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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.

  • Syrian opposition group at UN for General Assembly

    A delegation from the Syrian National Coalition has arrived in New York ahead of the UN General Assembly, the group said. 

    Delegates include the Coalition's president Ahmad Jarba, as well as prominent members Michel Kilo and Burhan Ghalioun.

    A spokeswoman for the Coalition declined to give details of the schedule for the trip, which lasts until October 1, but said it would include meetings with international representatives.

  • A local leader of the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant was killed in clashes with other rebels in the Syrian province of Idlib on Sunday, a monitoring group said.

    Abu Abdullah al-Libi, a local chief of the group, was killed along with 12 other fighters from the jihadist organisation, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

    "He was killed in clashes with a group of rebel fighters near the town of Hazano," Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP news agency.

    He said six people from Hazano were also reported killed on Sunday, but it was unclear if they were civilians or fighters participating in the clashes.

    The town lies in northwestern Idlib province, large parts of which lie under control of the Syrian opposition.

    The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), Al-Qaeda's Iraqi branch which has expanded into Syria, has clashed with other rebel groups elsewhere in the country in recent days.

    Violence between the group and rebels affiliated with the mainstream Free Syrian Army broke out this week in the town of Azaz in northern Aleppo province close to the Turkish border. [AFP]
  • Turkey's air force on Sunday paid tribute to the crew who shot down a Syrian military helicopter which it said had violated Turkish airspace.

    Air Force Commander General Akin Ozturk has "honoured the personnel who applied rules of engagement toward a Syrian helicopter which refused to leave the airspace last week despite warnings," the air force command said in a statement.

    Turkish warplanes on Monday downed the Syrian helicopter which Ankara said was detected two kilometres inside Turkish airspace.

    Turkey changed its rules of engagement after the downing of one of its fighter jets by the Syrian air force in June 2012.

    The government had warned that any military approach from Syria on the Turkish border would be considered a threat.

    Relations between once close allies Damascus and Ankara have deteriorated since the outbreak of the Syrian conflict in March 2011.
  • Free Syrian Army fighters joke around with a Guy Fawkes mask in Jobar, a suburb of Damascus on Sunday. [Reuters]

  • Syrian President Bashar al-Assad says he has given new evidence to Russia on the rebels' use of chemical weapons.

    In an interview with China's state-owned CCTV channel, Assad said the rebels were working under foreign directives.

    The Syrian president said they could try and prevent inspectors from reaching chemical weapons sites.

    He also said that Syria stopped producing chemical weapons in the 1990s.
  • Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has said he was "not concerned" about a draft resolution that the US, the UK and France have submitted to the UN Security Council to place Syrian chemical weapons under international control, China's state broadcaster said on Monday.

    Assad was quoted as saying to state television CCTV in an interview that by submitting the draft, "the US, France, and Britain are just trying to make themselves winners in a war against a Syria which is their imaginary enemy".

    Assad also said China and Russia "are playing a positive role in the UN Security Council to ensure any excuse for military action against Syria will not stand".
  • Syria to dominate UN General Assembly meeting 

    UNGA as seen from across the East River in Queens, New York [AP]
    by Amna.Bagadi
    "Syria is the biggest peace, security and humanitarian challenge we face." [AP]
    by Amna.Bagadi
    Two electronic boards show the results of a Syria vote in the UNGA last May [AP]
    by Amna.Bagadi

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    United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has said that the top agenda item at the UNGA will be Syria's two and a half year civil war. 

    No one expects a breakthrough in the crisis this week, though there may be approval of a UN resolution backing a US-Russian plan to rid Syria of chemical arms.

    "Syria is the biggest peace, security and humanitarian challenge we face," Ban told reporters last week. "Let us be clear - the use of chemical weapons in Syria is only the tip of the iceberg."

    "The suffering in Syria must end," he said.

    The resolution to be considered by the UN Security Council would back the US-Russian plan to remove Syria's chemical weapons by June 2014 to avoid US air strikes. 

    That plan was agreed to as UN inspectors confirmed sarin nerve gas was used in an August 21 attack near Damascus that killed over 1,400 people, many of them children, according to Uestimates.

