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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.


  • Germany says it will take in a further 5,000 refugees from Syria, doubling its current offer of shelter for people fleeing the country's conflict.

    The decision was announced on Friday at a meeting of officials from Germany's 16 states, which share responsibility for housing refugees.

    Lower Saxony's interior minister, Boris Pistorius, said Germany couldn't look away from the humanitarian disaster in Syria.

    Millions of Syrians have fled their homes, with hundreds of thousands seeking refuge in neighbouring countries.

    Pistorius says a Europe-wide solution is needed to ensure that each country takes in as many refugees as it reasonably can.

    Germany has offered shelter to the largest number of Syrians so far. It is the European Union's most populous country and has the bloc's biggest economy.

    [AP]

  • This photo reportedly from Syria was shared by Twitter user @fsa_hq_syria
  • Al Jazeera correspondents remember Yasser

    Iraqi cameraman Yasser Faisal al-Joumaili was executed in Syria's north reportedly by an al-Qaeda-affiliated group. The freelance journalist worked with Al Jazeera English for several years in Iraq and Syria. 

    Three of his colleagues wrote blog posts recalling their time with Yasser.


    Omar al-Saleh: Remembering my friend, Yasser

    Jane Arraf: The dashing Yasser

    Imran Khan: Adieu Yasser


  • A group of nuns from the historic Christian town of Maalula in Syria denied they were kidnapped by rebels, in a video broadcast by Al Jazeera.

    The brief video shows the women, apparently in good health and comfortable, dressed in black religious garb in a room. It was unclear who was filming the women, and where they were speaking from.

    "A group brought us here and protected us, and we're very, very happy with them," one of the nuns said.

    Another insisted the group was staying in a "very, very nice villa" and denied claims that the group of women had been kidnapped.

    The nuns were reported missing from the town north of Damascus after rebel forces, including jihadists, seized control of Maalula on Monday.

    Media close to the Syrian regime accused rebels of using the nuns as "human shields," and fears were raised for the safety of the 12 women.

    On Wednesday, Pope Francis called for prayers for the nuns missing from a Greek Orthodox convent and "for all kidnap victims in the conflict".

    But in the video, several said they were in good health and that they fled Maalula after intense shelling on the town.

    They called for an end to the targeting of holy sites by all parties to Syria's bloody 33-month conflict.

    On Tuesday, religious officials said the 12 nuns, accompanied by three maids, were in the town of Yabrud, not far from Maaloula in the Qalamoun region near the border with Lebanon.

    The mother superior of the Saydnaya convent in Damascus province told AFP she had spoken to her Maalula counterpart who told her the 12 women were safe in Yabrud.

    Maalula, a picturesque village cut into the cliffs some 55 kilometres (35 miles) from Damascus, has long been a symbol of the ancient Christian presence in Syria.

    Its residents are some of the few left in the world who speak Aramaic, the language that Jesus Christ is believed to have spoken.
  • British Foreign Secretary William Hague on Friday warned that the conflict in Syria threatens to tear the country apart completely unless a solution is found in 2014.

    "If the conflict continues, Syria itself could disintegrate and, with extremism growing, create ungoverned space in the heart of the Middle East," he said at the opening of the annual Manama Dialogue on security.

    Speaking in Kuwait earlier, the British foreign minister said Syrian President Bashar al-Assad must stand down to allow for any peaceful settlement to the 33-month-old conflict.

    "We have always been very clear that a peaceful solution in Syria must require the departure of President Assad," Hague told reporters in Kuwait City.

    "It is impossible to imagine, after so many deaths, so much destruction, a regime oppressing and murdering its own people on this scale" should remain in power, Hague said.

    "It is impossible to imagine, I think, President Assad could remain on the scene in Syria in the future," he said.

    "We believe it is imperative for him to go."

  • Free Syrian Army fighter holds up an ammunition belt as his fellow fighter fires on a helicopter belonging to the Syrian regime in Aleppo's Bustan al-Basha district [Reuters] 


  • Officials from organisations with health-related missions in Syria on Friday called for the
    protection of medical facilities and personnel there.

