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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 Kurds in the country's northeast announced the formation of a transitional autonomous administration on Tuesday after making key territorial gains against jihadists in recent weeks.

    But several major Kurdish groups have not signed on to the declaration, which had originally been mooted in July.

    The latest announcement comes amid a general strengthening of Kurdish rights in neighbouring Turkey, and increasing moves towards independence by Iraq's own autonomous Kurdish region.

    "Today is an important day in the history of the Kurdish people," said Shirzad Izidi, a spokesman for the People's Council of Western Kurdistan, a Syrian Kurdish group.

    "What has been announced today is the beginning of implementing an interim administration in the ares of West Kurdistan," he continued, referring to the commonly used name for Syria's Kurdish areas.

    The announcement was made after talks in the mostly Kurdish town of Qamishli days earlier and involves the division of Syria's Kurdish region into three areas, each with its own local assembly, as well as representatives to a regional executive body.

    The administration has been tasked with preparing local and general elections, along with handling an array of political, military, security and economic issues.

    But the fact that the newly formed authority lacks the backing of several key parties has raised questions over whether it will be long-lasting.

    Currently, the transitional authority is formed by the powerful Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) and several other smaller groupings, but not the Kurdish National Council, which includes a broad spectrum of parties.

    Kurdish regions of northern Syria have been administered by local Kurdish councils since forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad withdrew in the middle of 2012.

    [AFP]
  • Activists group, Sana Al-Thawra says that several people have been killed in twin car bomb blasts in Al-Tadamon neighbourhood in Damascus. Another blast has targeted a gathering of the regime forces in Al-Tadamoun neighbourhood.

    [Activist group, Sana Al-Thawra]

  • An opposition fighter fires as he holds a position with fellow comrades in the 
    northeastern
    Syrian city of Deir Ezzor [AFP/Ahmad Aboud]
    by Safeeyah Kharsany


    by Safeeyah Kharsany edited by Basma Atassi 11/13/2013 12:04:09 PM

  • Environmental activists hold up national flags and signs as they take part in a protest in front of the Albanian parliament in Tirana [AFP] 
    by Amna Bagadi

    Several hundred people protested on Thursday in the capital Tirana and number of other towns across Albania against the possible destruction of Syrian chemical weaponry on its soil as requested by Washington.

    "The parliament will not make any decision that could endanger lives and the well-being of (Albanian) citizens and the country," Ilir Meta, chairman of the assembly, told protestors in front of the parliament building in Tirana.

    "Every decision will take into account Albania's future," Meta said, as the crowd shouted "No to chemical weapons".

    Albania, along with France, Belgium, have been mooted as possible sites for the dismantling of Syria's entire chemical arsenal, estimated at about 1,000 tonnes.

    The Balkan country's right-wing opposition also called on the Albanians to keep up with the protests.

    "It is unacceptable for any chemical weapons to be destroyed in Albania," said opposition leader Lulezim Bashac.

    He urged the government to call a referendum for the people to decide on the issue.

    [AFP]
  • Norway has said it would offer logistical support for the destruction of Syria's chemical weapons arsenal despite refusing to carry out the operation on its soil as requested by the United States.

    Oslo will offer a civilian ship to help transport the weapons to an as yet undecided location, along with a military frigate to escort any future convoy, the country's foreign ministry said on Thursday.

    The Scandinavian country would also promise 90 million krone ($15 mn) to the United Nations and Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to carry out the operation, the ministry added.

    Norway said on October 25 it could not accommodate an American request to help destroy Syria's chemical arsenal on its soil, saying the schedule was too tight and that it lacked the expertise required.

    [AFP]
  • North Korea denied it was sending military aid to the Syrian government, one of its few close allies, in its battle against rebel forces after media reports said that Pyongyang had sent advisors and helicopter pilots.

    "Some foreign media are floating misinformation that the DPRK (Democratic People's Republic of Korea) supplied war equipment to Syria, its airmen are directly involved in air-raids on insurgent troops in Syria," the North's state run KCNA news agency said late on Thursday.

    [Reuters]
  • Syrian government air raid killed Tawhid rebel group commander, Youssef al-Abbas,  in Aleppo on Friday, according to activists in the city.

    Tawhid's head, Abdelqader Saleh, was injured and taken to a hospital in Turkey, 45 km to the  north, along with Abdelaziz al-Salameh, another top commander.

    [Reuters]


    by Hamza Mohamed edited by Basma Atassi 11/15/2013 11:33:25 AM
  • Jordan said on Friday the total cost of hosting Syrian refugees in 2013 and 2014 would exceed $5 billion, more than previously estimated, but vowed to stick with painful economic reforms including the removal of power subsidies.

