing to host the risky operation.

    While a location has been difficult to find, US Secretary of State John Kerry did allude to a possible "two alternatives" but did not say what those could be.

    The OPCW has not released any names of countries where the weapons could be destroyed, but says it remains confident it can wipe out the entire arsenal by mid-2014.

  • Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has hit back at charges that his country is allowing fighters with ties to 'extremist groups' to flow across its long border with Syria, calling for greater intelligence cooperation.

    "In no way Turkey tolerates or will be tolerating any extremist groups crossing Turkish borders," the minister told reporters on Monday, after meetings in Washington with top US officials.

    The Washington Post alleged over the weekend that Ankara had "turned a blind eye" to rebels streaming through Turkey on their way to fight against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

    Ankara had asked Western countries to share intelligence on suspected rebel fighters with ties to these groups, so that Turkish authorities could stop them entering the country, Davutoglu said. [AFP]
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