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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 UN Security Council authorises humanitarian aid access into rebel-held areas of Syria at four crossings from turkey, Iraq and Jordan.
    The UN Security Council has authorised humanitarian access without Syrian government consent at four border crossings into rebel-held areas from Turkey, Iraq and Jordan, although Syria has warned it deems such deliveries an attack.

    Monday's unanimously adopted resolution establishes for 180 days a monitoring mechanism for the loading of aid convoys in neighbouring countries, which will notify Syrian authorities of the "humanitarian nature of these relief consignments."

    The shipments will travel through four different border crossings - two in Turkey (Bab a-Salam and Bab al-Hawa), one in Iraq (Al-Yarubiyah) and another in Jordan (Al-Ramtha).

    All of these border crossings fall outside the control of the Syrian government.

    "Aid access has to be authorised by the country receiving it," Al Jazeera’s Kristen Saloomey, reporting from New York, said.

    "This is a special measure by the UN, amid the growing humanitarian crisis," she said.

    Because of the restrictions and ongoing insecurity, 10.8 million Syrians need help, of which 4.7 million live in hard-to-reach areas trapped by the fighting or under siege by government troops or rebels.

    The United Nations accuses the Syrian regime of imposing bureaucratic and arbitrary obstacles to the delivery of humanitarian aid.

    The Syrian government views aid entering the country without its approval as an "attack" on its sovereignty.

    Two of the 15 Security Council members that approved the resolution were Damascus's allies Russia and China, which have in the past used their veto on four Syria-related resolutions since the conflict began in March 2011,

    "These countries have always spoken about the need to keep Syria’s sovereignty", Saloomey said. "But it seems that there is now an agreement that the humanitarian crisis has gotten out of control, and that the UN would know best how to address it."

    Activists are reporting ongoing tension between Turkish and Syrian residents in Kahramanmaras city in southern Turkey.

    Angry Turkish residents staged a protest on Sunday calling on Syrians to leave the country. They burnt Syrian-owned shops and cars.

    Activists say the tension soared following clashes ignited by a personal feud between Turkish and Syrian residents.

    A 200-ton shipment of Syrian chemicals once stockpiled to make weapons has arrived in Britain where it will be destroyed, AP reports.

    A Ministry of Defense spokesman on Tuesday described the materials as no more dangerous than industrial chemicals and said they were in Britain after a long operation to disable Syria's chemical weapons capability.

    Britain's Royal Navy played a role in escorting the shipments, part of an operation overseen by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

    Turkey will take "drastic measures" to deal with the influx of tens of thousands of Syrian refugees into its biggest city Istanbul, including forcibly sending them to camps in the southeast, the city's top official said on Wednesday.

    Istanbul governor Huseyin Avni Mutlu said there were now 67,000 Syrian refugees in the city and legislation would now be adopted that could see them effectively expelled from the city of 15 million to refugee camps closer to Syria.

    Mutlu said authorities would take "drastic measures" to contain the negative consequences of Syrian refugees in Istanbul, including sending those begging in the streets back to the refugee camps "without their consent".

    His comments came amid signs of growing tensions over the increasingly visible presence of Syrian refugees in Turkey as well as protests in several southeastern cities.

    [AFP]
    Fighters from the self-declared jihadist group, the Islamic State, have seized a gas field in the desert region of Palmyra, in the Syrian central province of Homs, a monitoring group and the governor of Homs said.

    Read more here: www.aljazeera.com
    At least 60 soldiers and pro-regime fighters were among the 270 killed in a bloody attack on a gas field in central Syria.

    With the Syrian counter-attack to try to recapture the Shaar field in Homs province in its third day, Al-Watan newspaper, citing a military source, gave a toll of "60 martyrs" among regime forces.

    The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights had earlier reported it had  documented "the deaths of 270 people killed in fighting or executed" by Islamic State (IS) fighters.

    "A large majority of the men killed were executed at gunpoint after being taken prisoner" in the seizure of the field, said Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman.

    "Eleven of the dead were civilian employees, while the rest were security guards and National Defence Forces members," he added.

    The UK-based Observatory, which relies on a network of activists and  medics on the ground, said at least 40 IS fighters and 11 soldiers have been killed in the counter-attack, which was backed by aircraft.

    [AFP]
    Islamic State fighters accused of atrocities in Syria are expected to be added to a list being drawn by the United Nations of possible war crime indictees, the chief rights investigator said.

    Brazilian Paulo Pinheiro, who heads the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria, said incriminating evidence against IS would be easier to collect because "there are indications of a strong chain of command."

    "They are good candidates for the list," said Pinheiro, who briefed the UN Security Council on the results of their inquiry.

    "I can assure you that we are collecting information on perpetrators from all sides including non-state armed groups and ISIS," he told reporters.

