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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.



  • هااام || قذائف عنقودية يلقيها طيران الميغ من ارتفاع عال وتنفجر في السماء- يبرود - 1-3-2014
    by تنسيقية مدينة يبرود via YouTube

    This video uploaded to YouTube is said to show cluster munitions fitted with small parachutes being dropped on Yabroud.

    Al Jazeera cannot independently verify the content of this video.
  • Ex-Guantanamo inmate denies Syria-related terror charges

    Moazzam Begg charged with terror offences [Reuters] 

    Former Guantanamo Bay detainee Moazzam Begg has told  a London court he would plead not guilty to providing training and funding terrorism in Syria, police said.

    Begg, who was released without charge from the US military prison in Cuba in 2005, was detained at his home in Birmingham in central England last  week and charged with terrorism offences dated between October 2012 and April  2013.

    He appeared at Westminster Magistrates Court on Saturday and was remanded in custody to appear at London's Old Bailey criminal court on March 14. 

    "This is a politically motivated arrest and very much bears the hallmarks of trying to criminalise legitimate Muslim activity by reinforcing a climate of fear," said Asim Qureshi, research director of human rights group, Cage.
    [Reuters]
  • China completes fifth shipment of Syrian chemical weapons

    Chinese frigate "Yancheng" successfully completed a fifth escort mission for the transport of Syria's chemical weapons. 

    With a joint escort by naval vessels from China, Russia, Denmark and Norway, the Norwegian transport vessel, loaded with chemical weapons from Syria, arrived in predetermined waters at 22:55 Friday. 

    The Norwegian vessel arrived at Syria's principal port city of Latakia at 15:00 on Friday and began loading the chemical weapons. 

    The fourth shipment of chemical weapons was removed from Syria on Wednesday.
    [AP]
  • In one besieged neighborhood after another, weary rebels have turned over their weapons to the Syrian government in exchange for an easing of suffocating blockades that have prevented food, medicine and other staples from reaching civilians trapped inside.

    The local cease-fires struck in at least four neighborhoods in and around the Syrian capital in recent weeks have brought an end to the shelling and most of the fighting in the affected areas. While deep distrust lingers on both sides, in some neighborhoods the lull has prompted residents displaced by earlier violence to return.

    The government touts the truces as part of its program of ``national reconciliation'' to end Syria's crisis, which has killed more than 140,000 people since March 2011. But activists and rebels describe the deals as the final stage of a ruthless tactic President Bashar Assad's government has employed to devastating effect: shelling and starving fighters and civilians alike in opposition-held areas into submission.
    [AP]
  • Syrian helicopters dropped explosives-packed barrels near rebel-held Yabrud on Tuesday, a monitoring group said.

    The strikes come a day after at least 15 rebels were killed fighting in the Yabrud area, north of Damascus, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based group relying on contacts inside the war-torn country.

    The group supported reports from activists on the ground, who said the village of Sahel is still a contested area, a day after the army claimed it had taken it over completely.

    The mixed Muslim and Christian town of Yabrud lies on the strategic highway linking Damascus to Homs, Syria's third city, and is close to the Lebanese border and crucial rebel supply lines. [AFP]

  • Saudi Arabia is demanding all foreign fighters leave Syria and face justice if they've committed war crimes.

    It's concerned Saudi nationals involved in the ongoing conflict may turn their weapons against the Kingdom.

    The Syrian civil war has drawn in foreigners on both sides of the fight.

  • The Dutch diplomat leading an international mission to dismantle Syria's chemical weapons program says the pace of removing chemicals from the civil war-torn country is picking up and an end-of-June deadline for total destruction of the program is still achievable.

    In an interview with The Associated Press at the headquarters of the international watchdog overseeing the unprecedented mission, Sigrid Kaag said on Tuesday, Syria has agreed a 60-day timetable "to accelerate and intensify their efforts to ensure timely removal" of chemicals that will be destroyed outside the country.