    A joint statement by UNICEF, the World Health Organisation and the UN's humanitarian operations "strongly condemned" attacks on health facilities.

    They said they were "deeply concerned by the serious implications for patients, health personnel and provision of critical medical supplies".

    The statement was made by UNICEF Director Anthony Lake, WHO chief Margaret Chan and UN humanitarian operations chief Valerie Amos.

    Attacks against health facilities, they warned, can be considered war crimes under international law.

    "Over 60 percent of public hospitals have been damaged or are out of service, while a similar proportion of ambulances have been stolen or badly damaged," the three said. 

    "At a time when hospitals are overwhelmed with patients, it is vital that these facilities be protected and medical staff be allowed to provide urgent medical, surgical and obstetric care." 

    Despite difficulties, the UN and partners have helped vaccinate more than 3.3 million children against measles and polio in recent weeks and have provided reproductive and maternal health services to more than 8,000 women, according to the statement.
    [AFP]
  • Fewer Syrian refugees are able to cross into Jordan from Deraa because of heavy fighting between President Bashar al-Assad's army and rebels close to the border.

    But now, the refugees have now found a new route.

    Al Jazeera's Nisreen El-Shamayleh reports from Al Ruweished, on the frontier between the two countries.

  • Syrian activists say government airstrikes on a rebel-held city have killed at least 12 people, including five children.

    The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the air raids - seven strikes in total - hit the northeastern city of Raqqa on Saturday.

    It says four women were among the 12 people killed and that dozens of people were wounded.

    Rebels captured Raqqa, the capital of the province of the same name, in
    March. It's the only major urban center to fall entirely under opposition
    control since the Syrian conflict began in March 2011.
  • Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Qaeda's local branch in Syria, has sent Al Jazeera exclusive footage of what it said was a drone it shot down while it was flying over Aleppo, saying it was the first operation of its kind for the group.

    The group said the government of President Bashar al-Assad has started deploying drones in its fight against the rebels, especially since opposition fighters escalated their assault on the northern city.

    Cameras mounted on the unmanned, remote-controlled aircraft were being used by government troops to take aerial photos of rebel sites, Jabhat al-Nusra told Al Jazeera.

    "We believe they are Iranian made and operate under the supervision of Iranian experts," a member of the group said.

    Iran has been a staunch ally of the Syrian government and there have been several reports on the possibility that Iranian Revolutionary Guards are fighting alongside Assad's troops.

    Jabhat al-Nusra, designated as a terrorist organisation by the US, is one of the most effective groups fighting the regime across Syria, but especially in Aleppo. It has carried out several deadly suicide bombings on military bases and government buildings.

    The group declared its formation in early 2012, a year after the start of an uprising against Assad. The nearly three-year conflict has killed more than 120,000 people and left millions displaced.
  • Iraq's top diplomat says the "toxic" proliferation of "extremist" groups among Syria's rebels raises the prospect of a jihadist-ruled territory at the heart of the region.

    Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari told attendees at a security conference in Bahrain on Saturday that the increase in "radical fighters" in the armed opposition to Syrian President Bashar Assad is leading toward the creation of an ungovernable "Islamic emirate'' that the world will have to deal with down the road.

    Iraq is grappling with a months-long spike in bloodshed blamed largely on al-Qaeda's local franchise, which is also playing an active role inside Syria in the fight against Assad.

    [AP]
  • Syria's neighbours may be struggling with the number of refugees heading their way.

    But one place is actively trying to attract them.

    Up to one and a half thousand people have arrived in the Gaza strip since the war began.

    Al Jazeera's Phil Lavelle reports from Gaza city.

  • Inside Syria - The lost generation of Syria

  • Syrian regime launches deadly Aleppo air strike 
    Aleppo International Airport | Photo: Saad AboBrahim  

    Activists in Syria have reported a deadly government air strike on rebels in the
    northern city of Aleppo.

