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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.


  • UN draft resolution explained: Part IV


    16. Endorses fully the Geneva Communique of June 30, 2012 (Annex II), which sets
    out a number of key steps beginning 
    with the establishment of a transitional governing body exercising full executive powers, which could include members of the present Government and the opposition and other groups and shall be formed on the basis of mutual consent;

    17. Calls for the convening, as soon as possible, of an international conference on Syria
    to implement the Geneva 
    Communique, and calls upon all Syrian parties to engage seriously and constructively at the Geneva Conference on Syria, and underscores that they should be fully representative of the Syrian people and committed to the implementation of the
    Geneva Communique and to the achievement of stability and reconciliation;

    18. Reaffirms that all Member States shall refrain from providing any form of support to non-State
    actors that attempt 
    to develop, acquire, manufacture, possess, transport, transfer
    or use nuclear, chemical or biological weapons and their means of delivery, and calls upon all Member States, in particular Member States neighbouring the Syrian Arab Republic, to report
    any violations of this paragraph to the Security Council immediately;

    19. Demands that non-State actors not develop, acquire, manufacture, possess, transport,
    transfer, or use nuclear, 
    chemical or biological weapons and their means of
    delivery, 
    and calls upon all Member States, in particular Member States neighbouring the Syrian Arab Republic, to report any actions inconsistent with this paragraph to the Security
    Council 
    immediately;

    20. Decides that all Member States shall prohibit the procurement of chemical weapons, related equipment, goods and technology or assistance from the Syrian Arab Republic by
    their 
    nationals, or using their flagged vessels or aircraft, whether or not originating in the territory of the Syrian Arab Republic; - Reuters

  • UN draft resolution explained: Part V


     21. Decides, in the event of non-compliance with this resolution, including unauthorized transfer of chemical weapons, or any use of chemical weapons by anyone in the Syrian Arab Republic, to impose measures under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter;

    22. Decides to remain actively seized of the matter. - Reuters       [Photo: AFP PHOTO/Stan Honda]

    by AJE Staff
  • Iran's President Rouhani warns of Syria extremism 
    by AJE Staff

    Iran's President Hassan Rouhani has warned that Syria could become an extremist haven like Taliban-era  Afghanistan as he called for cooperation to end the civil war.

    Iran considers Syrian President Bashar al Assad its closest regional ally  and has not accepted US intelligence that the regime killed some 1,400 people  in a chemical weapons attack last month.

    "My government strongly condemns the use of chemical weapons in Syria,"  Rouhani told a New York think tank forum on Thursday, without assigning blame.

    "I am also concerned about the breeding ground created in parts of Syrian  territory for
    extremist ideology and a rally point for terrorists, which is  
    reminiscent of
    another region adjacent to our eastern borders in the 1990s.

    "This is an issue of concern not only to us but also to many other  countries, which requires cooperation and joint efforts aimed at finding a durable, inter-Syrian political solution." 

    - AFP [Photo: AFP/ Emmanuel Dunand]

  • UK commits extra £100m aid for #SyriaCrisis . Suffering shows urgency for political solution & peace conference ow.ly/pf1kY #syria
  • by AJE Staff
    Following an intense two-week diplomatic drive, Russia and the US signed off on the draft text of a UN resolution to ensure the destruction of Syria's chemical weapons.

    The UN Security Council may vote on the resolution as early as today (Friday), and it is expected it will be approved.

    The negotiations between US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov  began in Geneva two weeks ago, and were completed last night in the UN headquarters in New York.

    "It's been, some would say, a rather productive day, certainly some important things have happened here today," the State Department official said.

    For the details of the resolution click here.

    -- AFP [photo: Reuters]

  • The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the global chemical weapons watchdog, is due to hold a meeting to discuss the US-Russia brokered plan to rapidly verify, secure and destroy Syria's arsenal of poison gas and nerve agents, today.