    Finance Minister Umayya Toukan attributed the escalating costs mainly to the need for more infrastructure to alleviate overcrowding in Jordan, now home to more than 600,000 refugees from the civil war in neighbouring Syria according to UN data.

    Toukan said Jordan's own estimates put the number of Syrian refugees somewhat higher, at between 700,000 and 1 million.

    "The numbers are continuing to increase... Our schools and hospitals and all our infrastructure are overcrowded," he said on the sidelines of a Union of Arab Banks' conference in Beirut.

    "This is not just to accommodate refugees in the same classroom any more, you have to build new schools, new hospitals," Toukan told Reuters in an interview, adding Jordan would need more international support to host the Syrians.

    The United Nations has estimated the cost of hosting the refugees at $2.1 billion for 2013 and $3.2 billion for 2014, he said. Jordan's own estimate just for 2013 was $1.5 billion.

    [Reuters]
  • The US said it respected a decision by Albania not to host the destruction of Syria's chemical weapons and that it was confident of eliminating the nerve agents within a time frame agreed with Russia.

    "The United States will continue to work with Allies and partners as well as the OPCW (Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons) and the United Nations to ensure the elimination of Syria's chemical weapons program," the US embassy in Tirana said in a statement.

    "We remain confident that we will complete elimination of the (weapons) program within the timeline agreed upon," it said.
  • Albania has rejected a request from the US for the Syrian chemical weapons to be destroyed on its soil.

    The Balkans nation says it's ill-equipped to handle the disposal of thousands of tonnes of toxic waste.

    Al Jazeera's Jonah Hull reports.



  • Al Jazeera's Zeina Khodr says dozens of Syrian families have crossed intro Lebanon, fleeing Qarah, a town about 20 kilometres from Lebanon's border after the Syrian army started an offensive in the town. 
  • Al Qunayta: bombing Al Nasiriya village 

    القنيطرة -الناصرية الصورايخ التي سقطت على القرية 16-11-2013
    by ahrar grgis via YouTube on 11:05 AM


  • Syrian troops have clashed with rebels in the mountainous western Qalamoun region of the country, in an offensive to cut an opposition supply route. Hundreds of civilians were forced to flee for safety across the border to Lebanon, activists and officials said.

    Syrian government warplanes struck rebel held areas around the area, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, as they try to regain control of the border with Lebanon.

    The Observatory said that Lebanon's militant Hezbollah group has deployed thousands of fighters on the Lebanese side of the border in preparation for the battle. Hezbollah's fighters openly joined Syria's civil war earlier this year, tipping the war in favor of government forces mostly in the central province of Homs and in the suburbs of Damascus.

    Hundreds of Syrian men, women and children have crossed the border into the Lebanese town of Arsal seeking refuge from the fighting. "We have a major crisis," the town's former mayor Bassel Hojeiri told The Associated Press. The town has been sought as refuge by thousands of refugees from the past two years of violence, he said.

    More than 120,000 people have been killed so far in the war, now in its third year, according to the Observatory, which closely monitors the violence in Syria through a network of activists across the country.

    [AP]

  • More Syrian refugees flee to Lebanon
    by Al Jazeera English via YouTube on 4:53 AM

    Approximately 1,000 Syrian families have escaped to Lebanon in the last two days as fighting has increased in the town of Qarah on the Syrian-Lebanese border.

    Syrian military has launched an offensive in an attempt to close an opposition supply route from Lebanon. Government forces appear to be trying to regain control of the whole border with the country.

    Al Jazeera's Zeina Khodr reports from Arsal in Lebanon.

  • Airstrike targets Inkhil town in Deraa.

    Al Jazeera cannot independently verify this activist video.

  • At least 31 troops, among them four officers, were killed in a massive bomb attack on an army base near Damascus on Sunday, a monitoring group said.

    "Three generals and a brigadier-general were among 31 troops killed in a bomb attack that caused a building in the army transport base in Harasta to collapse," said Syrian Observatory for Human Rights director Rami Abdel Rahman.

    "The timing of the attack is significant," as it comes amid a major regime offensive on rebel positions all around Damascus, Abdel Rahman told AFP news agency

    The bomb appeared to have been placed "either inside or beneath the building in a tunnel", he added, suggesting there was a possibility rebels had infiltrated the base.
  • A statue of former Syrian president Hafez al-Assad, during the unveiling ceremony in the northern coastal city of Tartous.

    [Syrian Arab News Agency] 
    by Yermi Brenner

  • Refugee camp Za'atari in Jordan is home to thousands of Syrians.

    A Day in the Life: Za'atari
    by United Nations High ... via YouTube on 1:53 PM yesterday





  • A senior Syrian regime delegation is in Moscow to hold talks with top Russian diplomats about plans to hold a peace conference in Geneva to end the Syria conflict, the foreign ministry said.