    "I am not in a position to say who is winning the World Cup of human rights violations. Both sides are doing horrific things and they will continue if there is no accountability."

    The UN Security Council failed in May to agree on a formal request to the International Criminal Court to take action toward prosecutions after Russia and China vetoed the move.

    [AFP]

    Red Cross and Red Crescent alarmed about water shortages

    Lack of rain, low water levels, armed conflict and damaged water and sanitation infrastructure are causing a worsening drought in Syria with dire humanitarian consequences for millions, warns the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.

    The Syrian Arab Red Crescent and its Movement partners are increasingly concerned about the humanitarian impact of the current drought," says Dr Attar, president of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC).

    "Limited access to clean water will continue to affect the life of Syrians for years to come and we call on local and national authorities to cooperate with all aid agencies present in the country to not only meet current needs, but also develop a longer-term response to this deepening crisis.
    "

    Click here to read the full statement


    'Syrian troops beheaded' in Raqqa

    At least 50 soldiers executed by fighters belonging to Islamic State group in country's northeast, activists say.
    At least 5 people have been killed and others were injured after a car bomb exploded in the border town of Azaz close to Turkish border, Northern Aleppo countryside.

    The car went off in a crowded market according to local activists.
     Syrian government troops have recaptured the Shaar gas field in Homs province from the Islamic State, a week after the the group seized it, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

    "Since this morning, there has been fighting around the Al-Shaar field between regime forces and the IS. The army has succeeded in ejecting the jihadists, and it now controls the site and surrounding hills," Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman said.

    [AFP]
    The Islamic State group has seized an army position in the northeast city of Hasakeh, amid a major escalation in its offensive against regime bases, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

    Just south of Hasakeh city, "IS jihadists took over the army Regiment 121 at Maylabiyeh, after fierce clashes with regime troops", said the Britain-based group, adding that the battle lasted three days.

    On twitter, supporters of IS, which first emerged in Syria's war in spring 2013, celebrated the army position's "liberation" at the hands of the jihadists.

    [AFP]
    Syrian state-run media has said a car bomb has exploded in the central city of Homs, killing at least seven people. 

    State news agency SANA said the vehicle exploded on Sunday in the Arman neighborhood, and two rockets also were fired at the site after the bombing.

    [AP]

    Syrian army retakes gas field from fighters

    Activists confirm military's claim of recapture of Shaer gas field in desert region of Palmyra from Islamic State group.
    Despite a brutal war that has been ravaging Syria for more than three years, residents in Damascus are trying to maintain the traditions of Eid al-Fitr, when people wear new clothes and children get new toys.

    Traditional sweets shops are open in downtown Damascus to sell Eid specialties such as Kunafa, Maamul and Baklawa, while whirling Dervishes performed at the opening of a bazaar offering food stuffs and clothes.

    Locals say that prices at the bazaar are lower than in general markets in a bid to help people shop for Eid. Prices have soared dramatically in the country as a result of the war.

    In Pictures: Ramadan in Aleppo

    Syrian opposition fighters spent the holy month of Ramadan fasting while fighting regime forces.
    Syria's main opposition group, the Islamic Front, has posted footage on YouTube showing Syrian rebels blowing up a government checkpoint and police building in Aleppo's old city.

    At least 13 government soldiers are believed to have died in the bombing.

    Al Jazeera cannot verify the authenticity of the footage.

    Here's another view of the attack

    Tunnel explosions strike Syria's Aleppo

    Islamic Front coalition claims responsibility for blasts under city's historic parts and killing regime loyalists.
    US appalled by Syria 'starve or surrender' tactics

    The United States unveiled $378 million in new humanitarian aid for the Syrian people, denouncing "appalling 'starve or surrender' tactics" by the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

    "The regime is asphyxiating half a million Syrians in Aleppo by obstructing deliveries of food, water, and medicine," Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement on Wednesday.

    Kerry said:

    Syrians all over the country are being butchered at the hands of a ruthless tyrant



    The regime was "dropping dozens of barrel bombs a day on the city and  surrounding suburbs," he said.

    [AFP]

    At least 10 people have been reported killed in government shelling on the rebel-held Damascus suburb of Douma.

    Activists say dozens of others were wounded. They posted the above footage which purports to show the shelling on the town.

    Al Jazeera cannot independently verify the authenticity of the footage.

    Islamic state imposes media controls

    Islamic State has told activists in Syria's Deir al-Zor province they must swear allegiance to the group and submit to censorship, a monitoring group said on Friday.

    The al-Qaeda-inspired group imposed the rules after a meeting on Tuesday with activists involved in media work, the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

    They were told that any videos, pictures or written reports needed to be reviewed by the Islamic State's "Information Office," before distribution, The Observatory added.
    [Reuters]

    At least 20 people have been killed in Douma, a Damascus suburb , when government warplanes launched several attacks hitting residential buildings in the centre of the town, according to local activists.