    The meeting will take place late on Friday to sign off on the plan, which has gone through nearly two weeks of strenuous negotiation.

    The discussions have run parallel with talks in New York on the text of a United Nations Security Council resolution that is to underpin the destruction plan.

    The text of that resolution was agreed Thursday by the five permanent Security Council members. An OPCW decision on its plan of action would clear the way for a vote on the resolution later Friday.

    - AP
  • by AJE Staff
    The Iraqi government is taking measures to provide accommodation, food
    and security for a surging number of displaced Syrians in that country.

    Iraq has received 210,000 Syrian refugees so far, a sudden increase from 160,000 just over a month ago. The huge flow of Syrians into Iraq began on August 15 when the Kurdish region started to open its border to Syrians. 

    Kawergosk, the largest refugee camp in Erbil Province, was built after the flow of Syrians, which accommodates 15,000 Syrian refugees currently.

    According to local officials, the number of refugees entering Iraq will continue to rise in the coming months.

    -- AP [photo: Reuters]
  • by AJE Staff
    Experts from the world's chemical weapons watchdog will begin inspecting Syria's stockpile of toxic munitions by Tuesday, according to a draft agreement obtained by Reuters.

    The 41-member executive council of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) is due to discuss and vote on the proposal at 20:00GMT Friday night. It needs a simple majority to be passed, but decisions at the body are normally agreed upon by consensus.

    It requests urgent funding to hire inspectors and technical experts to destroy what Western intelligence agencies believe is about 1,000 tonnes of sarin, mustard and VX nerve agents, built up over decades and spread over dozens of locations.

    The OPCW was established to enforce the 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention. It has an annual budget of under $100 million and less than 500 staff.

    -- Reuters
  • UN experts currently on the ground in Syria will visit seven sites of alleged chemical weapons attacks around the country, the UN has announced.

    The experts aim to prepare a comprehensive report "by late October" that would be "based on a number of allegations... of which seven have been found to warrant investigation," it said in a statement.

    It will complete its work in Syria by Monday, the statement said.

  • on
    by AJE Staff
    Following an intense two-week diplomatic drive, Russia and the US signed off on the draft text of a UN resolution to ensure the destruction of Syria's chemical weapons.

    The UN Security Council may vote on the resolution as early as today (Friday), and it is expected it will be approved.

    The negotiations between US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov  began in Geneva two weeks ago, and were completed last night in the UN headquarters in New York.

    "It's been, some would say, a rather productive day, certainly some

    important things have happened here today," the State Department official
    said
    .

    For details of the resolution click here.

    -- AFP [photo: Reuters]
  • Opposition groups are trying to break an army blockade of rebel-held areas of Damascus. For almost a year, a number of suburbs have been choked by Assad's forces, cutting off food and medicine from people that live there. Now aid agencies are warning of the risk of mass starvation. Al Jazeera's Zeina Khodr reports from Beirut.

    by AlJazeeraEnglish on 2:06 PM
  • A car bomb killed at least 20 people and wounded dozens more on Friday when it exploded in Rankus, a town 30 km north of the Syrian capital Damascus, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

    Activists in a nearby town said the blast occurred in front of a mosque soon after Friday prayers. They gave a higher death toll of 37 dead and said more than 100 had been wounded.

    One of the activists told Reuters news agency that government forces began shelling the same area soon after the explosion occurred, causing at least one more death.
  • French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said he hopes the five permanent members of the UN Security Council will be able to set a date on Friday for so-called Geneva 2 peace talks on the Syrian conflict.

    The five - France, Britain, Russia, China and the United States - are due to meet with UN Secretary- General Ban Ki-moon and international Syria mediator Lakhdar Brahimi later on Friday on the sidelines of the annual U.N. gathering of world leaders.

    "I hope that we will be able to fix a date this evening for Geneva 2," Fabius said.

    [Reuters]
  • A group of international war crimes experts is calling for the creation of a special tribunal in Damascus to try any top-ranking officials, soldiers or rebels who may have committed atrocities.