    President Bashar al-Assad's presidential adviser Buthaina Shaaban and Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Muqdad are in Moscow and will hold talks on Monday with Gennady Gatilov and Mikhail Bogdanov, both Russian deputy foreign ministers, it said.

    According to the Syrian opposition, Russia also invited National Coalition head Ahmed Jarba to Moscow from November 18 to 21 for a trip which would have coincided with the visit of the regime officials, but they were unable to attend due to "preset official commitments". [AFP]
  • Syrian troops on Tuesday captured the village of Qara in the mountainous Qalamoun region along a key supply route between Damascus and Homs, a military source told AFP news agency.

    The reported capture came after days of air strikes on the region near the Lebanese border, which is also a key smuggling route for rebels battling to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

    "After three days of fighting, the Syrian army has taken full control of Qara," some 100km north of the capital, the Syrian military source said, adding that a "large number of terrorists" had been killed, referring to the rebels.

    [AFP]
  • Russia has urged the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government to  cooperate with the opposition in fighting "terrorists" and encouraged the regime to speed up the deliveries of the humanitarian aid to the population, a call that reflects Moscow's attempt to position itself as a mediator in Syria peace talks.

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov also issued a rare compliment to the main Western-backed Syrian opposition group, praising its agreement to come to the Russian capital for talks that would also involve other opposition forces.

    [AP]


  • A spokesman for the global chemical weapons watchdog says destroying Syria's
    stockpile of poison gas and nerve agents at 
    sea is a possible alternative to
    finding a country willing to host the 
    destruction.

    OPCW spokesman Christian Chartier said Wednesday the alternative
    of 
    destruction at sea, on a boat or floating rig, is a "feasible" possibility. Chartier told The Associated Press, "All options are on the
    table".

    - AP
  • The Syrian opposition called on the international community on UN Children's Day on Wednesday to step up efforts to protect youngsters caught up in the 32-month conflict.

    "More than 10,000 children have been killed in Syria since the beginning of the revolution," the main opposition alliance, the National Coalition, said.

    "Dozens of children have been subjected to horrific acts of torture. Some of them died, others have become permanently disabled.

    "Four million children have been affected and 40 percent of Syria's children are deprived of education.

    "The Syrian National Coalition calls on all international organisations involved in child protection to work to end the human suffering, which has affected all aspects of life for Syrian children and threatens their future."

    The UN says half of Syria's more than 2.2 million refugees are children.

    [AFP]

  • Syria's war threatens peace in Lebanon
    by Al Jazeera English via YouTube


  • A Free Syrian Army fighter throws a homemade bomb towards forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in the old city of Aleppo [Reuters]

  • The exodus out of Syria continues:


  • The global chemical weapons watchdog is inviting private companies to bid to get involved in destroying Syria's stockpile of toxic agents and precursor chemicals.

    The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons is posting a request for "expressions of interest" from companies who want a role in "the treatment and disposal of hazardous and non- hazardous organic and inorganic chemicals".

    The agency, which won the Nobel Peace Prize this year, has been directed by the United Nations to oversee the destruction of the Syrian government's chemical weapons. The unprecedented disarmament in the midst of a civil war now in its third year was launched following an Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack on a Damascus suburb that killed hundreds of civilians.

    The US and Western allies accused the Syrian government of being responsible for that attack, while Damascus blames the rebels. Syria joined the OPCW and agreed to dismantle its chemical arsenal to ward off possible US military strikes.

    What needs to be destroyed involves a wide range of chemical agents. A senior OPCW official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to discuss the issue publicly, said Thursday that more than 700 tonnes of Syrian chemicals listed can be destroyed at regular commercial facilities.

    The most toxic and weaponised chemicals in the Syrian stockpile will still have to be destroyed at a secure facility under OPCW supervision.

    The OPCW is considering the option of destroying the most toxic parts of Syria's stockpile at sea on a mobile destruction facility on a large ship or barge.

    That option gained momentum after Albania last week refused a US request to host the destruction of Syria's chemical arsenal, a serious blow to efforts to destroy that stockpile by mid-2014.

    [AP]
  • An al Qaeda affiliate has captured a northern Syrian town on the border with Turkey after ousting a moderate Islamist rebel unit and detained its leader, activists said on Thursday.

    The fall of the town of Atma, a crossing point for weapons and for Syrian rebels, signals disarray among some of the rebel groups, which are ceding ground to hardline Islamist units.

    Some of these groups are now playing a lesser role on the battlefield in the war against President Bashar al-Assad's forces, opposition sources said.

    The rise of al Qaeda in Syria has helped change the international diplomatic calculus and tempered Western calls for Assad's removal from power.