    Syria's ally Russia and the US continue to disagree sharply on how to end the war, with Moscow blaming the rebels for chemical attacks and blocking peace talks, and Western powers blaming Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

    Washington is still struggling to persuade Moscow not to veto another Syria resolution amid Russian objections to any threat of force against Assad's government. 

    [Source: Reuters]

  • Al Qaeda-linked fighters killed in clash with Syria rebels

    A Libyan commander and a dozen other fighters from al Qaeda's Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant have been killed in clashes with rival rebel forces in northern Syria, a monitoring group said, in the latest spate of internecine rebel violence.

    The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said six local fighters were also killed in Sunday's battle with ISIL in Hazano, west of the city of Aleppo and close to the border with Turkey.

    Clashes pitting the al Qaeda-linked ISIL and Nusra Front brigades against less effective but more moderate rebel forces have been intensifying recently, especially in opposition-held territory along Syria's northern and eastern borders.

    The infighting has undermined the rebel military campaign against President Bashar al-Assad. Their uprising began as peaceful protests against four decades of Assad family rule but degenerated into a war that has killed more than 100,000 people.

    Western powers have said the disarray of rebel forces and growing influence of radical armed groups have made them wary of intervening directly in the civil war. 

    [Source: Reuters]
  • Assad says gunmen could hinder UN team work

    Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has told Chinese state TV that gunmen could hinder access of inspectors to sites where chemical weapons are stored and made.

    "We know that these terrorists are obeying the orders of other countries and these countries do drive these terrorists to commit acts that could get the Syrian government blamed for hindering this agreement," Assad said in the interview.

    Assad also criticised the US for threatening to attack Syria over its chemical weapons programme, saying it was finding "excuses for war”.

    To continue reading our latest news story, click here.

    by Amna.Bagadi

  • Damascus says $250 million needed for reconstruction

    Syrian villagers remove debris as they find the dead body of a man [AP]
    by Amna.Bagadi
    Smoke rises after an airstrike hit Habit village, in the central province of Hama [AP]
    by Amna.Bagadi

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    The Syrian government has earmarked 50 billion Syrian pounds ($250 million) for reconstruction next year in the war-torn country, a pro-regime daily on Monday quoted the prime minister as saying.

    "The government has increased its budget spending for emergency aid and reconstruction for 2014 to 50 billion Syrian pounds," Wael al-Halqi said in remarks published by Al-Watan newspaper.

    In 2013, the government budget for aid and reconstruction was 30 billion pounds, he said.

    Halqi also called for an increased budget allocation for agriculture, Al-Watan said.

    "Food, energy and drug security are a priority," he said.

    The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation and the World Food Programme last week warned they are alarmed by the drop in Syria's food security index.

    In 30 months, Syria's war has killed more than 110,000 people and forced millions to flee their homes.

    [Source: AFP]
  • Russia's president warns of violence spreading from Syria

    Russian President Vladimir Putin warned ex-Soviet allies that fighters from Islamic groups in Syria could eventually spread to their countries, some of which have Muslim majorities.

    "The militant groups [in Syria] did not come out of nowhere, and they will not vanish into thin air," Putin told the six-nation Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO). "The problem of terrorism spilling from one country to another is absolutely real and could directly affect the interests of any one of our countries," he added, citing the deadly attack on a shopping mall in Nairobi as an example.

    "We are now witnessing a terrible tragedy unfold in Kenya. The militants came from another country, as far as we can judge, and are committing horrendous bloody crimes," Putin said at the CSTO summit in the Russian Black Sea resort city of Sochi. 


    by AJE Staff

  • A Syrian internally displaced mother comforts her baby at an abandoned piece of land where she and her family have taken shelter after fleeing their village that turned into a battlefield between government forces and Free Syrian Army fighters in Idlib province, northern Syria. [AP]

    by AJE Staff
  • Pakistani activist challenges world leaders to educate Syrian refugees

    Malala Yousafzai and other youth activists challenged world leaders on Monday to come up with $175m to educate 400,000 Syrian children who fled to neighbouring Lebanon to escape the civil war in their homeland.

    As leaders gather in New York for the UN General Assembly, 16-year old Yousafzai, who was shot in the head by the Taliban last year for demanding education for girls, and UN education envoy Gordon Brown received $1m from campaign group Avaaz to kick off the push for money to send Syrian refugees to school.