    Professor Michael Scharf of Case Western Reserve University, acting as spokesman, showed The Associated Press a copy of the draft statutes that have been quietly under development for nearly two years. They could serve as a template for such a tribunal after the civil war ends.

    He said Friday that US diplomats also have copies of the 30-page document, and are sympathetic to the idea of a Syrian war crimes court.
    "We believe it's playing a role in closed-door discussions throughout the US government," Scharf said.

    He said the group wants to push the issue of accountability for war crimes into the ongoing international discussions over Syria, and hopes the prospect will deter combatants from committing further atrocities, such as the violation of the Geneva Protocol in the August 21 use of chemical weapons in Syria.

    Syria is not a party to the International Criminal Court - the permanent war crimes tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands. The ICC doesn't have jurisdiction over war crimes committed there unless the U.N. Security Council grants it.

    However, conflict-specific war crime courts such as the proposed Syrian court have been created in individual countries in recent years. Scharf himself was an adviser to judges at the Iraqi High Tribunal, which tried Saddam Hussein.

    The experts who participated in creating the Syrian draft statutes, which are to be formally introduced at the National Press Club in Washington on Thursday, have no political power, though they are well-respected figures internationally.

    They include Egyptian-born legal scholar Mahmoud Cherif Bassiouni, who chaired the drafting of the ICC's statutes, and South Africa's Richard Goldstone, the first prosecutor of the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, among others.

    Human Rights Watch spokesman Richard Dicker in New York said Friday his organisation supports prosecution of war crimes, but top suspects should be tried in The Hague because if they have been on the losing side of a conflict they are unlikely to receive a fair trial at home.

    [AP]
  • Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Mouallem has told Al Jazeera his country is determined to go forward with the destruction its chemical weapons stockpile.

    Speaking to our diplomatic editor James Bays on Friday, Muallem also said he hoped that the UN assembly can pave the way for a deal that would bring the two warring sides in Syria to the negotiation table.


    “We will commit because we are determined to go forward in the respect of [the agreement of] destroying the chemical weapons,” Mouallem said in an on-the- run interview at the UN headquarters in New York.

  • US President Barack Obama on Friday hailed a UN resolution that provides for the destruction of Syria's chemical weapons arsenal as "a huge victory" for the world.

    But Obama acknowledged legitimate concerns over the dismantling of Syria's chemical weapons arsenal and whether the Assad regime would live up to its commitments.

    The UN Security Council was to meet at 8:00 pm (0000 GMT) on Friday to vote on the resolution, which will follow a Russia-US plan on the disarmament of Syria's chemical weapons.

    "This is something that we have long sought," Obama told reporters as he met Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in the Oval Office.

    Obama hailed the resolution and disarmament plans as a "legally binding" and "verifiable" initiative which threatens consequences if Syria did not adhere to conditions.

    He described the plan as a "huge victory for the international community."

    "Realistically, it is doubtful we would have arrived at this point had it not been for a credible threat of US action in the aftermath of the horrific tragedy that took place on August 21," Obama said, referring to a chemical weapons attack on a Damascus suburb.

    Obama said he was hopeful about what the accord could achieve but added that he understood there were concerns about how to implement it.

    "Rightly, people have been concerned about whether Syria would follow through on commitments.

    [AFP]
  • Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Friday accused western nations of blaming Syria's President Bashar al-Assad of staging chemical weapons attacks without proof.

    "The use of chemical weapons is inadmissible. This does not mean, however, that one can usurp the right to accuse and pass verdicts," Lavrov told the UN General Assembly.

    [AFP]
  • Syria's Mufti, Ahmad Bader al-Din al-Hassoun, calls on the UN to exercise "international justice" and says the very fact that Syria decided to open its chemical arsenal proves the country "has not used chemical weapons against anybody".