    [Reuters]



  • Seven major Islamist rebel groups battling President Bashar al-Assad's regime in Syria have announced a merger to form an "Islamic Front" and pledged to build an Islamic state in a post-Assad Syria.

    Friday's merger is dubbed as the largest between different groupings and blocs. The new front represents "a full fusion" of groups and not merely a coordination body, rebels told Al Jazeera.

    Click here to read the full story.
  • Syrian mediator Lakhdar Brahimi held talks with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Friday on a planned international conference aimed at ending Syria's civil war, Brahimi's spokeswoman said.

    "They discussed preparations for 'Geneva 2' in general, not specifically Iran's participation," Khawla Mattar told Reuters in Geneva where they met at the United Nations complex. "They were catching up."

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who flew to Geneva on Friday to join talks between six major powers and Iran on curbing its nuclear programme, was expected to meet Brahimi later in the day or on Saturday, according to diplomats and a source in the Russian delegation to the Iran negotiations.

    [Reuters]
  • An activist doctor in Egypt says 35 detained Syrian refugees are on a hunger strike to protest their captivity in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria.

    Taher Mokhtar, a member of the Alexandria doctors' syndicate, said the refugees he visited in a police station on Saturday demanded to be released or to be granted asylum in Europe.

    Mokhtar said they started the hunger strike on Friday.

    An official from the United Nations Refugee Agency in Egypt, Mohamed Dayri, said authorities currently detain 128 Syrian refugees who tried to travel illegally to Europe through the Mediterranean Sea.

    Dayri said they usually are held until they buy a ticket to leave Egypt.

    Syrian refugees complain of difficult living conditions in Egypt after some were accused of supporting ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi.

    [AP]
  • A fierce two-day battle in the eastern suburbs of the Syrian capital Damascus has killed more than 160 rebel and regime forces, activists said on Sunday. FULL STORY





  • Ongoing clashes for the 5th day along the Homs-Damascus motor way in Al Qalamoun North Damascus according to SHOR and activists 
    by المركز لاعلامي السوري... via YouTube

  • Syria's government and opposition leaders are scheduled to hold their first direct talks on Jan. 22 in Geneva in efforts to end the ongoing war in Syria, the United Nations said on Monday.

    The peace negotiations, known as "Geneva II", aim to establish a transitional governing body in Syria.

    Luai Safi, Syrian opposition spokesperson, told Al Jazeera opposition leaders would only attend the talks if the following conditions are met:

    • Establishment of humanitarian corridors in areas besieged by the Syrian army
    • Release of prisoners
    • Guarantees that the transitional governing body that will be agreed upon in Geneva takes all power away from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad

    [Agencies]
  • Al Jazeera's Zeina Khodr, reporting from Beirut:

    The Syrian government seems to be very confident. They do have the upper hand on the ground militarily, and now they feel emboldened by the recent agreement between Iran, its major ally, and world powers. [The] Syrian government welcomed that deal. Now they feel that Iran is part of the international community, so they feel strengthened.

  • The United Nations has said it has brokered an agreement for Syrian government and opposition negotiators to meet for talks in January, the first such meeting since the start of the country's 32-month-old war.

    The organisation's secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, said on Monday that the conference, to be held in Geneva on January 22, was "a mission of hope" to end the civil war. FULL STORY
  • The United Nations has said it has brokered an agreement for Syrian government and opposition negotiators to meet for talks in January.

    Al Jazeera's David Chater reports from Geneva, Zeina Khodr reports from Beirut, and James Bays reports from the United Nations in New York.

    UN brokers Syria peace talks for January
    by Al Jazeera English via YouTube

  • Al Jazeera's James Bays, reporting from the United Nations in New York, said many questions remain over what the Geneva II conference will be able to achieve.

    Even if you got both sides to agree to a transitional government in Damascus... would that transitional government, if you ever were to get one, command any authority over those fighting on the ground?
  • Lakhdar Brahimi, UN envoy on Syria, said in a press conference now in Geneva that the full list of participants to the Geneva II peace negotiations are still being decided.

    We are in touch both with the [Syrian] government and with the opposition. We are asking them to name their delegations as early as possible, hopefully before the end of the year, because I think it's important we meet them and speak to them and listen to them.

    This conference is really for the Syrians to come to Geneva to talk to one another and hopefully start a credible, workable, effective peace process for their country.

  • It is a huge opportunity for peace that shouldn't be wasted. This being so, we very strongly appeal to the Syrian government and to the opposition not to wait for the conference to do some confidence-building measures, diminish the violence, [and] release prisoners and detainees of all sorts.

    - Lakhdar Brahimi, UN envoy on Syria


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