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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.


  • The Red Cross has started its first distribution of emergency food rations on both sides of the Syrian city of Aleppo since October 2013, according to the president of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

    We have a major food distribution ongoing in Aleppo. It is the first time in months on that scale.
    - Peter Maurer, 
    president of the International Committee of the Red Cross

    [Reuters]
  • The dramatic personal stories of three members of the Syrian opposition forces treated for critical wounds in Germany.


  • [AP] 

    Russia's ambassador to the United Nations has said his country will veto a UN Security resolution to refer the crisis in Syria to the International Criminal Court for investigation of possible crimes against humanity and war crimes.

    Nearly 60 countries have urged the council to refer the matter to the ICC, and France has called for a vote on Thursday.

    But permanent council member, Russia, has vetoed three previous resolutions on the Syria conflict, and Ambassador Vitaly Churkin told reporters on Wednesday that his country would do the same with this one.
     
    Churkin called the French-drafted resolution "simply a publicity stunt" that will hurt efforts to resolve the crisis politically. [AP]

  • Uruguay to receive 100 orphans 

    The United Nations' refugee commission has expressed gratitude that Uruguay is preparing to provide a new home for 100 children orphaned by Syria's war.

    Senior regional UNHCR official Michelle Alfaro said there are more than 2 million Syrian refugees in all, and Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan can't handle them all, so the agency hopes to relocate 30,000 this year. 

    Germany took 5,000 Syrian refugees last year and has agreed to take another 5,000 this year. Brazil has granted humanitarian visas to 2,000.

    President Jose Mujica's offer to take 100 children "is a drop in the ocean, but each effort by each country is very important and welcome," Alfaro said.

    Mujica said the orphans could be housed at first at the presidency's summer retreat, a mansion and riverfront estate surrounded by rolling pastures.

    [AP]


  • Russia and China have vetoed a UN resolution to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court for possible prosecution of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during the country's three-year civil war.

    To find out more, click here.

  • هااام وضوح لون غاز الكلورالسام لحظة إنتشاره - الهيئة العامة للثورة حماه كفرزيتا 22-05-2014
    by مصطفى جمعة via YouTube
    This video uploaded to YouTube, is said to show chlorine gas floating in the streets of the village of Kafr Zeita in Syria. 

    Activists say Kfar Zeita was attacked twice on Thursday, as well as the village of Al-Tamana'a in northwest Idlib province. 

    Al Jazeera cannot independently verify the content of this video.


  • Pope launches Holy Land visit with Syria peace appeal

    Pope Francis made an urgent appeal for an end to Syria's devastating civil war and an unscripted condemnation of the arms industry on Saturday at the start of his first trip to the Holy Land as pontiff.

    Speaking in Jordan, Francis repeatedly stressed the need to overcome differences and press for lasting peace in the Middle East.

    It was a message the Argentinian pope delivered first in a speech at a royal palace, then to an open air mass, and finally and most forcefully at a church near the River Jordan where he pleaded for a political solution to Syria's "lacerating" conflict and an end to the arms trade which he said fuels war.

    "May the violence cease and may humanitarian law be respected, thus ensuring much needed assistance to those who are suffering," he said. "May all parties abandon the attempt to resolve issues by the use of arms and return to negotiations."

    More than 160,000 people have been killed in Syria's conflict and millions have fled to neighbouring countries, including Jordan.

    Peace talks in Geneva collapsed three months ago and with no immediate prospect of their resumption, fighting continues between President Bashar al-Assad's forces and rebel fighters, both armed and reinforced by powerful international players. [Reuters]
  • The pope is in Jordan, on the first leg of his three day trip to the Middle East.

    After celebrating mass at a sports stadium in Amman, the Pope visited site of Jesus's baptism Bethany, where he met with Christian Iraqi and Syrian refugees.

    Although the Vatican had said his pilgrimage is strictly religious, it's proving difficult for the Pontiff to avoid politics.

    Al Jazeera's Nisreen El-Shamayleh reports from Amman.


  • [AFP] 
    At least 10 people were killed in a car bomb attack Sunday targeting a government-held area of the city of Homs, the province's governor told AFP news agency.

    "Ten people were killed and 22 wounded in a car bomb attack on a collective taxi stand in Zahraa,", said Talal al-Barazi.

    Barazi had earlier reported a toll of eight, while the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights gave a death toll of 12.

    A second car bomb exploded in another district of the city, wounding three people but without causing more deaths, said Barazi.



  • The Jordanian government has expelled the Syrian ambassador, Bahajat Suleiman, over his "repeated insults" to the country. "The government considers the Syrian ambassador to Jordan persona non grata and demanded he leave the country within 24 hours," state-run Petra news agency reported, quoting foreign ministry spokeswoman Sabah Rafi. "The decision comes after Suleiman's repeated insults to Jordan and its leadership, institutions and citizens, through his meetings, writings and social media websites," she said [Reuters]



  • US President Barack Obama will authorise US troops to train selected Syrian rebels, in order to counter the rising power of al-Qaeda-linked groups, a US newspaper reported on Tuesday.

