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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.


  • Several prominent Syrian rebel groups called on two armed opposition factions, one linked to al-Qaeda and the other to the more moderate Western-backed opposition, to end days of deadly infighting in northern Syria.

    The clashes between the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and the Northern Storm Brigade around the town of Azaz near the Turkish border have been among the worst instances of rebel-on-rebel violence in Syria's civil war.

    The infighting threatens to undermine the opposition as it seeks to achieve its main goal of overthrowing President Bashar Assad's regime.

    Six rebel groups urged ISIL and the Northern Storm Brigade to "cease fire immediately" and resolve their differences before an Islamic court.

    The appeal also called on the al-Qaeda-linked ISIL to withdraw its fighters to areas where they were before the clashes in Azaz erupted late last month.

    The area is part of vast swath of territory that rebels seized from government troops over the past year.

  • Joint work with the Syrian authorities has begun on securing the sites where the team will operate.

    In addition, planning continues for one of the team's immediate tasks, disabling Syria's chemical weapons production facilities, which should begin soon."

    The above is a statement released by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and the UN as experts begin overseeing the destruction of Syria's chemical weapons cache.
  • Reuters news agency have released images of 84-year-old Abu Ali.

    Activists claim he is the oldest Free Syrian Army Fighter.
    Abu Ali praying in a rubble-strewn room in Deir al-Zor [Reuters]
    by Philippa Stewart
    Activists say the 84-year-old is the oldest fighter in the Free Syrian Army [Reuters]
    by Philippa Stewart
    Abu Ali is a member of the 'Al-Ikhlas' brigade [Reuters]
    by Philippa Stewart
    Activists say he leads one of the brigade's groups [Reuters]
    by Philippa Stewart
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  • Experts overseeing the destruction of Syria's chemical arsenal hope to begin on-site inspections and the initial disabling of equipment "within the next week", the United Nations has said.

    The joint mission of the UN and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said on Thursday it had made good initial progress, adding that documents handed over by Damascus on Wednesday were promising.

    "The team hopes to begin on-site inspections and the initial disabling of equipment within the next week," the groups said in a statement.

    The two organisations, however, warned that "further analysis, particularly of technical diagrams, will be necessary and some more questions remain to be answered".

    The OPCW-UN team of 19 disarmament experts arrived in Damascus on Tuesday.

    They are overseeing the implementation of a UN resolution which orders Syria's chemical arsenal destroyed.

    Resolution 2118 was passed after gas attacks on the outskirts of Damascus killed hundreds of people on August 21, an atrocity that prompted the United States to threaten military strikes on Syria.

    President Bashar al-Assad's regime is understood to have more than 1,000 tonnes of the nerve agent sarin, mustard gas and other banned chemical weapons.
  • Members of the Jund al-Rahman Brigade (The soldiers of the Merciful) load a home made canon on the front lines of Syria's northeastern city of Deir Ezzor [AFP]

  • We thought that France was the country where human rights are respected, but we live outside like dogs, hunted down by the police, we see we are not welcome, how can we seek asylum here?"

    About 60 Syrian refugees, of whom 40  are on a hunger strike, have occupied a key point in the northern French port of Calais and vowed to stay put until they are sent to Britain.

    On the second day of the protest and hunger strike on Thursday, the asylum seekers put up slogans scribbled on cardboard proclaiming: "Take us to the UK",  and "We want to talk to David Cameron".
  • Turkey's parliament voted on Thursday to extend by a year a mandate authorising the deployment of troops to Syria if needed after the government said the alleged use of chemical weapons by President Bashar al-Assad posed a threat to Turkey.

    Turkey, one of Assad's fiercest critics, has advocated military intervention in Syria and has grown frustrated over what it sees as Western indecisiveness. 

    "The present risk and threats have not decreased; on the contrary, they have increased," Defence Minister Ismet Yilmaz told parliament before the vote.

    Photo credit: Reuters 
    by Philippa Stewart



  • Many Syrian children are fleeing the war in their homeland without their families.

    UNICEF says more than four thousand have crossed borders into neighbouring countries with no adult to look after them.

    Al Jazeera's Nisreen El-Shamayleh reports from the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan.