    UN children's agency UNICEF said 257,000 Syrian children were seeking education in Lebanon in 2013 and that was set to rise to 400,000 next year, swamping the Lebanese public school system that already educates 300,000 children.

    "I can feel what's happening in Syria because it's what happened to us in Pakistan," Yousafzai said of being displaced by violence as she spoke with Syrian student Farah Haddad in New York. 

    Brown announced on Monday a plan by the Overseas Development Institute to educate those 400,000 Syrian children by employing Syrian refugees who were teachers, opening Lebanese schools 24 hours a day to teach children in double or triple shifts and providing school meals. [Reuters]

    Malala Yousafzai speaks with Gordon Brown [AFP]

    by AJE Staff
  • Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah dismissed accusations by the Syrian National Council that the Syrian regime transferred chemical weapons to Hezbollah in Lebanon. He said Hezbollah is against the use of such weapons for religious reasons. 

  • Civilians walk as smoke rises behind a mosque after what activists say was a shelling from the Syrian regime in Aleppo [Reuters]
    by AJE Staff
    Rebel fighters secure an heavily damaged street in Syria's eastern town of Deir Ezzor following fighting with Syrian government forces [AFP]
    by AJE Staff
    Aisha Masri, 39, a former dressmaker, took nursing courses when the civil war in Syria started and is now giving first aid to wounded civilians and Free Syrian Army members [Reuters]
    by AJE Staff

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  • France confident about Security Council resolution

    France said on Monday it expected the Security Council to agree on a resolution to enforce a chemical weapons deal with Syria and appeared to give up on its previous calls to have a resolution threatening force against President Assad.

    Some UN diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity, had expressed concern about whether agreement on a resolution could be reached. However, speaking to reporters in New York French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius appeared to back down.

    "We should take exactly what was foreseen in Geneva," Fabius said. "On that basis we should come to an agreement."

    Fabius appeared to confirm France's willingness to accept Russia's demand that the current draft resolution not be enforceable under Chapter 7. 

    According to the Geneva agreement, the Security Council would have to adopt a second resolution in order to punish Syria for any non-compliance with a US-Russian plan to eradicate Syria's chemical arsenal. [Reuters]
  • Lebanese security forces have begun to move into the southern suburbs of the capital, Beirut, to take over checkpoints set up by Shia group, Hezbollah.

    This follows a series of car bomb attacks targeting Hezbollah-controlled areas last month.

    The plan to deploy 800 soldiers at the entrance of the suburbs has been welcomed by the Shia group.

    Many in Lebanon see the attacks as retaliation for Hezbollah's support for President Bashar al-Assad in Syria's civil war.
  • Aisha Masri (R) sits with Free Syrian Army members at Karaj al-Hajez crossing, a passage way separating Aleppo's rebel-controlled Bustan al-Qasr and regime-controlled Al-Masharqa neighbourhoods on September 23. Masri, 39, a former dressmaker, took nursing courses when the civil war in Syria started and is now giving first aid to wounded civilians and Free Syrian Army members. [Reuters]

  • A special correspondent in Syria for the Spanish newspaper El Periodico has been kidnapped in the war-torn country, the paper announced late on Monday in its online edition.

    "Journalist Marc Marginedas abducted in Syria", the headline said, adding that Marginedas has been "in the hands of a rebel group since September 4, the last day he was in contact with editors in Barcelona".

    According to El Periodico, citing "various sources", the reporter "was travelling by car with the driver who was accompanying him when he was stopped by jihadist fighters on the outskirts of the city of Hama, in the west of

    Since his abduction, the newspaper said it has not been able to contact Marginedas, who was on his third trip to Syria since the conflict began in March 2011.

    Marginedas had entered Syria on September 1 from southern Turkey "accompanied by members of the opposition Syrian Free Army," which is fighting to overthrow the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

    El Periodico said so far no Syrian opposition group has claimed to be holding the journalist.