    "The president will make clear his intention to expand our support to the moderate Syrian operation and increase our support to Syria's neighbors, who are dealing with the terrorist threats emanating from the situation Assad has created in Syria," a senior administration official told the Wall Street Journal.

    The White House did not confirm or deny the plan, but said it was "constantly considering available options to combat the terrorist threat emanating from Syria and to facilitate an end to the crisis".

    [AFP]
  • A rebel commander said a team from the chemical weapons watchdog investigating an alleged chlorine attack against rebel-held Kafr Zita managed to visit the town on Tuesday, hours after coming under attack.

    Inspectors overseeing the dismantling of Syria's weapons programme had been forced to return to their base after their convoy was attacked, but all were safe, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said.

    The Syrian Foreign Ministry accused rebels of kidnapping the team, while opposition activists said the regime planted an explosive device under one of the vehicles to try to stop investigators from investigating the alleged use of chlorine.

    Then, on Tuesday afternoon, the OPCW team "arrived in Kafr Zita in the company of the Syrian Saiqa force, which is part of the Free Syrian Army," said Colonel Mohammad al-Ali, general commander of the faction.

    Amateur video distributed by activists showed two white UN vehicles parked in what appeared to be Kafr Zita, and opposition fighters meeting with a member of the delegation.

    [AFP]
  • Lebanese troops moved to subdue a crowd of frenzied Syrian voters who tried to storm their embassy in Beirut to vote for President Bashar Assad as expat balloting started in Syria's presidential election.
  • Australia, Luxembourg, and Jordan are planning to circulate a new UN Security Council resolution that diplomats say would authorise the delivery of humanitarian aid into Syria through four border crossings without approval from President Bashar Assad's government.

    Australia's UN Ambassador Gary Quinlan told reporters after a council briefing Thursday on the humanitarian crisis that 90 percent of aid currently "goes to government-held areas," and Syrians in opposition-controlled zones are not getting food and medicine.

    Quinlan said the resolution, which will be circulated "very quickly", will respond to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's call for council action, but he gave no details.

    Diplomats familiar with the draft said it is under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, which means it could be enforced militarily. It would authorize humanitarian access at three crossings from Turkey and one from Iraq.

    The diplomats spoke on condition of anonymity because the draft has not been made public.

    [AP]
  • Amateur video purports to show Syrian government airstrikes in the city of Idlib, a day after a car bomb killed dozens of people.

    Video that cannot be independently verified by Reuters has emerged of what is said to be its aftermath. Chaos on the streets, as Syrians flee by foot or by car.

    "There was a statement telling the people of Idlib to leave the city by the deadline of 29/5/2014. And thank God, as we can see, hundreds of people from the city are fleeing towards the countryside."

    Some online media claim that roads leading to Idlib will be cut off in preparation for the country's presidential election. Other reports say the rebels are intending to attack the government-controlled area.

    The Free Syrian Army chief of staff issued a message: "Still the scenario of death and crime is repeated in all parts of our beloved Syria at a time when children are still suffocated with chlorine toxic gas that is delivered by regime planes and our people are leaving their homes by force. The regime is still talking about democratic elections..."

    Expatriates cast their ballots at dozens of Syrian embassies ahead of next week's crucial vote.
    But opponents are dismissing it as a farce as widespread violence rages in its fourth year.

    [Reuters]


  • Barrel bombs dropped by government forces on rebel-held parts of Aleppo have killed nearly 2,000 people so far this year, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has said.

    There were 1,963 deaths in 2014 from barrel bombs in Aleppo, including 283 women and 567 people under the age of 18, the group said.

    Read more on this story here


  • The US State Department has confirmed that an American citizen has carried out a suicide bombing in Syria.

    A US security official identified the dead American as Moner Mohammad Abusalha. The New York Times, which first reported his name, said he grew up in Florida and travelled to Syria last year.

    The official said US agencies were aware before the suicide bombing that the American had travelled to Syria to join the rebels.

    The official said that unlike some other foreign fighters in Syria, the American suicide bomber was not known to have posted messages on Twitter or other social media websites.

    The bomber, who used the nom-de-guerre Abu Hurayra al-Amriki, carried out one of four suicide bombings on May 25 in Idlib province on behalf of Jabhat al-Nusra.

    "I can confirm this individual was a US citizen involved in a suicide bombing in Syria," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.