    Douma is the largest town in Damascus countryside,controlled by Syrian rebels.

    Recently Douma has been heavily bombarded, resulting in dozens of civilian causalities.


    Al Jazeera cannot independently verify the content of this video.

    A video showing the aftermath of a government aerial bombardment of the Kafer Batna town market in which 25 people were killed, activists reported

    Kafer Batna, in the eastern Damascus countryside, is controlled by Syrian rebels.

    Al Jazeera cannot independently verify the content of this video.

    Saudis give $1bn to Lebanon amid fighting

    Saudi Arabia sends military aid to help Lebanon's fight against "terrorism", ex-prime minister Saad Hariri says.
    A Human Rights Watch report has called on non-state armed groups to immediately release women and children taken hostage in a offensive in the Latakia governate on August 4, 2013. 

    “For a year families have been waiting to be reunited while rebel groups and the government
    negotiate over their fate,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, 
    Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch.

    “Civilian lives are not pawns for fighters to trade. The hostages should be let go immediately.




    President Bashar al-Assad has issued a legislative decree amending the mandatory military service law, state news agency SANA reports.

    The amendment altered the amount of monetary recompense  paid by those living abroad, as well as the number of sons per family who may postpone military service. 
    Syrian armed groups have mostly withdrawn from a Lebanese border town they had seized, taking with them captive Lebanese soldiers, as a truce to end deadly fighting there appeared to be holding.

    Dozens of people have been killed in five days of fighting in Arsal between the army and fighters which began after soldiers detained a Syrian man accused of belonging to al-Qaeda's Syrian affiliate the al-Nusra Front.

    Al Jazeera's Zeina Khodr, reporting from Arsal, said: "The military standoff is almost over. The Lebanese army commander said the situation is good and the army is in control.

    "Armed fighters linked to the Islamic State group and al-Nusra Front have withdrawn from Arsal and are now on the outskirts."

    Civilians, the majority of them Syrian refugees who were trapped inside Arsal, are now being evacuated by the Lebanese Red Cross, Khodr said.
    At least 27 Syrian regime forces have been killed in an IS assault on a military base in the northern province of Raqqa, a monitoring group said on Thursday.

    The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 11 fighters from the Islamic State were also killed in the attack on Brigade 93, including three who blew themselves up at the base.

    IS fighters now "control major parts of the base," the Observatory said.

    Some troops had already pulled out of Brigade 93 in July after IS captured Division 17, another base in the region where at least 85 people were killed in fighting or summarily executed shortly afterwards, it said.

    [AFP]
    Fighters crossed into Lebanon from Syria on Saturday, triggering an exchange of fire with Lebanese villagers who forced them back across the border, Lebanese security sources and a villager said.

    The gun battle near the village of Kfar Qouq followed a battle between gunmen and Syrian security forces on the other side of frontier, the sources said. It was not immediately clear if there were any casualties.

    Kfar Qouq is near the Bekaa Valley town of Rashaya and some 100 km (60 miles) south of the border town of Arsal that was seized last Saturday by militants who crossed from Syria.
    Syrian Kurdish officials say thousands of members of a religious minority group have fled across the border from Iraq after coming under attack by the Islamic State group in Iraq.

    Ekrem Hasso and Juan Mohammad told The Associated Press on Saturday that the Yazidis fled after Kurdish fighters were able to open a safe passage into Syria following clashes with the armed group.

    Their comments came as the U.S. launched airdrops to aid thousands of Yazidis who have been trapped on a mountaintop for days by the militants.

    The fighters have captured hundreds of Yazidi women, according to an Iraqi official, while thousands of other civilians have fled in fear as the militants seized a string of northern Iraqi towns and villages in recent days.
    Syria's government has banned the so-called tolerated domestic opposition from holding a news conference, activists have said.

    Two opposition groups allowed to operate inside the country by the government, as opposed to those mostly based in exile and seeking President Bashar al-Assad's ouster, were due to hold the joint news conference in Damascus on Monday.

    The National Coordination Committee for Democratic Change and the Front for Change and Liberation planned to unveil a joint document calling for a "political solution" to the conflict that has ravaged Syria for more than three years, and for the end of the "autocratic regime".

    But the two groups said security forces barred them from announcing the initiative.

    "Security service members prevented the holding of the conference and prevented journalists from entering the FCL headquarters," said Hassan Abdel Azim, a NCCDC member.

    "A checkpoint of eight men in military uniform was set up outside the headquarters," where the news conference was to be held, added Safwan Akkash, another NCCDC member. 

    "Journalists were prevented from entering on the pretext that they didn't have authorisation to cover the event, even though they are all accredited by the information ministry," Akkash added.