    "I am with the UN resolution that is not against Syria as they expect but
    it is with Syria in its daring 
    decision to open its chemical arsenal pointing
    that we have 
    not used chemical weapons against anybody. These weapons were
    used upon us. So I am with the United Nations if they 
    really have
    international justice. Let them begin this 
    international justice."



    The problem is not with Syria. Our problem is with the others and the countries that back those who called themselves opposition. Do these countries agree for the opposition to attend the conference? And if they agreed would they have the ability to stop those who are using arms in Syria to stop the killing? We are with every conference that calls for reconciliation not only for Syria but for any country that suffers from troubles."

    [Reuters]
  • Iran wants to "actively" take part in any new Syria peace conference, Iran's President Hassan 
    Rouhani said Friday.

    "For Geneva or any other international gathering ... should Iran participate, it will actively accept that invitation and participate for the sake of the Syrian people," Rouhani told a press conference on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.

    [AFP]
  • Syria disarmament talks stall at chemical watchdog

    by AJE Staff


    Talks at the world's chemical watchdog on a draft plan to dismantle Syria's chemical arsenal ha stalled, a spokesman has said.

    Michael Luhan, spokesman for the  Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons' (OPCW) Executive Council, said on Friday that the discussion might be
    put off to Saturday.

    The OPCW meeting, tasked with approving a blueprint to be
    incorporated in a key UN Security Council resolution, will resume at 2230
    GMT,  "or it will be postponed until tomorrow," OPCW Luhan
    said. - AFP [Photo AFP/ Abo Shuja]
  • Have just adopted a historic decision @OPCW - chemical weapons convention in now applicable to Syria http://pbs.twimg.com/media/BVNC7qfIEAAxLyS.jpg

  • Chemical arms watchdog adopts Syria plan ahead of UN vote

    The world's chemical watchdog has adopted a plan to dismantle
    Syria's chemical arsenal, shortly before the the UN  
    Security Council votes
    on a resolution including the blueprint.

    "The decision is adopted and it is
    effective immediately," Organisation for  
    the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons
    spokesman Michael Luhan told journalists  
    after the Executive Council
    meeting.

    "After a last-moment unexpected delay our Executive Council has met
    and at
    12:38 this morning (2238 GMT) has adopted a decision on an
    accelerated
    programme by the OPCW to destroy Syria's chemical weapons,"
    Luhan said.

    US Secretary of State John Kerry has called the OPCW document the
    "rules  
    and regulations" of Syria's chemical disarmament to be enshrined in
    the UN
    resolution that is to be voted on at 0000 GMT Saturday.

    Luhan said
    that a there was a "very minor change" to a draft document seen  
    by AFP and
    "the timetable was not disturbed."

    The draft OPCW document said the watchdog
    will start inspections no later
    than October 1 and eliminate all of Syria's
    chemical weapons by mid-2014.

    "The decision is effective immediately and we
    expect an advance team on the  
    ground in Syria by next week," Luhan said. - AFP



  • @baysontheroad interviews Syrian Foreign Minister at #UNGA . Watch @AJELive for the full interview coming up.
  • @baysontheroad reports idea of Geneva two conference on Syria may be dead. Source says we are now looking at an extended peace process.




  • by AJE Staff

    Kerry warns of 'consequences' if Syria fails to abide by resolution


    US Secretary of State
    John Kerry has warned that Syria would face punishment if it does not comply  with a UN Security Council resolution on its chemical weapons.

    "Should the regime fail to act, there will be consequences," Kerry told the Security Council after the vote sealing a US-Russian agreement on Friday, in remarks broadcast by Al Jazeera English.

    Kerry hailed the deal, reached after prolonged negotiations, as a breakthrough.

    "The Security Council has shown that when we put aside politics for the common good, we are still capable of doing big things," Kerry said.

    "Provided this resolution is fully implemented, we will have eliminated one of the largest chemical weapons programs on Earth from one of the most volatile places on Earth."