    [Reuters]

  • Syrian children living in the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan performed an interpretation of Shakespearean plays Hamlet" and "King Lear" at the Roman Amphitheatre in Amman on Friday, during the "Shakespeare in Zaatari" event. The performance aimed to deliver a message of peace to the world and to draw attention to the situation of Syrians in refugee camps, according to organisers. Organisers hope that it will also provide psychological support for the children through the use of social drama. [Reuters] 


  • A TIME magazine team has travelled to Syria to to document locals returning to the embattled city of Homs after a ceasefire between the government and rebels. They also visited Damascus, where life goes on much as normal in the city centre. 

    Visit TIME's website for some rally strong pictures from both cities.

    "[Photographer Yuri] Kozyrev, who has covered wars for decades, goggled at the extent of the destruction. “It’s worse than Grozny,” he said, as we walked through a post-apocalyptic landscape, broken teacups and the cut-glass crystal of old chandeliers crunching under our feet. The smell of explosives was everywhere, and fires burned at intersections, filling the air with acrid black smoke."

  • Syria barrel bomb toll 'nears 2000' this year

    Activist group says almost 2,000 people have been killed in city of Aleppo by crude bombs dropped by government forces.
  • Last day of campaigning for the June 3 presidential elections in Syria 
    Syrians walk past a giant campaign billboard of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus [AFP] 
    Posters bearing portraits of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Lebanese Hezbollah Leader Hassan Nasrallah are displayed at the old market of the capital Damascus. [AFP] 
    Syrians walk past campaign billboards bearing portraits of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus. [AFP] 
     
     

    1 of 3



  • French police arrested four people suspected of ties with groups fighting in Syria, the interior minister said, after the country introduced new measures to stop its citizens from becoming radicalised.

    Monday's arrests came a day after prosecutors said Mehdi Nemmouche, a 29-year-old Frenchman thought to have returned recently from Syria, had been arrested over the May 24 killing of three people at Brussels' Jewish Museum. 

    The fight against terrorists will happen not only in France, but all over Europe with no respite




    Bernard Cazeneuve told Europe 1 radio after the arrests in the Paris region and southern France.

    He said the four people had either helped recruit fighters for Syria or been part of jihadist networks there.


  • Supporters of Syria's President Bashar al-Assad wave the national flags and chant slogans in front of General Federation of Trade Unions building [Reuters]

  • Al Jazeera’s Rula Amin, reporting from Beirut, says some displaced Syrians face a dilemma.

    “The Syrians in Lebanon, if they go in today [to Syria] they will risk losing their status as refugees in Lebanon. If you talk to regular Syrians, many of them have come to the conclusion, whether they support President Assad or oppose him, he has prevailed in the last three years, and know he is going to win the seven year term which is going to further complicate the process to form a new transitional government away from the current regime.

    “They feel things are being complicated, but they are adamant they have to deal with this reality. That is why these people crossing into Syria vote feel they're doing it only to manage their daily lives, meaning they don't want to lose their chance to go back to Syria, or maybe lose their passport, or having their family pay a price if they don't vote.”
  • Opinion:

    Re-electing Assad will not save Syria

    The upcoming presidential elections will not bring peace to Syria.
  • According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, several mortar shells have hit the areas of Abbasiyean, qasaa, and mezzeh districts in Damascus early this morning. No
    casualties have been reported.
     
  • Bashar al-Assad and his wife voting in central Damascus [SANA]

  • Explainer: Who can vote in Syria's elections?

    Many Syrians will not be able to access polling stations on June 3 for the presidential election.
  • I salute the Syrian people who marched to the polling stations on this historic day to renew the words we stated in Geneva ‘No one can dictate orders onto the Syrian people.’ Today the Syrians are voting to record their free will in transparent democratic plural elections. They are shaping their future and electing their leader in absolute freedom and transparency.

    Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem


  • France denounces 'fake' Syrian election

    French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius on Tuesday
    denounced the "fake" presidential election in "In this election the choice was between Bashar (al-Assad) and Bashar  (al-Assad)," Fabius said, referring to the Syrian leader.

    "This fake election will serve to justify Bashar al-Assad's ability to continue the type of policies we all recognise, which are a merciless fight (against the opposition) and keeping himself in power."

    Assad is expected to win a crushing victory over two little known challengers in the vote, which the Syrian opposition have condemned as a "farce".

    The United Nations has warned that the three-year-old conflict is likely to drag on even longer as a result of the ballot.

    There was no voting in the roughly 60 percent of the country outside the control of Assad's government, which includes large areas of Syria's former commercial capital Aleppo.

    [AFP]
  • The United States on Tuesday denounced Bashar Al-Assad's attempt to shore up his authority by staging presidential elections in the middle of the civil war.

    "Today's presidential election in Syria is a disgrace," State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said. "Assad has no more credibility today than he did yesterday."

    Voters turned out in government-controlled areas to vote in an election seen as certain to return long-standing leader Assad to office with a mandate to continue his battle against rebel forces.

    Washington blames the chaos on Assad's rule and has demanded he give way to a transitional government.