    Earlier this month a kidnapped Italian reporter Domenico Quirico was freed and said he faced "daily humiliation" during five months in captivity in Syria and was "treated like animals" by his captors, a rebel group called al-Faruk.
  • The head of Lebanon's Shiite group Hezbollah, a staunch ally of Damascus, on Monday urged Saudi Arabia and other supporters of Syrian rebel forces to instead back a political settlement.

    "I want to extend a sincere and honest invitation, in light of the political realities and facts on the ground in Syria... to Saudi Arabia, the Gulf, Turkey and the rest of the Arab and Islamic states," Hassan Nasrallah
    said in a televised address.

    "Review your positions. The situation has begun to take on very serious dimensions in Syria," he said. "You are betting on a failed military option... The solution is political, and political dialogue."

    Nasrallah's group is a close ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who is battling an armed revolt which has the support of Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states, Turkey and much of the international community.

    Hezbollah has sent fighters to assist Assad's troops against the rebels.

    Nasrallah, in his first address since an August 21 chemical weapons attack outside Damascus that prompted threats of US military action, warned against foreign intervention in Syria.
  • Russia fears US will still use force in Syria

    Russia is concerned that talks with the United States on Syria are not going very smoothly and says the chemical weapons deal may have only delayed US military action.

    "Unfortunately it's necessary to note that in contacts with the Americans, things are not going so smoothly...they are not quite going in the direction they should," Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said in parliament on Tuesday.

    Ryabkov said Russia hopes the UN Security Council will reach agreement this week on a resolution supporting a deal for Syria to abandon its chemical weapons, but there is no guarantee.

    To read more click here.

    Syrian President Assad meets Deputy Russian FM Ryabkov in Damascus in September  [AFP] 

    by Amna Bagadi

  • Hezbollah denies it received Syrian chemical weapons

    Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, a staunch ally of Damascus, has denied that his group received chemical weapons from Syria.

    Last month, members of the opposition Syrian National Coalition group accused President Bashar al-Assad of transferring chemical weapons to the Lebanese Shia group to avoid inspection after agreeing to put them under international control.

    "This accusation is truly laughable," Nasrallah said on Monday  in a televised speech.

    To read more click here

    Nasrallah urged supporters of Syrian rebel forces to 'review their positions' and back a political settlement [AFP]

    by Amna Bagadi
  • Car bomb in Damascus kills several civilians

    A car bomb killed at least seven civilians on Tuesday when it exploded in a southern Damascus neighbourhood, a monitoring group said.

    The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 15 people had also been injured in the blast, which hit the district of Tadamon, where President Assad's forces have been fighting rebels for months.

    Syrian state television said "terrorists" were behind the explosion, a term it commonly uses to refer to rebels fighting to topple Assad.

    The Britain-based Observatory, which has a network of activists across Syria, said the blast had destroyed several buildings. [Reuters]
  • UN chief urges world to stop arming Syrians

    UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called on major powers to stop sending weapons to all sides in Syria, as he opened the annual UN General Assembly summit.

    "I appeal to all states to stop fuelling the bloodshed and to end the arms flows to all parties," Ban told world leaders at the UNGA opening in New York on Tuesday.

    The UN chief also called on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the opposition - and "all those in this hall with influence over them" - to work immediately to arrange a second Geneva conference aimed at reaching a political solution to the crisis that has wracked Syria for more than two years.

    "Military victory is an illusion. The only answer is a political settlement," he said.

    Read more here.

    by AJE Staff

  • Spanish journalist kidnapped in Syria

    Spain's interior minister says a correspondent from the newspaper El Periodico has been kidnapped in Syria by an organization linked to al-Qaeda.

    Jorge Fernandez Diaz said Tuesday his ministry was working for the release of 46-year-old Marc Marginedas, who has not been seen since Sept. 4 when the car he and his driver were in was stopped by armed fighters near the western town of Hama.

    The Barcelona-based El Periodico says it has not been able to contact Marginedas, and says no group had claimed responsibility for the kidnapping. 

    Diaz did not say how he knew who had kidnapped Marginedas. [AP]

  • Brazil grants visas to Syrians fleeing conflict

    The government says it will grant special visas to Syrians who want to leave their conflict-wracked nation and travel to Brazil.