    The activists said on Sunday that 13 people were killed and others injured in the eastern district of Al Myassar, near Aleppo International Airport, which is controlled by government forces.

    Meanwhile, Syrian regime forces made gains in the key town of Nabuk, one of the last rebel held areas in the Qalamoun region bordering Lebanon, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said in a written statement.

    "There is fierce fighting in Nabuk between government forces, backed by Lebanese Hezbollah fighters, and Al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant," said the monitor, which relies on activists and medics on the ground for its information.

    It said President Bashar al-Assad's troops had taken new sectors of the town.

    [Al Jazeera/ AFP]







  • Lebanese troops reportedly detain three Syrian gunmen near border
    Photo: EPA/ SANA 

    Lebanon's state-run news agency has said Lebanese troops have captured three Syrian gunmen as they tried to cross the border towards a contested region in Syria.

    The National News Agency said on Sunday the Syrians were detained near the Lebanese border town of Arsal while on their way to the Qalamoun hills, which have been witnessing intense clashes between government and opposition forces over the past month.

    It said the three were detained after midnight Sunday and had light weapons and telecommunications equipment with them.

    Since the battles of Qalamoun began last month, the Lebanese army reinforced its positions on the border to prevent infiltrations that are widespread between the two neighboring countries.

    The Qalamoun battles forced thousands of Syrians to flee for safety in Lebanon over the past weeks.

    [AP]

  • Supplies shortage hits Ankara's Syrian refugees as winter bites 

    Photo: AFP/ Adem Altan 

    Syrian refugees face further misery in their makeshift homes in Ankara, Turkey, owing to increasing shortages of supplies, low temperatures and snowfall.

  • Listening Post - Syria: No country for journalists


  • Photo: Reuters/ Mohammed Azakir 

    Syrian group clinch Arab talent show title with conflict dance 

    The Syrian dance troupe Sima is celebrating after winning the popular televised contest Arabs Got Talent.

    They beat a Moroccan juggler, Kuwaiti comedians, an Egyptian "popper," a Lebanese drummer, an acrobatics squad dressed as Pharaohs and an American singer with no Arab heritage in the show's third season finale on Saturday 

    Sima's performanced an interpretative dance that incorporated themes of power and conflict. 

    The number opened with dancers dressed in black and white fighting over a throne, an image that could be seen as symbolic of Syria's conflict, which has killed more than 100,000 people.

    "We wanted to do something related to the reality we're living, to present it as it is, how brutal it is and how violent," Sima dancer Lana Fehmi said.

    "I think it reflects reality but, at the same time, I think sometimes it can give hope." 

    [Reuters]


  • Activists report Assad forces have killed five children in Nabak

    Photo: AFP/ Sam Skaine 


    Forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad have killed at least five children during fighting for the town of Nabak north of the capital Damascus, activists have said.

    The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Sunday that five children were shot dead when pro-Assad forces entered the industrial area of Nabak, 80km north of Damascus.

    Activists posted images on social media of the bloodied corpses of five children and said up to seven had been killed.

    "What we know is that they were killed by shooting,"  said Rami Abdulrahman, director of the British-based monitoring group.

    The Observatory said pro-government forces, including the Lebanese group Hezbollah, shelled the eastern areas of Nabak and raided homes in the western areas. 

    The state news agency SANA made no mention of casualties, but said the army was carrying out operations in the area and had eliminated "armed terrorist groups" around Nabak.

    [Reuters]

  • Inside Syria - The human cost of Syria's war
    Al Jazeera examines whether enough is being done to help Syrian refugees.


  • Syria opposition says 'final' decision on peace talks mid-December

    The Syrian opposition will make a final decision to attend or boycott a UN-backed peace conference in Geneva this month, a leading member has said.

    The National Coalition, an opposition umbrella group, has previously said it would
    attend the talks
    slated for January 22 but with conditions, the key one being that President Bashar al-Assad play no role in Syria's future - a demand strongly rejected by Damascus.