    But Kerry said that chemical weapons were only one issue and that a solution was needed to end the 30-month civil war that has killed more than 100,000 people.

    The world "still carries the burden of doing what we must to end mass killing by other means," Kerry said.

    "We must work together with the same determination, the same co-operation that has brought us here tonight, in order to end the conflict that continues  to tear Syria apart even this very day." - AFP [  Photo: AFP/ Stan Honda]
  • Syria UN envoy says chemical weapons resolution


    A resolution adopted by the UN Security Council to eliminate Syria's chemical weapons covers most of the concerns of 
    DamascusBashar Ja'afari, Syria's UN Ambassador  has said.

    "We must work together with the same determination, the same co-operation the UN Security Council to eliminate Syria's chemical weapons covers most of Damascus' concerns, Syrian UN Ambassador Bashar Ja'afari has said.

    Ja'afari, reacting after the Security Council unanimously adopted the resolution, said on Friday countries supporting Syria's rebels - Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, France and the US - should also abide by the resolution.

    He said the Syrian government was "fully committed" to attending a proposed November peace conference in Geneva aimed at ending Syria's civil war. - Reuters

  • Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons' (OPCW) statement on Syria

    The OPCW Executive Council today adopted a historic decision on
    the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons.

    In a special session, the 41-member body agreed on an accelerated
    programme for achieving the complete elimination of Syria’s chemical weapons by
    mid-2014.
      The decision requires inspections in Syria to commence from 1
    October 2013.
     



    The decision also calls for ambitious milestones for destruction
    which will be set by the Council by 15 November.



    The Executive Council decision was informed by the Framework
    Agreement reached by the Russian Federation and the United States of America in
    Geneva on 14 September.
      It also facilitates the request by Syria that the
    Convention be applied ahead of its formal entry into force for Syria on 14
    October.



    The OPCW Director-General warmly welcomed the decision by the
    Council.
    He assured States Parties of the Technical Secretariat’s readiness to
    commence its work in Syria immediately.
      



    “This decision sends an unmistakable message that the
    international community is coming together to work for peace in Syria,
    beginning with the elimination of chemical weapons in that country.”



    “I assure the Council that I and my colleagues are ready to take
    up this historic responsibility.
    A few days ago, I stated that we approach this
    mission with a sense of destiny.
    What this means is that we will not allow the
    significant challenges to obscure the vision of peace and security that is
    embedded in this noble undertaking.
    ” 



    “We have known all along that an OPCW mission of this
    extraordinary character will require the support of the United Nations.
    I look
    forward to working closely with the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr
    Ban Ki-moon.


  • UN-Arab League peace envoy prepares to bring Syrian regime and rebels together

    UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has said that Lakhdar Brahimi, the UN-Arab League peace envoy, will carry out the preparatory work needed in the weeks ahead to bring together the opposition and the Syrian regime of President Bashar al-Assad.
    "All violence must end. All the guns must fall silent," Ban stressed on Saturday, as he hailed the "historic resolution" on Assad's chemical weapons stockpile, stressing it was not "a license to kill" with conventional arms.

    "As we mark this important step we must never forget that the catalogue of horrors in Syria continues with bombs and tanks, grenades and guns." - AFP
  • Kerry warns of Syria resolution 'consequences'

  • by AJE Staff
    The Syrian Ministry of Tourism has helped sponsor a mass wedding for 25 couples in Damascus, including young men and women displaced by the country's on-going civil war and family members of the Syrian Army. 

    The wedding was held at the five-star Dama Rose hotel on Friday. It was attended by government ministers and officials as well as the Grand Mufti of Syria. 

    Couples and guests, dressed in suits and formal clothing, sang and danced to celebrate the weddings.

    "These types of social activities come as evidence of the Syrian people's will to go on with life and of their determination," said Kinda al-Shammat, the Syrian Minister of Social Affairs.