    The government's official gazette says Tuesday that the foreign ministry has been authorized to issue the visas for "humanitarian reasons," allowing Syrians affected by the conflict and the "deterioration of living conditions" to enter.

    Brazil has a Syrian immigrant community estimated at about 3 million. [AP]
  • Turkish President Abdullah Gul addressed the UN in New York on Tuesday, and said the international community was responsible for ending the conflict in Syria.

    "This conflict has evolved into a real threat to regional peace and security," he said. "Any recurrence of the proxy wars of the Cold-War era will plunge Syria into further chaos."

    Gul said Turkey welcomed a US-Russian agreement to remove Syria's chemical weapons arsenal, but said the world must not allow Assad's government to "avoid responsibility for its other crimes.""This conflict neither began with the use of chemical weapons, nor will it end with an agreement to eliminate them," he added. 

    He criticized what he called "balance-of-power politics" that had helped to prolong the war, and called for a strategy led by world powers and Syria's neighbors to end the civil war.

    "In short, we cannot and shall not leave the Syrian people to their fate," he said. "The burden of ending Syria's plight now rests on the shoulders of the international community. Strong words of support must now be matched by real deeds." [Reuters]
  • French President Francois Hollande said Tuesday the UN Security Council had to make a threat of eventual "coercive" measures against Syria if it does not hand over its chemical weapons.

    Hollande told the UN General Assembly that a resolution being discussed must "foresee coercive measures" under Chapter VII of the UN Charter and for those responsible for chemical weapon attacks in Syria to be "held accountable in the justice system."

    by AJE Staff

  • Frenchman fighting with rebels killed in Syria

    A French Muslim convert has been killed fighting the Syrian army in the northern province of Aleppo, a monitoring group said on Tuesday.

    "Abu Mohammad al-Faransi, a Frenchman who converted to Islam, was killed while fighting against regime forces on Sunday in the south of Aleppo province," said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

    More than 300 French nationals or residents are currently fighting in Syria's civil war, planning to go or have recently returned, according to French Interior Minister Manuel Valls in a speech last week. [AFP]
  • Key Syrian Islamist rebel groups said late on Tuesday that they did not recognise any foreign-based opposition group including the National Coalition.

    "The National Coalition and the proposed government under (recently chosen) Ahmad Tomeh does not represent us, nor do we recognise it," said 13 of Syria's most powerful Islamist rebel groups.

    The groups include members of the main rebel Free Syrian Army and more radical Islamists.

    Among the signatories are Liwa al-Tawhid, the main rebel force in the northern province of Aleppo, and the jihadist Al-Nusra Front.

    The radical but non-jihadist Ahrar al-Sham also signed on, as did the 19th Division, a significant but relatively new addition to the mainstream FSA.

    In their joint statement, they also called for Islamic law to be applied.

    "These forces call on all military and civilian groups to unite in a clear Islamic context that... is based on sharia (Islamic) law, making it the sole source of legislation," they said.

    They called for "unity" and "to reject division... putting the interest of the (Islamic) nation over the interest of (each) group".

    The statement comes amid an escalation of violence pitting fighters from various factions across the rebel spectrum against the Al-Qaeda front group, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
  • Syrian opposition groups and international relief organisations are warning of the risk of mass starvation across the country, especially in the besieged Damascus suburbs where a gas attack killed hundreds last month.

    With the world's attention focused on the regime's chemical weapons, activists said six people - including an 18-month girl - have died for lack of food in one of the stricken suburbs in recent weeks.

    Save the Children said in an appeal on Monday that more than 4 million Syrians, more than half of them children, do not have enough to eat.

    Food shortages have been compounded by an explosion in prices.

    "The world has stood and watched as the children of Syria have been shot, shelled and traumatised by the horror of war," said Roger Hearn, Save the Children's regional director for the Middle East.

    "The conflict has already left thousands of children dead, and is now threatening their means of staying alive."

    Thousands of people are believed trapped in suburbs east and west of the capital that have been held for months by rebels fighting to topple President Bashar al-Assad. Regime troops are besieging the areas, and residents say food
    is increasingly had to find. Rebels say they are trying to break the blockade.