    "Elections should be an opportunity for the people of a free society to be consulted and to play an important role in choosing their leaders," Harf said.

    "Instead, such a process was inconceivable today in Syria, where the regime continued to reject the courageous calls for freedom and dignity that started more than three years ago."

    Tuesday's elections had "intentionally denied millions of Syrians the right to vote," Harf said, adding the Syrian regime "continues to massacre the very electorate it purports to represent and protect."

    "Detached from reality and devoid of political participation, the Assad regime's staged election today continues a 40-year family legacy of violent suppression that brutally crushes political dissent and fails to fulfil Syrians' aspirations for peace and prosperity," Harf added.

    [AFP]

  • [Reuters] 

    US Secretary of State John Kerry says Syria's presidential elections this week were "a great big zero" that won't change anything.

    Kerry told reporters Beirut after arriving on an unannounced visit: .

    [Tuesday's] elections are non-elections, the elections are a great big zero


  • Assad supporters celebrate in Damascus [AFP] 


  • Syrian state news agency SANA has published several articles to highlight the success and fairness of the election.

    "Chairman of the Higher Judicial Committee for Elections Hisham al-Shaar said that the electoral process in Syria went smoothly with no problems, irregularities or violations reported so far."


    "Deputy Foreign and Expatriates Minister Dr Fayssal Mikdad stressed that the presidential elections sent a harsh blow to all those who doubted the capability of the Syrian people to face the terrorist attack waged against Syria for over three years."


    "The voting proceeded in an atmosphere marked with transparency and credibility as attested to by delegations who came to observe the electoral process."

  • Iran urged world governments to respect the will of Syrian voters in giving its close ally President Bashar al-Assad a new term in a poll dismissed by the West as a farce.

    Iran insists on respect for the vote of the Syrian people as they are the only ones entitled to decide their political future

     the foreign ministry said.

    Iran, which sent observers to monitor Tuesday's election - held only in government-controlled areas - said the vote had met "democratic standards."

    [AFP]
    Hillary Clinton favoured arming Syria's rebels early in that country's civil war but was overruled by President Barack Obama, the former secretary of state said in her new memoir.

    Clinton's long-awaited book "Hard Choices" - seen as an unofficial start to her expected presidential run - is set for a June 10 release.

    "Wicked problems rarely have a right answer; in fact, part of what makes them wicked is that every option appears worse than the next. Increasingly that's how Syria appeared," she wrote in the memoir, obtained by CBS News.

    Read more:

    Clinton wanted to arm Syria's rebels

    Former US secretary of state says in new memoir that she was convinced arming moderate fighters was the best move.
    Hezbollah leader says war on Assad has failed

    President Assad's landslide election victory means that his civil war foes can no longer call for his departure as a precondition for peace, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said on Friday.

    The leader of the Lebanese group that has sent fighters to back the president, described the vote as a victory for Syria.

    "This election tells the opposition and all regional countries and the world that any political solution in Syria begins and ends with President Bashar al-Assad," Nasrallah told supporters via a video link.

    "You can no longer put the resignation of the president as a pre-condition." Read more here
                                                                                                    [Reuters]  


    Syria becoming another Somalia warns Brahimi

    Syria is descending into a Somalia-style failed state run by warlords which poses a grave threat to the future of the Middle East, former peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi has said.

    Speaking in an interview with Der Spiegel magazine, Brahimi said "the UN Security Council had no interest in Afghanistan, a small country, poor, far away. I said one day it's going to blow up in your faces. It did," he said. "Syria is so much worse".

    Brahimi also compared it to Somalia, which has suffered more than two decades of conflict. "It will not be divided, as many have predicted. It's going to be a failed state, with warlords all over the place."

    Brahimi, who stepped down a week ago after the failure of peace talks he mediated in Geneva, said that without concerted efforts for a political solution to the brutal civil war "there is a serious risk that the entire region will blow up."
    [Reuters]
    US preacher who inspires Syrian rebels faces Internet monitoring

    A judge in the US has ordered the monitoring of computer and Internet use of a Islamic preacher after it was found he was inspiring foreign fighters in Syria. 

    The close supervision was ordered on Ahmad Musa Jebril, after a court hearing found he was supporting the principles of armed opposition to President Bashar al-Assad, with highly emotive terms.

    Jebril was said to adopt "the role of a cheerleader: supporting the principles of
    armed 
    opposition... while employing
    extremely charged religious or sectarian idioms."
     

    The Justice Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and US spy agencies have recently assigned coordinators or special teams to monitor Americans who go to Syria to join rebels trying to oust Assad, fearing that radicalised Americans may return and stage attacks at home.
     
    Earlier this month, US authorities said that a Florida man, Moner Mohammad Abu-salha, had become the first known American suicide bomber in Syria.
    [Reuters]

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