    Syrian Minister of Tourism Bisher Yazeji said the mass wedding symbolised a "message of hope, rejuvenation and giving".

    - AP [Photos: Reuters]

    by AJE Staff

  • UN agrees to Syria arms resolution
    by AlJazeeraEnglish on 8:42 AM

    After weeks of intense negotiations and the threat of military action, the UN has finally agreed on a resolution to destroy Syria's chemical weapons. The 15-member Security Council voted unanimously on the deal put forward by the US and Russia.

    It is a significant step forward in international diplomacy to deal with the two and a half-year war which has left more than 100 thousand people dead.

    Al Jazeera's James Bays reports from the UN headquarters in New York. For more on this story, click here.


  • Concerns grow over Syria's foreign fighters
    AlJazeeraEnglish

    Concern is growing in Syria about the impact foreign fighters and groups affiliated to al-Qaeda are having on the conflict.

    Many are coming into the country from Turkey, and analysts are warning that it is jeopardising security.

    Al Jazeera's Anita McNaught reports from Antakya.

  • Syrian style restaurants are booming in Dubai as a large number of Syrians have flocked into the United Arab Emirates (UAE). According to statistics from the Syria consulate to Dubai, the Syrian population in UAE has increased from 170,000 before the crisis to approximately a million.

    The increased population has led to the opening of many Syrian restaurants in Dubai, which provide the refugees a place to heal their homesickness.

    Salouja, decorated in Damascus style, offers genuine Syrian dishes. Consumers here can indulge in their Syrian accent to waiters and carry on a nostalgia of sitting in a deep quite corner of Damascus.

    ''The dishes of this restaurant taste delicious and remind me of my mom's cooking," said Yamin, a Syrian consumer of Salouja, who only gave his first name.

    For the Syrians, the restaurants are more than a place to have meals; they are also a place to look for Syrian connections and to forget for a moment the bad memories of Syria. Dubai is stable and safe, but many Syrians hope the crisis back home could be over and they can return as soon as possible.

    "Believe me, nothing can feel like home, wherever you are, you always look back to your country. The restaurant can console you but can never give you the same feel," said Kinan.

    "I really hope that the situation of this conflict will end as soon as possible. And many Syrians living outside Syria around the world can contribute to building the country again," said Mohammed, another Salouja consumer, who also would only give his first name.

    - AP
  • The state-run Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) reports that Syrian authorities have arrested 15 members of the armed opposition brigade Jabhat al-Nusra, which is aligned with al-Qaeda in the Qaddour Baik neighborhood of Qamishli city.

    Meanwhile, SANA also reported, citing security sources, that three Syrian security personnel were killed after sustained injuries due to firing from across the Turkish border at a Syrian checkpoint in Ras al-Ein.

    The injured were admitted to hospital before they died, the agency reported.
  • EU hails UN Syria chemical arms resolution

    The European Union has praised a United Nations resolution aimed at destroying Syria's chemical arms cache for "setting a standard" against perpetrators of poison gas attacks.

    The resolution represented "a major step towards a sustainable and unified international response to the crisis in Syria" and EU would provide "forceful" support in the case of non-compliance, foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said in a statement late on Friday.

    The UN Security Council unanimously passed a landmark resolution on Friday ordering the destruction of Syria's chemical weapons and condemned a murderous poison gas attack in Damascus.

    "This decision should pave the way to the elimination of chemical weapons in Syria, and set a standard for the international community in responding to threats posed by weapons of mass destruction," Ashton said.

    The plan calls for Syria's estimated 1,000 tonnes of chemical weapons to be put under international control by mid-2014. Experts say the timetable is very tight.

    Ashton said the European bloc "reiterates its readiness to support actions foreseen under the resolution," including "a forceful international reaction in the event of non-compliance."

    - AFP
  • Syria's main opposition group has lost its bargaining power ahead of any potential peace conference, after rebels withdrew their support and a UN resolution failed to meet its expectations.