  • A Free Syrian Army member walks along a temporary bridge, made from wire mesh, pipe and ropes, in Homs on September 24. [Reuters]

  • Moderate Syrian rebels are engaged in their fiercest fighting to date with al-Qaeda-affiliated fighters on Syria's northern and eastern borders, a senior US State Department official said on Tuesday.

    "There is a real firefight," the official said of battles between al-Qaeda's Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and the Free Syrian Army led by Salim Idriss, a more moderate group of rebels trying to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

    The official said the Free Syrian Army, which receives non-lethal US support, was bringing in reinforcements and he said the State Department was looking at what more it might do to help the group, although he gave no details.
  • Lebanon's president said on Tuesday that his country was struggling under the weight of at least a million Syrian refugees as the US pledged tens of millions of dollars in aid to offset the costs of the war spillover.

    Michel Suleiman spoke of the crisis in his country in his address to world leaders gathered at the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

    Hours earlier, he met with President Barack Obama, who praised Lebanon for its generosity in welcoming refugees fleeing the crisis in neighbouring Syria.

    Obama announced $339m in additional humanitarian aid in response to Syria's crisis, including $74m for Lebanon. He also said the US was sending $8.7m to help Lebanon's military protect its borders against terrorist threats and illicit goods.

  • A Syrian displaced child lies on a matress in an abandoned factory in the Sheikh Najjar industrial zone near Syria's northern city of Aleppo. [AFP]
    by AJE Staff

  • Total US funding for humanitarian assistance to the Syrian people is nearly $1.4 billion since the crisis began, following Obama's announcement yesterday.

    The new US package will include financial assitance to countries that are hosting Syrian refugees - Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan, Turkey and Egypt - according to a fact sheet published in the Secretary of State's website:

  • Syrian artist Tammam Azzam uses digital media to examine the ongoing political and social upheaval in Syria, and the cycles of violence and destruction tearing his country apart.
    Azzam was born in Damascus in 1980, and lives and works in Dubai.
    In this work he photo-shopped Gustavo Klimt's The Kiss on a war-torn building:
    [photograph courtesy of Ayyam Gallery]

    by AJE Staff
  • While most Syrians get poorer with every day of war, Aleppo's main gun seller Abu Mohammad is doing just fine by selling firearms, including rocket-propelled grenades, ammunition and even swords.
    "War is great business," said the northern city's only gunshop owner, as he laid several hand grenades out on a counter.
    "I wanted to help the rebels because they had no arms or ammunition," the 39-year-old told AFP, adding that he makes an astonishing 50,000 Syrian pounds ($370) a day.

    by AJE Staff

    Abu Mohammad opened his gun store in the rebel-held neighbourhood of Fardos earlier this year after a leg injury cut short a nine-month stint battling alongside the Free Syrian Army. Several weapons are exhibited on the shop walls, including 9mm guns and AK-47 assault rifles, one of them silver-plated.
    "They're made in Iraq and Russia, and prices range from $1,500 to $2,000, depending on the quality," said Abu Mohammad's 20-year-old son, a rebel fighter who lends a hand in the store.
    "We also have military uniforms, boots, gas masks and walkie-talkies. Most of the material comes from Turkey," he added.
    Reaching for a 9mm gun, Mohammad says he enjoys helping his father out in the shop because "I love weapons." It's 4:00 pm (1300 GMT) and the two men running the family business are busy serving clients.
    Mohammad Assi, 43, walks in along with several of his brothers in arms. He is looking for ammunition for his rifle. Counting a wad of cash, Assi says he would like to buy a new rifle, "but these models aren't very good and they're too expensive." He hands over 15,000 Syrian pounds ($110) for 150 rounds.
    "100 pounds for a bullet," the rebel sighs. "Ammo is so scarce. That's why it's the most expensive thing to buy."
    Gun seller Abu Mohammad understands there's a shortage of cash, so he's open to making deals with some of his clients.
    "When the rebels seize an army base, they come to my store and swap weapons 
    for ammunition," he said.