    "A final decision will be taken during a meeting of the Coalition in mid-December in
    Istanbul,"  said Syrian National Council (SNC)
     head George Sabra said in the Qatari capital,
    Doha 
    on Sunday.

    But he said he had doubts that the conference, dubbed Geneva 2, would go ahead.

    The SNC has in the past said it would not attend the Geneva 2 talks.

    "No one will dare go to Geneva without consulting with the forces on the ground who retain the real power" to negotiate, he said.

    [AFP]

  • Muslims and Christians attend Damascus mass for missing nuns 


    Photo: EPA 


    Muslims and Christians have attended a mass at al-Mariamiyah Cathedral in the Syrian capital of Damascus to call for the release of a group of nuns.

    The mass, held by John X al-Yazigi, the Patriarch of Antioch and All the East,  on Sunday, was held for the 12 Syrian Greek Orthodox nuns who were reportedly kidnapped from their convent in the rebel-held Maaloula town near  Damascus on December 2 .

    The nuns, along with three other young women, were reportedly taken by rebels to a nearby town. 

    The reports said that the rebels demanded the release of some 1000 detainees in exchange for the nuns. 

    [EPA]

  • Hezbollah commander killed in Syria fighting

    Photo: AFP/ Sam Skaine 

    A top military commander of Hezbollah, which is helping Syrian troops battle
    rebels, has died in fighting in Syria,
    a Lebanese security source has said.

    "Ali Bazzi, a high-ranking Hezbollah military commander, was killed today in a combat zone," said the source on Sunday, without specifying the location.

    Sources have confirmed the death of Bazzi to Al Jazeera.

    The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported earlier that Hezbollah  fighters died Sunday during battles in Nabuk, one of the last rebel-held areas in the Qalamoun region bordering Lebanon.

    "There is fierce fighting  in Nabuk between government forces, backed by Lebanese Hezbollah fighters, and Al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant," the
    watchdog 
    said.

    A website for Bint Jbeil, Bazzi's hometown in southern Lebanon, also announced the commander's death and posted pictures of him in military garb and holding an automatic rifle.

    [Al Jazeera/ AFP]

  • The world's chemical watchdog said on Sunday that  the transportation of Syria's chemical arsenal out of the country could be delayed by a few days due to technical difficulties.

    A roadmap adopted earlier this month by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to rid Syria of its chemical stockpile, says "priority" weapons have to be removed from the country by December 31.

    "This may not be possible perhaps because of the technical issues that we have encountered," OPCW director Ahmet Uzumcu said on arrival in Oslo, where he will on Tuesday receive the Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of his organisation.

    "But... a few days delay wouldn't be much from my point of view."

    Despite the possible hold-up, Uzumcu said he was "confident that we will be able to meet the deadline of June 2014 to destroy all chemical weapons in Syria".

    [AFP]
  • Many Syrians seeking refuge in town across Lebanese border amid reports of execution of children in ancient Christian town.


  • Photo: Reuters 

    The world's chemical watchdog said Sunday that the transportation of Syria's chemical arsenal out of the country could be delayed by a few days due to technical difficulties.

    A road map adopted earlier this month by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to rid Syria of its chemical stockpile, says "priority" weapons have to be removed from the country by December 31.

    "This may not be possible perhaps because of the technical issues that we have encountered," OPCW director Ahmet Uzumcu said on arrival in Oslo, where he will on Tuesday receive the Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of his organisation.

    "But a few days delay wouldn't be much from my point of view."

    Despite the possible hold-up, Uzumcu said he was "confident that we will be able to meet the deadline of June 2014 to destroy all chemical weapons in Syria".

    President Bashar al-Assad agreed to get rid of his regime's chemical stockpile as part of a US-Russia deal that headed off possible US military strikes after a deadly chemical attack in August.

    In total, 1,290 tons of chemical weapons, ingredients and precursors are to be destroyed.

    On October 22 the Norwegian Nobel committee named the OPCW as its 2013 peace laureate for its role in dismantling chemical weapons.

    The award came as all eyes were on Syria after a nerve gas attack killed hundreds on the outskirts of Damascus on August 21.