  • Non-essential staff to return to US embassy in Lebanon

    The US has said it will allow non-essential staff to return to its embassy in Beirut, which was partially evacuated in September when US strikes on Syria seemed imminent.

    The State Department announced on September 6 that employees would leave owing to "current tensions in the region, as well as potential threats to US  government facilities and personnel."

    Nearly a month later, the department announced on Thursday that they would begin to return, although it warned they must exercise caution. 

    "US citizens living and working in Lebanon should understand that they accept risks in remaining and should carefully consider those risks," a  written statement said.

    Potential US and French attacks on Syria were averted after Russia and the US struck a deal last month to disarm the Syrian regime of its  chemical weapons.

    Before the deal, the possibility of attack led to fears of repercussions in  Lebanon, the homeland of Shiite movement Hezbollah, which is allied with Syria's President Bashar al-Assad. - AFP

  • by AJE Staff

    Um Radwan, a Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighter, runs for cover from snipers loyal to the Syrian regime in Aleppo's Bustan al-Basha district on Thursday. She joined the FSA after the death of her husband, who was also an FSA fighter, according to activists. - [Reuters] Photo: Reuters/ Muzaffar Salman
  • Arms experts see Syria progress, with on-site inspections soon

    by AJE Staff
    International experts preparing to destroy
    Syria's chemical weapons arsenal have said they have made "encouraging" progress and expect to carry out on-site inspections within days.

    UN Security Council Resolution 2118 was
    passed after gas attacks outside
    Damascus killed hundreds in August, an atrocity that prompted the US to threaten military strikes on Syria and later led to a rare US-Russian
    disarmament accord.

    The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and the United Nations
    said on 
    Thursday the inspectors, who arrived on Tuesday, had made "encouraging initial
    progress" following a day of meetings with Syrian authorities.

    "Documents handed over yesterday by the Syrian government look promising, 
    according to team members, but further analysis, particularly of technical diagrams, will
    be necessary and some more questions remain to be answered," it  
    said.

    The team said it hopes to begin on-site inspections and the initial  disabling of
    equipment "within the next week".

    Nine experts, part of a 19-member team from The Hague-based OPCW, earlier  left their Damascus hotel in three cars, heading for an unknown destination. - AFP [ Photo: Reuters/ Khaled al-Hariri] 
  • The Debate: The US beyond Syria: A reluctant empire?

  • Syrian President Bashar al-Assad warned Turkey it will "pay dearly" for supporting rebels fighting to overthrow his regime, in an interview broadcast Friday on Turkish television.

    "In the near future these terrorists will have an impact on Turkey. And Turkey will pay very dearly for its contribution," Assad told the opposition station Halk TV.

    He was being interviewed over the presence of Al-Qaeda-linked rebels on the long and volatile border between the two nations.

    There are several hardline groups among the numerous rebel formations fighting in Syria.

    "It is not possible to use terrorism as a card and put it in your pocket. Because it is like a scorpion which won't hesitate to sting you at any moment," said Assad.

    Relations between once close allies Damascus and Ankara have deteriorated since a popular uprising which began in March 2011 in Syria snowballed into a full-blown conflict that has claimed more than 115,000 lives and forced millions to flee.

    [AFP]

  • [Picture Credit: Reuters] 
    by Philippa Stewart

    Yesterday we reported that a group of Syrian refugees were demanding entry into Britain, claiming they were being mistreated in France.

    Now France has told Al Jazeera that, like Britain, those protesting will have their claims considered on a case-by-case basis. 

    A group of about 60 Syrians have occupied a key point in the Channel port of Calais in a desperate bid to get to Britain.

    A three-member team from Britain's border police was meanwhile on its way to Calais to hold discussions with the refugees, said Denis Robin, the prefect of the Pas-de-Calais region.

    The Syrians, 20 of whom are on a hunger strike, have since Wednesday occupied the footbridge of a ferry terminal at Calais port to press London to accept them.

    They have voiced disappointment in France, saying they were treated worse than "animals".

    [Post amended to reflect more clearly that asylum will not be automatically granted to the demonstrators.]

  • It is not possible to put terrorism in your pocket and use it as a card because it is like a scorpion which won't hesitate to sting you at the first opportunity. In the near future, these terrorists will have an impact on Turkey and Turkey will pay a heavy price for it."

    Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has lashed out at Turkey, saying it will pay a heavy price for backing rebels fighting to oust him and accusing it of harbouring "terrorists" along its border who would soon turn against their hosts.

    In an interview with Turkey's Halk TV due to be broadcast later on Friday, Assad called Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan "bigoted" and said Ankara was allowing terrorists to cross into Syria to attack the army and Syrian civilians.


  • by Philippa Stewart

    A warning is pasted on a wall on a street in Duma neighbourhood in Damascus, October 3, 2013. Picture taken October 3, 2013. The paper reads "Do not gather here, there is possibility of shelling". 

    [Picture Credit: Reuters]


  • European Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response Kristalina Georgieva tweeted this image of herself meeting Syrian refugees in Bulgaria.
  • "If I have a feeling that the Syrian people want me to be president in the coming period I will run for the post. If the answer is no, I will not run and I don't see a problem in that."

    Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has said it's still too early to say whether he'll run for re-election next year, but suggested he would refrain from seeking a third term, if he feels that's what most Syrians want him to do.

    Assad, who spoke in an interview with Turkey's private Halk TV, made no mention of his government's role in the civil war that has killed at least 100,000 people so far, instead blaming foreign fighters and governments, including Turkey's, for the bloodshed.

  • A group of asylum seekers occupying part of the french port of Calais, is in a complicated position, legally speaking.

    The French prefect has told Al Jazeera the UK will consider visa requests from a group of Syrian refugees, many of whom have been on hunger strike for several days, but that asylum requests can only be made by refugees on UK soil.
     
    The French prefect also said any of those in the group with relatives in the UK will have their requests to enter the UK considered.

    The Home Office has told Al Jazeera that the rest of the group are the responsibility of the French, who say they are attempting to find emergency accommodation for the group while asylum requests are examined.

    by Philippa Stewart

    [Picture credit: Reuters]



  • This video reportedly shows the aftermath of an airstrike on the town of Al Mayadin.

    Activists say the strike, in the eastern countryside of Deir Ez Zour, killed five people and injured many more.

    Al Jazeera cannot independently verify these figures.
    by Philippa Stewart edited by Basma Atassi 10/4/2013 2:36:03 PM

  • France urged to take in more Syrian refugees
    by AlJazeeraEnglish via YouTube on 6:22 PM


    More than two million Syrians are refugees mostly in neighbouring countries and the UN says European nations should do more to help.

    Refugee groups claim France is not living up to its international obligations, while the country promises to accept more people.

    Al Jazeera's Jacky Rowland reports from Paris.

  • Syrian government forces shelled a vulnerable Sunni community in a coastal province dominated by President Bashar Assad's Alawite sect on Saturday, activists said, raising fears that residents of the isolated town could face mass killings by pro-Damascus armed groups.

    [Source: AP]
  • About 400,000 Syrian children have fled into neighbouring Lebanon since the start of the conflict.

    But the United Nations says less than a quarter are getting any formal education.

    Many of those unable to go to school are now on the streets working to survive. 

    Al Jazeera's Zeina Khodr reports from Beirut, Lebanon.

    Syrian children deprived of education
    by AlJazeeraEnglish via YouTube on 4:33 PM

  • As war rages in Syria, citizens of Aleppo try to continue with their daily lives, struggling to make a living on market stalls and trying to provide for their families.

    [All pictures credits: Reuters]

    by Philippa Stewart
    by Philippa Stewart
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  • About 150 Syrians, mostly from villages near Syria's Aleppo, prefer to settle in the central Turkish capital instead of refugee camps run by the Turkish government. 

    According to the families, this allows them to make money as daily workers. 

    Most of them collect plastic and paper garbage from the trash cans of buildings for recycling and sell it to make money. 

    by Philippa Stewart
    by Philippa Stewart
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    [All picture credits: Reuters]
  • This video from Jobar reportedly shows rebel fighters engaged in gun fire with Syrian forces.

  • Here is a round-up of the main lines coming out of Syria today:

    • The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says that heavy shelling took place in Al Mitras this morning, a small coastal town that suffered a violent massacre last May which resulted in the deaths of 248 people.  This morning’s shelling began at 6am local, killing 6 civilians, the observatory says. Communication lines have been cut off from the town since the early afternoon.
    • Heavy fighting took place today in Jobar between regime and rebel forces, you can see a video of this in the post below.