    Kaag says that "as of today, nearly one third of Syria's chemical weapons material has been removed or destroyed inside the country.''

    Syria had been criticized in recent weeks for the slow pace of removing chemicals. [AP]
  • Rebel groups in Idlib province claim they seized two checkpoints of Syria Army in south of Idlib city and clashes are still ongoing in attempt to capture the rest of government checkpoints in that areas. According to media activists, rebels attempt to cut the road between the main government strongholds of Idlib city and al Mastumah town in the south.

  • Israel claims to have shot two Hezbollah fighters who tried to plant a bomb near the fence between the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights and Syrian-held territory.

    An Israeli army spokeswoman on Wednesday said Israeli intelligence had identified the men as members of Hezbollah. She had no immediate word on their condition.

    There was no response from Hezbollah but Syria's armed forces said in a statement that Israeli rockets, tank shells and rifle fire had wounded seven security force personnel and four civilians on Syrian-controlled territory.
  • Syrian warplanes have renewed air raids on the rebel stronghold of Yabroud near Lebanon,activists say.

    "Warplanes carried out 10 raids on the outskirts of the town of Yabroud and the Rima area," the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

    It added that regime forces also shelled parts of Yabroud and troops backed by pro-regime militia and the Lebanese Hezbollah movement were engaged in fierce clashes with rebels.

    The Syrian Revolution General Commission and Local Coordination Committee activist groups said the air raids involved the use of explosive-packed barrel bombs.
  • UN: Chemical weapons appear to come from army stockpile

    Chemical weapons used in two incidents in Syria last year appear to come from the stockpiles of the Syrian military, UN human rights investigators said in a report that went beyond previous findings.

    The team of independent experts said that so far they had confirmed the deadly nerve agent sarin was used in three incidents: the Damascus suburb of al-Ghouta on August 21, in Khan al-Assal near Aleppo in March 2013 and in Saraqeb near the northern town of Idlib last April.

    The first two attacks bore "the same unique hallmarks", according to the team of some two dozen investigators who include a military advisor.

    "The evidence available concerning the nature, quality and quantity of the agents used on 21 August indicated that the perpetrators likely had access to the chemical weapons stockpile of the Syrian military, as well as the expertise and equipment necessary to manipulate safely large amount of chemical agents," the investigators said in the report. 

    "Concerning the incident in Khan al-Assal on 19 March, the chemical agents used in that attack bore the same unique hallmarks as those used in al-Ghouta."
    [AFP]

  • Sigrid Kaag, special coordinator for a joint mission by the UN and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), tells Al Jazeera's James Bays that all parties involved in Syria's disarmament were focused on the job.

  • Rebels allegedly launching offensives on Syrian government checkpoints in the town of Khan Sheikhoun since last week, attempting to cut the army's supply line between Idlib and Hama governorates.

    Al Jazeera cannot independently verify the content of this video.

  • Four rockets landed in Lebanon's predominantly Shia areas along the border with Syria in the Bekaa Valley; al Ain, Nabi Othman, and Lebweh.

    According to the national news agency, the rockets were launched from Arsal's mountainous areas.

  • Israeli Air Force jets scrambled to the border with Syria four times on Friday morning, after Syrian fighter planes and one helicopter were allegedly spotted near the Israeli border. [Haaretz]
  • US State Department says June deadline on Syria chemical weapons at risk:

    US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said on Friday that after "weeks of inaction" and missed intermediate deadlines, less than one-third of Syria's chemical weapon material had been moved out of the country as part of an agreement with the United States and Russia. 

    Sources at the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said Syria also will miss another interim deadline next week. It has until June 30 to eliminate its chemical weapons programme completely.

    Recent shipments are encouraging signs that Syria is accelerating CW (chemical weapons) movements ..., but the regime's previous lack of action puts the June 30 deadline for elimination of Syria's program at risk.