    With 190 so-called State Parties, the Hague-based OPCW is seen as a rare example of successful global disarmament.

    [ AFP ] 


  •  According to the UN, some 40 percent of Syria's population need humanitarian assistance [Reuters] 

    A new round of vaccinations against polio started Sunday in Syria.

    It is the second vaccination drive since polio broke out in the country late October. The first round was held in November.

    The vaccination drive will cover more areas, not only targeting children living in temporary settlements, but also those in some of the conflict areas, which rely on the coordination of related international organizations.

    "It's not only with the government areas but also to the contested areas, and I'm impressed with the political support to see this as a non-political issue, but an issue to prevent children from being infected by polio," said Elizabeth Hoff, World Health Organization (WHO) representative in Syria.

    WHO earlier confirmed that the disease this time entered from countries such as Pakistan.

    The large number of foreign militants entering Syria, plus the growing number of Syrian refugees fleeing to neighboring countries along with worsening sanitary conditions, are working together to increase the chance for the spread of such diseases as polio.

    "The vaccination is not limited to Syria. Similar moves are being carried out in neighboring countries, such as Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and the border with Turkey," said Saad al-Nayef, Syrian Health Minister.

    In the wake of the outbreak of polio in Syria, countries need to vaccinate their populations against the disease, namely Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Turkey, Egypt and Palestine, home to more than 20 million children, WHO said in a statement.

    [AP] 
  • Syrian refugees flee fighting in Qalamoun

  • Russia may help move Syrian chemical arms to Latakia port

    Russia could help provide transport to take Syrian chemical weapons to the Mediterranean port of Latakia for removal and destruction at sea, Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov has said.

    "Transport, yes ... the issue is being discussed," Bogdanov said on Monday when asked whether Moscow could provide security or transport to help get the weapons to Latakia, from where Syria is due to send them to a floating destruction facility.

    "My understanding is that the Syrian authorities should protect (the shipments)." 

    [Reuters]

  • Syrian army captures key town

  • Syria urges UN to stop 'Saudi support for extremists'
    Photo: AFP 

    Syria's government has called on the UN to make efforts to stop what it says is Saudi Arabia's support for extremist groups fighting to topple the regime.

    "We call on the UN Security Council to take the necessary measures to put  an end to the unprecedented actions of the Saudi regime, which is supporting takfiri (Sunni extremist) terrorism tied to Al-Qaeda," Syria's foreign ministry  said in a message. 

    The message was sent to UN chief Ban Ki-moon, state television reported, marking the first time the Syrian government has appealed to the international body to take action against Riyadh.

    Saudi Arabia is a key backer of the rebels fighting to oust President Bashar al-Assad, although the regime in Riyadh has also been targeted by rebel fighters.

    The Syrian message to the UN accuses Saudi of assisting "terrorist groups in Syria", and describes the kingdom as playing the "role of saboteur".

    "Saudi Arabia is not content to merely send weapons and to finance but also mobilises extremist terrorists and sends them to kill the Syrian people," the Syrian message said.

    [AFP]
  • Little hope of Geneva result as Syria conflict passes 1,000th day

    The Syrian army has seized the town of Nabek | Photo: Reuters

    Key global figures have cast doubts on a Syria breakthrough at a Geneva peace conference slated for next month, as the regime captured a key town near Lebanon from rebel fighters. 

    Laurent Fabius, France's foreign minister, downplayed the chances of a peace agreement being reached in Geneva, while expressing confidence on Monday that the January 22 conference, dubbed "Geneva 2", would go ahead.

    But his British counterpart William Hague lamented the fact that after 1,000 days of conflict in Syria, more than 100,000 people had been killed, 2.2 million  driven abroad, and 2.5 million cut off by the fighting.

    "Today is 1,000 days since Syrians took to the streets calling for freedom," the British foreign secretary wrote on the microblogging site Twitter. "It is time to end the conflict in #Syria."