    • A general strike was underway in Azaz on the Syrian/Turkish border, where some rebel groups are calling for ISIS to leave the town and release all hostages.
    • A Polish photojournalist kidnapped in Syria in July is alive, Poland's foreign affairs minister announced. Radoslaw Sikorski confirmed to radio RMF FM that Marcin Suder was "alive" but said he could not give any details about his health or whereabouts for his "own good".
    • The command council of the Free Syrian Army called for unity today after several prominent rebel brigades rejected the National Coalition umbrella group. The Supreme Military Council said it had decided to "issue a call for closing ranks, renouncing division, and...rejecting all kinds of dissension caused by trying to separate the political wing from the military one."

  • A German magazine is quoting Syria's President Bashar Assad as saying he has made mistakes and that no side in his country's civil war is entirely free of blame.

    In an advance version of an interview to be published Sunday, Der Spiegel also quotes Assad as saying he doesn't believe in a negotiated peace with armed opposition groups.
  • Divergence among Syrian opposition parties has made it difficult to convene the Geneva Conference which aims to bring together representatives from the Syrian government and opposition.

    Qadri Jamil, deputy prime minister for economic affairs, Ali Haider, the Syrian minister for reconciliation affairs, and Adel Naisse, an opposition figure, attended a meeting held by the Popular Front for Change and Liberation, one of the main Syrian opposition parties, in Damascus on Saturday.

    During the meeting, Naisse acknowledged that the Popular Front for Change and Liberation has still been unable to reach any agreement with the National Coordination Committee for Democratic Change (NCC), another main opposition party in Syria.

    "They (NCC) blamed us for letting two of our members join the cabinet of the Syrian government. So temporarily, our two parties have no common ground to seek," said Naisse.

    The Syrian National Coalition (SNC), the Syrian opposition party abroad, also agreed to attend the Geneva Conference. However, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon hoped the SNC could form a joint delegation with other opposition parties to attend the conference during his talks with Ahmad Jarba, the SNC president.

    Analysts say it will be extremely difficult for the SNC to form any such delegation, considering that its "foreign" background has been rejected by many opposition parties in Syria.

    [AP]
  • In an interview with German paper Der SpiegelSyrian President Bashar al-Assad continued to deny charges that his regime used chemical weapons to eliminate the opposition

    He accused the West of lying and maintained that he was only seeking to defend his country.


    In the interview, which will be published by Der Spiegel on Monday, Assad continued to describe the rebels as "terrorists".
  • Syrian children swim in the Quweiq river, in the Bustan al-Qasr district of Aleppo.

    The bodies of at least 68 unidentified young men and boys, all executed with a single gunshot to the head or neck, were found in the Quweiq River in January 2013.

    [AFP]

  • Syrian rebel fighter fires towards the village of Aziza, which is under the control of forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, in the southern countryside of Aleppo.

    [Reuters]

  • Iran has allowed Syria's regime to station fighter jets on its territory to keep them safe from foreign attack, German intelligence services believe according to a media report on Sunday.

    News portal Spiegel Online said the report, marked "classified", pointed to close military ties between Damascus and Tehran beyond the deployment of Iran-backed Hezbollah militia on the side of regime forces.

    The German intelligence paper reportedly said Iran had also sent elite troops from its Revolutionary Guard to support the forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

    The intelligence report also said a source had reported that a Syria-Iran military deal from November 2012 allowed Assad "to station large parts of his air force on safe Iranian territory and to use them when needed," said Spiegel Online.

    [AFP]

  • A team of disarmament inspectors in Syria have begun the process of destroying the country's chemical weapons and production facilities, news reports say.

    For more details on the story, click here
  • Lakhdar Brahimi, the UN Syria peace envoy, says it is not
    certain Geneva peace talks will take place mid-November.

    [Reuters]

  • Disarmament experts backed by the United Nations have begun the process of destroying Syria's chemical weapons.

    Al Jazeera's Imran Khan reports. 