    by AJE Staff

    Some buyers come in looking for more specialised products, including one who wants a scope that will help locate snipers. Another walks in holding three swords and shows them to Abu Mohammad, who unsheathes them and inspects them for quality.
    "We also buy weapons off people who need the money to feed their families," Abu Mohammad says.
    "Before the war broke out, there were many people who collected weapons, or who held onto them after they'd finished their draft service. They aren't going to use them, so they bring them over to me to make some money off them," he added.
    Though most of Abu Mohammad's clients are rebels, some civilians visit his store as well.
    "I only sell hunting weapons and 9mm guns to civilians. I never sell them military-grade weapons," he said.More than a year after a massive rebel assault on Aleppo -- once Syria's commercial capital -- the city is divided into rebel and army-controlled districts.
    Those who have not fled the city face not only escalating poverty and daily battles in their districts, but also the danger of theft and looting by criminal groups.
    "I'm here to buy a gun... Because of the situation, I prefer to be armed in order to protect my family," said a 65-year-old man who brought his grandson to Abu Mohammad's store.
    The gun seller is also adept at repairing damaged weapons. Laying out a sniper rifle on his work table, he points a laser light through the barrel to check its accuracy.
    "I've always liked fixing weapons and making them," said Abu Mohammad, who used to work at a weapons factory.
    "It's one of the few things I'm good at," he says with a smile.
  • A team of UN chemical weapons experts arrived in the Syrian capital Damascus, an AFP news agency correspondent said, ahead of new investigations into the use of the banned arms.

    The team, led by chief expert Ake Sellstrom, flew into the Lebanese capital Beirut on Wednesday morning, before continuing by road to Damascus.

    by AJE Staff

    The group is expected to examine the alleged use of chemical weapons some 14 times in Syria's 30-month conflict. It went to Syria last month and concluded in a report presented on 
    September 16 that banned chemical weapons had been used on a wide scale.

    There was clear evidence that sarin gas was used in an attack in the Eastern Ghouta neighbourhood near Damascus on August 21, the report said.

    Sellstrom pointed out that the report was only an interim document, and that other allegations needed to be looked into.

    "There have been other accusations presented to the UN secretary general, dating back to March, against both sides" in the conflict, he told AFP earlier this month.

    There were "13, 14 accusations" that "have to be investigated". He said the team hoped to be able to present a final report addressing all of the accusations "possibly by the end of October"
  • Twelve-year-old Dylan fled from Syria to northern Iraq with his family for safety. It was very difficult for the boy, who is blind. But his love of music has helped him survive and to forget the sounds of violence in his native country. Video produced by the UN refugee agency.

  • Rights group Save the Children finds a growing number of children are at risk of malnutrition as a result of the conflict in Syria. [Reuters]

  • Several Syrian rebel groups, including al-Qaeda-linked faction, said they reject the authority of the Western-backed opposition coalition.

    In a joint statement, 13 rebel groups led by the al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front slammed the Turkey- based Syrian National Coalition, saying it no longer represents their interests.

    The statement reflects the lack of unity between the political opposition, based in exile, and the disparate rebel groups fighting President Bashar al-Assad's regime in Syria's civil war, which has killed over 100,000 people so far.

    It also highlights the growing irrelevance of the Coalition and its military arm headed by Gen. Salim Idris, who heads the Supreme Military Council supported by the West, amid increasing radicalization on the ground in Syria.

    The rebel groups' statement called on all those trying to topple Assad's government to unite under a "clear Islamic framework" - an apparent reference to the al-Qaeda faction's aspirations to create an Islamic state in Syria.

    It said the rebels do "not recognise" any future government formed outside Syria, insisting that forces fighting on the ground should be represented by "those who suffered and took part in the sacrifices".

  • A Syrian man was killed and two others wounded when Lebanese troops opened fire on their minibus on Wednesday after it failed to stop at a checkpoint, the army said.

    "At 4:45am (0145 GMT), the driver of a minibus carrying Syrian passengers... failed to comply with orders from the Lebanese army to stop at a checkpoint in the Arsal region, forcing the soldiers to open fire," the army said in a statement.

    "One passenger was killed and two others were lightly injured," the statement said, adding that the bus had continued on despite the shooting but the driver later turned himself in.

    Lebanon's National News Agency said the Syrian killed was a member of the Al-Nusra Front, a jihadist rebel group fighting in Syria.

    Arsal is a majority Sunni Muslim region that is broadly supportive of the Syrian uprising.

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