    Kristalina Georgieva, the EU Humanitarian Aid Commissioner, said Syria faced he most disastrous humanitarian crisis in decades. 
     
    The conflict flared in March 2011 with peaceful pro-democracy protests inspired by the Arab Spring but escalated into a full-scale civil war after President Bashar al-Assad's regime launched a brutal crackdown.

    And the violence again showed no signs of abating on Monday, with a powerful storm forecast to make matters worse for Syrians, including those who have sought shelter in neighbouring countries like Lebanon and Jordan.

    The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said regime forces regained control of the strategic Damascus-Homs highway after seizing most of the town of Nabek in the Qalamoun region.

    The army has been fighting for weeks to secure the Qalamoun region, north of Damascus, in a bid to sever rebel supply routes across the nearby border with Lebanon.

    But Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said that the army had secured most of Nabek, including all of the western part of the town next to the highway.

    Pro-government newspaper Al-Watan said the highway, essential to move troops and  eapons and cement regime control from Damascus to the central province of Homs, would reopen soon.

    The highway has been closed for about 20 days because of fighting that also prevented the delivery of fuel to the capital, Damascus, where shortages have taken a toll on daily life.

    Al-Watan also quoted a military source as saying regime forces had killed or captured some 100 opposition forces in Nabek, and seized a large weapons cache.

    [AFP]
  • Inside Syria - Syria: Who holds the key to Geneva II?

  • An Al-Qaeda-linked group has kidnapped two Spanish journalists in Syria. 

    [AFP]

  • The UN secretary-general's special adviser on genocide prevention says Syria and the Central African Republic are "stark reminders of our limitations and our inability to undertake robust, timely action to protect populations from atrocity crimes.''

    Adama Dieng spoke on Monday on the 65th anniversary of the Convention on the Prevention an Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

    Dieng has spoken out on Syria before. He used this latest event to criticise the international community for failing too often to take action against genocide.

    Activists say Syria's civil war, now in its third year, has killed more than 120,000 people.

    The Central African Republic has seen the emergence of Muslim-Christian violence after Muslim rebels overthrew the government nine months ago.

    [AP]

  • UN to fly aid to Syria via Iraq

    Some regions of Syria have been out of reach from UN aid for a long time [Reuters] 

    The UN has announced it will airlift its first food and other aid supplies from Iraq to the Kurdistan region of northern Syria this week.  

    The UN has permission from both the Iraqi and Syrian governments, according to Amin Awad, director of the Middle East and North African Bureau of the UNHCR. 

    "This is the first time aid goes through Iraq," Awad told Reuters.

    An estimated 50,000-60,000 people are in need of aid in al Hassakeh. 

    Flights will begin on Thursday and will run from  Arbil in Iraqi Kurdestan to Qamishli and Hassaka in north and northeast Syria.

    So far, up to 12 flights have been scheduled through to Sunday. 

    [Reuters and AFP]
  • Four prominent Syrian activists were kidnapped in a rebel-held area near Damascus by unknown individuals, an activist network has said.

    "On the morning of December 10th, a group of unknown people broke into the headquarters of a group documenting abuses in Syria in the Douma area in besieged Eastern Ghouta," the Local Coordination Committees said.

    Razan Zeitouneh, Wael Hamada, Samira Khalil and Nazem al-Hamadi were all detained, according to the statement. Zeitouneh is a well-known Syrian activist who was among the 2011 winners of the European parliament's human rights prize. Hamada is her husband.

    The kidnapping took place in Damascus province, not far from the capital, in a rebel-held area besieged by regime forces. [AFP]
  • The participation of the Syrian National Coalition (SNC), the umbrella organisation of Syrian rebels, in the Geneva II talks has to be in compliance with conditions rebels made in Geneva I, head of the SNC said.

    Ahmed al-Jabra made the remarks in the opening session of the Gulf Cooperation Council in Kuwait on Tuesday.

    "We have been after a political solution since day one, but we are after a fair solution which [Syrian President Bashar al-] Assad is not a part of," he said.