    [Reuters]
  • An al-Qaida-breakaway group said Friday that it faces a war with rival Islamic factions who want to destroy it, describing Syria's al-Qaida-linked branch as the ``front of betrayal and treason'' in a message that could lead to more bloodshed.

    The statement by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant came a week 
    after the leader of the powerful al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front gave the breakaway faction a five-day ultimatum to accept mediation by leading clerics to end infighting or be ``expelled'' from the region.

    Battles between the rival groups that began in early January have killed more than 3,000 people, activists say. The fighting, in which the Nusra Front is backed by other Islamic groups, has concentrated in northern Syria and has been the deadliest between opposition fighters since the country's crisis began three years ago.[AP]

  • A coalition of Syrian opposition groups has confirmed its choice for a new army chief after the former military leader refused to step down.

    The Western-backed coalition's higher military council issued a statement Saturday confirming Brig. Gen. Abdul-Ilah al-Bashir was their new chief, replacing Gen. Salim Idris.

    The military council originally made the announcement appointing al-Bashir on Feb. 17.

    But two days later Idris rejected his dismissal, badly embarrassing the 
    Western-backed coalition.

    Then Idris, along with more than a dozen senior insurgent commanders severed ties with the political opposition-in-exile, further fragmenting the notoriously divided rebel movement.

    Idris was ousted by colleagues who blamed him for the waning influence of 
    the coalition-backed
    Free Syrian Army, as Islamic-orientated brigades grew in 
    power.

    Al-Bashir is a rebel commander from southern Syria. [AP]

  • خان الشيح - قصف بالبراميل المتفجرة على مزارع القصور
    by Emad Ahmad via YouTube
    This amateur video posted on Youtube by activists allegedly show barrel bombs attack on Khan Elsheikh near of Damascus. Al Jazeera was unable to immediately verify the authenticity of this video.

     

  • Government aircraft have dropped have crude ``barrel bombs'' on an embattled rebel-held city in western Syria, killing civilians, activists said.

    Death tolls from the reported strikes on Yabroud varied widely, as is often the case during the three-year-long conflict. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Saturday that 16 civilians and 14 fighters died in Friday's strikes, while an activist, who uses the name Amer, said in
    a Skype interview that four civilians were killed. [AP]
  • Syrian President Bashar al-Assad addressing members of the ruling Baath party during a meeting marking the 51st anniversary of the party's ascent to power
    [AFP PHOTO / HO / SANA



  • Damaged buildings in the besieged area of Homs [Reuters] 


  • Syrian activists say government forces have bombarded the town of Khan al-Shih, outside the capital of Damascus.

    In the town of Deir Az Zor, there has been heavy fighting between rebels and soldiers outside the airport.

    In Western Homs, the Syrian army says it has recaptured the town of Zara, near the Lebanese border, after weeks of fighting.

    Syrian state television says 23 rebels surrendered and handed over their weapons.

    And government forces appear to be closing in on Yabroud, which is also close to the border with Lebanon.

    They carried out a series of air strikes over the town, which is one of the last rebel strongholds in the mountainous Qalamoun region.
  • Former defence boss blasts Britain's handling of the Syria crisis

    Lord Richards, the former Chief of the Defence staff and one of Britain’s most decorated soldiers, will today criticise the Government’s ‘half-hearted’ handling of the crisis in Syria.

    In an interview on BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs, recorded before the crisis in Ukraine and Crimea, the former military commander will say the government’s failure to properly support the opposition in Syria has only ‘aggravated’ the country’s worsening humanitarian crisis.

    Read the full article in the UK newspaper Daily mail here
  • Rebels say they control strategic town of Morek

    Rebel soldiers said they had taken control of the Syrian town of Morek in the central Hama province on Saturday after two weeks of clashes.

    The town, which is controlled by regime forces, is considered important due to its strategic position, enabling Assad forces to use its roads for supplies and reinforcements.