    With talks aimed at bringing about an end to the civil war planned for November in Geneva, the opposition feels more abandoned than ever by its friends in the West.

    National Coalition chief Ahmad Jarba officially welcomed the UN resolution to eradicate Syria's chemical weapons, but other members of the group expressed bitterness at the outcome.
    "The (UN) Security Council resolution is a big disappointment for us," said Coalition member and veteran dissident Samir Nashar.

    "It serves the interests of most regional and international powers, including the Syrian regime... but by no stretch of the imagination does it serve the Syrian people or the Syrian revolution."

    The UN Security Council on Friday passed resolution 2118, after gruelling US-Russian negotiations, ordering Syria's chemical arsenal destroyed, but the resolution stops short of promising sanctions or the use of force against President Bashar al-Assad's regime.

    And the resolution says nothing about the regime's use of other weapons - from fighter jets to scud missiles -- that have also exacted a heavy toll on the rebels and civilians.

    "The opposition is the big loser," France-based Middle East expert Agnes Levallois said.
    "With this issue of chemical weapons, Bashar al-Assad has regained his place as the Syrian partner for talks with the international community."

    Even if the Geneva talks go forward as planned, the Coalition's decisions "will neither be accepted nor recognised by the opposition inside Syria... It's terrible for the opposition," Levallois added.

    [Reuters]
  • Syrian rebels, including members of an al-Qaeda-linked group, have captured a military post on the border with Jordan after four days of fighting, according to an activist group.

    The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 26 government soldiers were killed in Saturday's battle as well as a number of rebels, including seven foreign fighters.

    The Ramtha post served in the past as the customs office on the border with Jordan.

    It was turned into an army post years ago.

    The post is on the outskirts of the southern city of Deraa where the uprising against President Bashar Assad's regime began in March 2011.

    The uprising later turned into a civil war that has killed more than 100,000 people, according to the UN.

  • Al Jazeera's Nisreen El-Shamayleh, reporting from Amman, said the importance of Syrian rebels' take over of the military post near Jordan remains merely symbolic.

    "Ramtha border crossing has been closed for around two year. It was closed while it was under the control of the Syrian army," she said.

    "So it definitely won't be opened by Jordan now, especially that the rebels who captured it are not part of the Saudi-backed military council in Deraa, whom Jordan had some security coordination with."

    Officials in Jordan refused to comment on the takeover, saying they would not issue statements on events that are taking place on the side of a sovereign state outside their territory.

    The Naseeb-Jaber border crossing is the only operational post between Syria and Jordan. The Syrian side of it is under the control of the Syrian army.

    There is close coordination between the governments in Amman and Damascus on security maintenance at the crossing.

    Rebels control multiple areas along the borders with Jordan, Iraq, Turkey and Lebanon as well as the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.
  • A picture uploaded on the official page of the Syrian Presidency on Facebook purports to shows Syrian first lady, Asma al-Assad, speaking with students in the capital Damascus.

  • Another picture uploaded on the official page of the Syrian Presidency on Facebook purports to shows Syrian first lady, Asma al-Assad, speaking with students in the capital Damascus.

  • Syria is "comfortable" with a UN Security Council resolution on destroying its chemical weapons and will not discuss the future of President Bashar al-Assad, the country's foreign minister said Saturday.

    Walid Muallem told reporters the resolution voted by the 15-nation council on Friday meant the opposition could be the target of UN sanctions.

    "I am comfortable with the resolution," Muallem said at the UN headquarters where he will give Syria's address to the UN General Assembly on Monday.

    "It calls for Chapter VII against the terrorists," the foreign minister added.

    Assad's government habitually calls the opposition groups battling to overthrow him "terrorists".

    The UN resolution allows the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to start a mission this week to collect and destroy Syria's arms.

    It does not allow for immediate sanctions under Chapter VII of the UN Charter in Syria, but there could be a new vote on measures if the disarmament accord is violated.

    [AFP]
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