    UN experts 'begin destroying Syria stockpile'
    by AlJazeeraEnglish via YouTube on 7:11 PM

  • Al Jazeera's Inside Syria examines the shifting alliances within the opposition and the likely impact on achieving stability in Syria.

    Inside Syria - The future of the Free Syrian Army
    by AlJazeeraEnglish via YouTube on 1:29 PM


  • US Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday welcomed Syria's "compliance" in quickly starting the process of destroying its chemical weapons arsenal and thanked Russia for its help.

    "The process has begun in record time and we are appreciative for the Russian cooperation and obviously for the Syrian compliance," he told reporters alongside Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov after talks in Indonesia.

    - AFP
    by Rahul Radhakrishnan edited by Amna Bagadi 10/7/2013 3:02:57 AM
  • The US Secretary of State also said President Assad "deserves credit" for his part in "swiftly moving" to eliminate his regime's chemical arms.

    "I think it's extremely significant that yesterday, Sunday, within a week of the resolution being passed, some chemical weapons were being destroyed," said Kerry.

    "I think it's a credit to the Assad regime, frankly. It's a good beginning and we welcome a good beginning," he added.

    - AFP
  • Russia and the US have agreed to push for holding Syria peace talks in mid-November, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Monday after talks with his US counterpart John Kerry.

    "We advocate holding the international conference (on Syria) in mid-November," Lavrov told journalists after holding talks with Kerry in Bali, Indonesia.

    "Today we agreed on the steps needed for both the government and the opposition to come to the conference," Lavrov was quoted as saying by the RIA-Novosti news agency.

    UN chief Ban Ki-moon also proposed mid-November for the conference late last month during his first meeting with Syria's opposition National Coalition chief Ahmad Jarba, who said he was ready to send a delegation to the meeting.

    UN-Arab League peace envoy Brahimi told France's TV5 Monde Sunday that he hoped the two sides would agree to attend a peace conference in Geneva in mid-November "without preconditions".

    - AFP
  • After heavy clashes, Syrian government forces have reopened a key road linking the central heartland with the embattled northern province of Aleppo.

    The state-run SANA news agency and activists from Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights say the road was reopened on Sunday night.

    It was closed since August because of heavy fighting between government forces and rebels trying to topple President Bashar Assad's regime.

    The move comes nearly a week after government troops captured the strategic town of Khanaser near the road. Over the past days, troops advanced in several surrounding villages.

    SANA says troops ``broke the siege,'' which had prevented supplies from reaching the provincial capital of Aleppo, Syria's largest city and once its commercial hub.

    Rebels and government troops have fought for control of Aleppo since July.

    - AP


  • The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said on Monday that Syria's government was being "cooperative" in the operation to destroy the country's arsenal of the banned weapons.

    In a statement posted on its website, the OPCW said an advance team that accompanied inspectors to Damascus last Tuesday was returning to the Hague after meetings with Syrian authorities.

    "Discussions were held with the Syrian authorities on the disclosure which Syria earlier provided to the OPCW on its chemical weapons programme," the statement said.

    "The discussions were constructive and the Syrian authorities were cooperative."

    A joint UN-OPCW team arrived in Damascus last week to begin verifying the information and destroying arms and production facilities.

    Damascus must submit by October 27 its plans for the destruction of all its chemical weapons and facilities, which will then be used to draw up "destruction milestones".

    - AFP 
  • Syrian government forces have continued to shell civilian areas of Damascus, anti-government activists claimed on Monday.

    Video footage uploaded to  YouTube over the past 48 hours showed burning buildings in the district of  Dariya and government forces firing shells in the suburb of  Moadamiyeh.

    The violence came as US Secretary of State John Kerry praised  Syrian President Bashar Assad's co-operation in dismantling his chemical weapons arsenal.

    The Syrian chemical weapons programme began to be dismantled on Sunday, according to an international team tasked with overseeing the effort.


    The conflict, which is rooted in what began as peaceful protests in March 2011, has laid waste to the countries' cities, shattered its economy and driven more than two million people to seek shelter abroad.

    Source: APTN

  • The US secretary of state has been criticised for praising the Syrian president's cooperation with the UN over the destruction of their chemical weapons.

    Kerry criticised over Assad praise
    by AlJazeeraEnglish via YouTube on 1:20 AM

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