    Jarba said that the regime’s armed forces have killed thousands and left about seven million refugees in the course of the Syrian civil war against the opposition.

    "The Syrians want your help to tell the world that it does not want Assad in any political solution," he added.

    Jabri said the coalition has evidence that Assad has armed radicals, after releasing them from jail, to fight on his side in a war to salvage his rule.
  • US halts non-lethal assistance to northern Syria

    The US has suspended all non-lethal assistance into northern Syria, an embassy spokesperson said on Wednesday. 

    This decision came after "Islamic Front" forces seized headquarters and warehouses belonging to the opposition's Supreme Military Council, the spokesperson said.  

    Humanitarian assistance was not impacted because it is distributed through international and non-governmental organisations.

    [Reuters]

  • Lawyer and colleagues abducted in Syria

    Razan Zaitouneh has worked in human rights law since 2001 and has won many awards for her work [GCHR]
    Prominent human rights lawyer, Razan Zaitouneh, and three of her colleagues were abducted when their offices were raided in the Syrian city of Douma. 

    An armed group raided the Local Development and Small Projects Support (LDSPS) offices and the Violations Documentation Center (VDC) on November 9 and captured Zaitouneh and human rights defenders Wael Hamada, Samira Khalil and Nazem Hammadi. 

    The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) said that Hamada, who is Zaitouneh's husband, and Khalil and Hammadi were targeted for documenting human rights violations in the country. 

    It is not known who abducted them. 

    [GCHR]


  • Major international news organisations sent a letter to the leadership of the armed opposition in Syria on Wednesday, calling for urgent action against rebel groups increasingly targeting journalists for kidnappings.

    The letter was in response to a sharp rise in the kidnapping of journalists while on assignment in opposition-held areas in northern Syria.

    Most kidnappings since the summer have taken place in rebel-held territories, particularly in chaotic northern and eastern Syria, where al-Qaeda-linked groups hold influence.

    "As long as kidnappings are permitted to continue unabated, journalists will not be willing to undertake assignments inside Syria, and they will no longer be able to serve as witnesses to the events taking place within
    Syria's borders," the letter said.

    Signatories to the letter were the Associated Press, Agence France Presse, Reuters, BBC, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Atlantic Media, The Economist, Getty Images, The Guardian, the Los Angeles Times, The Telegraph and El Mundo.

    The open letter was being sent to the leadership of the Western-backed Free Syrian Army and to individual armed groups including the Islamic Front, an umbrella organisation of six of the most powerful brigades in Syria.

    [AP]
  • A man walks through the besieged area in Homs as it snows. [Reuters] 


  • Reluctant to supply anything that may end up in the hands of al-Qaeda or its affiliates, the US has suspended all "non-lethal" aid to northern Syria. Humanitarian aid will continue but not supplies of equipment such as radios and body armour. Al Jazeera's Alan Fisher reports from Washington DC.
    US cuts non-lethal aid to northern Syria
    by Al Jazeera English via YouTube

  • Inside Syria - The lost generation of Syria
    The head of the UNHRC delivers a sobering perspective of the tragedy that has become a reality for Syria's children.


  • Syrian refugees reel from  Lebanon snow storm
    Photo: AFP/ STR 

    A blustery storm has dropped torrential rain and snow on Lebanon, as aid agencies scramble to distribute vital winter supplies to Syrian refugees.

    Roberta Russo, spokeswoman for the UN refugee agency UNHCR, said the Syrian refugee population in Lebanon had now grown from less than 200,000 last December to almost 830,000.

    "The funding has not increased proportionally," she said.

    Lebanon's borders have remained open, but the government has refused to allow the establishment of formal refugee camps, so the refugees have set up makeshift, unofficial camps, many dotted across the eastern Bekaa Valley .

    Fatima Hanhoun, from Syria's western Idlib province, who lives on a piece of land in the Bekaa, said winter in the area was terrible.

    "Last year the ground was completely water laden, we couldn't step outside  the tents without sinking up to our knees in water and dirt," she said.

    [AFP]


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