    But while clashes were continuing, the rebels said they now had control of key posts in the town.
    [Reuters]
  • Assad meets with Baath party members

    Bashar al-Assad speaks during a meeting with the leadership Baath party [Reuters] 

    Syrian President Bashar al-Assad met on Saturday with members of Baath party to celebrate the 51st anniversary of the foundation of the party, as the country prepares for elections.

    Assad has not yet announced whether he will stand for a third term, but in state-controlled parts of Damascus preparations for his candidacy are noticeable.

    Assad's Baath party has been in power since 1963 when it seized control of the country.
    [Reuters]

  • حمص الوعر قصف الحي المتواصل على منازل المدنين 9 3 2014
    by جلال التلاوي via YouTube

    This video uploaded to YouTube is said to show government forces shelling a residential area of Homs.

    Al Jazeera cannot independently verify the content of this video.
  • Syria's suspected chemical weapon sites

    Syria declared 12 production facilities to the OPCW [Reuters]

    Syria will miss a major deadline next week in the program to destroy its chemical weapons production facilities, sources at the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) have said.

    Syria declared 12 production facilities to the OPCW and has until March 15 to destroy them under a deal agreed with the United States and Russia. Damascus has already missed several deadlines laid out in the agreement.
    [Reuters]
  • Kidnappers free Syrian nuns taken from their convent near Damascus last year

    About a dozen nuns held in Syria for more than three months have been released and are on their way to Damascus via Lebanon, a Lebanese security source said on Sunday.
     
    The source said the nuns had been transferred to the Lebanese town of Arsal earlier in the week and were on their way to Syria on Sunday.

    The nuns went missing in December after Islamist fighters took the ancient quarter of the Christian town of Maaloula north of Damascus. 
    [Reuters]

  • ألوية الحبيب المصطفى || تفجير عربة شيلكا لقوات الاسد في المعارك الدائرة على منطقة المرج
    by ألوية و كتائب الحبيب ا... via YouTube

    This video uploaded to YouTube is said to show clashes between government forces and opposition fighters in Al Marj in the Eastern Damascus countryside.

    Al Jazeera cannot independently verify the content of this video.
  • Syria opposition 'not yet ready' for Arab League seat

    Syria's seat at the Arab League will remain vacant until the opposition completes the formation of its institutions, the pan-Arab group's secretary-general Nabil el-Araby said on Sunday.

    "The last Arab summit in Doha in March 2012 adopted the principle of granting Syria's seat within the League to the opposition, but it has not yet established its institutions and must take further steps in this regard," el-Araby said after a meeting of the Arab Ministerial Council.

    Last November, Syrian National Coalition chief Ahmad Jarba said the  opposition was claiming his country's seat in the organisation.

    The Istanbul-based Coalition, which includes several opposition groups, is considered to be one of the most important representatives of the Syrian 
    opposition.
    [AFP]
  • A group of nuns held by rebels in Syria for more than three months have been released and are on their way to Damascus via Lebanon. Read more http://aje.me/1lM7hzT 
  • A child survivor is seen at a hospital in Aleppo's al-Sakhour district, after what activists said was a barrel bomb dropped at Aleppo's Haydariye district by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad
    [Reuters] 


  • Syria army using starvation as 'weapon of war': Amnesty
    [Reuters/UNRWA/Handout]

    A new report by Amnesty International reveals that war crimes and crimes against humanity have been carried out on Palestinian and Syrian civilians in Yarmouk, on the outskirts of Damascus, which is under brutal siege by Syrian government forces.
    Read full report http://aje.me/1qnwVM1

  • An operation to release about a dozen nuns held by rebels in Syria for more than three months came to a head as the group was moved across the border crossing at Masnaa in Lebanon.

    The operation began on Sunday (March 9), security sources and church officials said, but hit an unexplained delay.

    A Lebanese security source had said the nuns had been taken to the Lebanese town of Arsal earlier in the week and would head to Damascus on Sunday accompanied by the head of a Lebanese security agency and a Qatari intelligence official.