    The move is the first time that the domestic opposition has been prevented from holding a news conference since the beginning of the conflict in Syria in March 2011.

    Akkash said the move was a response to the content of the document the groups planned to present.

    "The regime did not appreciate the fact that with this memorandum, the FCL has become an opposition movement outside the orbit of the regime," he said.

    The text signed by the two groups opposes all foreign interference in Syria as well as a "military solution" to the conflict.

    But it also calls for the "passage from an autocratic regime to a democratic, pluralistic system."

    According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights the Syrian information ministry, acting on orders from the presidential palace, issued a directive prohibiting coverage of the domestic opposition.

    The Britain-based monitoring group said the order prohibited "journalists from covering any opposition news conference in Damascus or interviewing any opposition member."

    [AFP]
    An armed revolt by the Shueitat tribe in the eastern province of Deir el-Zour has been brought to an end by Islamic State forces in the area. 

    The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and  Thaer al-Deiri said on Monday that Islamic State group fighters regained control of three villages from the Shueitat tribe after being expelled earlier this month.

    The Observatory said Islamic State fighters beheaded two tribesmen after they fled to the nearby village of Shaafa.

     It had no immediate word on other casualties in the area.

    Clashes over the past two weeks left more than a dozen people dead on both sides.

    [AP]
    SOHR - Islamic State group advances in Syria's Aleppo province:

    The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the Islamic State group has managed to seize the six villages north of the city of Aleppo, and not far from the border with Turkey.




    by Philippa Stewart edited by Jassim.Kunji 8/13/2014 7:25:29 AM

    IS fighters capture towns in Syria's north

    Islamic State fighters capture towns and villages near Syria's northern border with Turkey from rival fighters.

    The leader of a major rebel brigade, Abu Obaida Al Masri, gave his troops orders to withdraw from the town of Azaz.

    According to activists in the area, Al Masri withdrew his forces to avoid fighting Islamic State (IS) fighters.

    Al Masri's brigade is a member of Ahrar Al Sham, but activists say he has been distancing himself from Ahrar al Sham's central command and disobeyed direct orders on many occasions.

    IS has recently been pushing from East Aleppo country side towards the west and has taken large parts of rebel territory.

    Almost completely surrounded by the regime in Aleppo city and hit by IS attacks from the eastern countryside, rebels find themselves weakened, outnumbered and outgunned. 

    In the past days other rebel groups such as Soqour Al Islam brigades and even Al Qaeda's affiliate, Al Nusra Front, have been withdrawing troops from Aleppo.

    In social media, IS members have been promising to take back the territories they lost to the
    rebels back in January when infighting broke out.
    Tweets and Facebook posts made by IS fighters have been promoting what they call "the return" and set the date to the coming month of September .

    Syrian government forces retook a key town on the outskirts of the capital Damascus after a months-long battle against rebels, a military source and state television said.

    The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group backed up the report.

    "The army, with the cooperation of the National Defence Forces (militia), has accomplished its mission of restoring stability and security to Mleiha," the army command said in a statement on Thursday.

    It added that troops carried out "a series of crucial operations killing a large number of takfiri (Islamic extremist) mercenaries who had barricaded themselves in the town."

    The army said: 

    This is a tough blow to the takfiri terrorists who have begun to fall in the face of the successive blows dealt to them by the army


    Mleiha would now serve as a springboard for its bid to regain control of Eastern Ghouta, the army said. The region is considered to be an important rebel bastion outside Damascus that has long been in the sights of government forces.

    State television broadcast live from Mleiha, showing streets with holes punched through homes by rockets and twisted metal from telephone line poles.
    Syrian TV news bulletin
    by Basma Atassi via YouTube

    Mleiha lies southeast of the capital and has been a key flashpoint in fighting around Damascus.

    [AFP]


    The United Nations Security Council is set to try and weaken self-declared jihadist fighters in
    Iraq and Syria by blacklisting six people and threatening sanctions against those who finance, recruit or supply weapons to the fighters, diplomats said.

    A British-drafted resolution, obtained by the Reuters news agency, targets the so-called Islamic State group - an al Qaeda splinter group that has seized swaths of territory in Iraq and Syria and
    declared a caliphate - and al Qaeda's Syrian wing Jabhat al-Nusra.

    Diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity on Friday, said the 15-member council was expected to unanimously adopt the resolution.

    The draft "deplores and condemns in the strongest terms the terrorist acts of [Islamic State] and its violent extremist ideology, and its continued gross, systematic and widespread abuses of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law."

    [Reuters]

    The death toll from a car bomb that went off in Nimer has risen to 23 people. This video allegedly shows chaos and injuries near the Al Taqwa mosque after the bomb went off.

    Al Jazeera cannot independently verify the content of this video.

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