    By late Sunday, however, they had not arrived at the Syrian border. The reason for the hold-up was not immediately clear.

    The nuns were finally seen being taken in a convoy to the border crossing on the Lebanese side at Masnaa, before arriving in the Syrian town of Jdaydet Yabous, where they were met by armed guards who carried them through a large group of people.
    [Reuters]
  • Nuns released in swap deal in Syria

  • Nuns kidnapped by rebels in Syria freed


  • Damaged buildings are seen in the besieged area of Homs [Reuters] 
    a street filled with debris in the besieged area of Homs [Reuters]  
    Khalid bin al Walid Mosque is seen amid damaged buildings in the besieged area of Homs [Reuters]  
     
     

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  • UN agency says Syrian children have been hardest hit by the civil war

     2.8 million Syrian children cannot go to school [Reuters] 

    The United Nations says 2.8 million Syrian children cannot go to school because of a civil war now entering its fourth year.

    The UN children's agency says 2.3 million of Syria's nearly 5 million school-age children are out of school as education and health services collapse, and classrooms are bombed or used as shelters and military barracks.

    UNICEF says another 300,000 Syrian children are out of school in Lebanon, along with some 93,000 in Jordan, 78,000 in Turkey, 26,000 in Iraq and 4,000 in Egypt.

    Agency officials told reporters Tuesday in Geneva that 2 million children affected by the fighting are in need of psychological support or treatment.
    [Associated Press]
  • Only 25 Syria prisoners freed for nuns, says regime

    Nuns who were freed after being held by rebels, pray at a Church in Damascus [Reuters] 

    Syria freed only 25 prisoners, not 150 as had been reported, in exchange for a group of kidnapped nuns, the country's information minister Omran al-Zohbi has claimed.

    The statement came despite mediators and the opposition saying nearly 150 female detainees had been freed in exchange for the nuns, who were kidnapped from the town of Maalula by rebels fighters last year.

    "The number of people released in exchange for the Maalula nuns is not more than 25 people whose hands had not been stained by the blood of the Syrian people," state news agency SANA quoted Zohbi as saying.

    "Everything that has been said on this issue is not accurate and has been exaggerated."
    [AFP]
  • Three suicide bombers strike hotel in Kurdish region

    Three suicide bombers detonated their explosives belts in a hotel in a predominantly Kurdish town in northeastern Syria on Tuesday, killing three people, the state-run news agency has said.

    The area has been the scene of heavy battles recently between Kurdish gunmen and members of the al-Qaeda breakaway group, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

    A Kurdish official told reporters several suicide attackers tried to storm the heavily-fortified building and blew themselves up. One of them was captured before he could blow himself up and was being questioned, he added.
    [Associated Press]


  • Prosecutors say seven men and a woman have been arrested in France on suspicion of planning to join groups fighting in Syria.

    The prosecutor's office says French intelligence agents are questioning the eight Tuesday, one day after their arrests in and around Paris. In France, terror suspects can be held for up to four days before being charged or freed.

    More than 20 French citizens have been killed in Syria's 3-year-old civil war. In November, France opened an investigation into more than 600 French people who either are preparing to join the fighting or are already there.
    [Associated Press]
  • Syrian soldiers backed by Lebanese group Hezbollah took full control on Tuesday of farmland on the northern edge of Yabroud, the last major rebel stronghold near the Lebanese border north of Damascus, military sources said.

    The sources, who were in contact with fighters on the ground, said the Syrian army killed dozens of rebel fighters as they took over the Rima Farms district outside the town.

    "The army is now directly facing Yabroud," one of the sources told Reuters.

    Capturing Yabroud would help President Bashar al-Assad secure the land route linking his Mediterranean coastal stronghold with the capital Damascus, and choke off a cross-border rebel supply line from Lebanon.
    [Reuters]
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