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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.

  • Syria's Red Crescent said on Sunday it has evacuated at least 1,500 people since yesterday from a Damascus suburb that has been under siege by the Syrian army for months.

    "Around 1,500 people, most of them women and children, were evacuated from a point on the outskirts of Moadamiyet al-Sham and taken to shelters," said Red Crescent spokesman Khaled Erksoussi. [AFP]

  • Former inmates in Syrian prisons recount their horrific stories and say their lives will never be the same. Human Rights Watch report backs up their claims.

    Al Jazeera's Omar Al Saleh reports.

    Rights group says Syria uses torture
    by Al Jazeera English via YouTube on 2:47 PM

  • Syrians among Malta boat tragedy. Despite the obvious dangers thousands are willing to risk everything, including their lives, for the chance of a better life.

    Al Jazeera's Karl Stagno-Navarra reports from Malta.

    Syrians among Malta boat tragedy
    by Al Jazeera English via YouTube on 2:00 PM


  • Lebanon's government is enforcing new rules to limit the flow of Syrian refugees into the country, as the United Nations now registers around 3,000 a day. Yet many of the Syrians in Lebanon are not looking for assistance, rather, they believe refugee status is a ticket to Europe or the United States.

    Al Jazeera's Zeina Khodr reports from Beirut.
    Lebanon struggles to cope with refugee influx
    by Al Jazeera English via YouTube on 1:35 AM
  • Syrian rebels say they have shot a government warplane near the the southern city of Deraa along the border with Jordan, but the plane was able to make an emergency landing, Reuters has reported.

    The fighter jet, is the second to hit this month in the same area.

    There are no reports of the incident on Syrian state media. Rebels in southern Syria do not have sophisticated anti-aircraft abilities and have complained they are not getting advanced weapons that could strengthen their hand against the superior firepower of President Bashar al-Assad's armed forces.
  • A spokesman for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Damascus says seven of the group's workers have been kidnapped in northern Syria.

    Simon Schorno says the gunmen abducted the team near the town of Saraqeb in Idlib province around 11:30AM local time. He says six of the people kidnapped are ICRC staff workers and one is a volunteer from the Syrian Red Crescent. [AP]
  • International Committee of the Red Cross News Release:

    Syria: ICRC and Syrian Arab Red Crescent team abducted in Idlib

    Geneva/Damascus (ICRC) - Six ICRC staff members and one Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) volunteer were abducted this morning by unidentified armed men near Sareqeb in Idlib Governorate, in north-western Syria.

    "We call for the immediate and unconditional release of the seven colleagues abducted this morning," says Magne Barth, head of the ICRC’s delegation in Syria. "Both the ICRC and the SARC work tirelessly to provide impartial humanitarian assistance for those most in need across Syria on both sides of the front lines, and incidents such as these potentially undermine our capacity to assist those who need us most."

    The team had travelled to Idlib on 10 October to assess the medical situation in several Idlib Governorate health structures and to deliver medical supplies to Sarmin and Idlib city. The convoy, which was on its way back to Damascus, was clearly marked with the ICRC emblem, which is not a religious symbol.

    “The ICRC is committed to assisting the Syrian people and will continue conducting its humanitarian activities both in the country and in neighbouring countries for refugees there”, added Mr Barth. []

  • Yves Daccord, Director-general of The International Committee of the Red Cross tweeted:

  • Breaking from AP news agency: A Syrian state-run TV station says 2 car bombs have exploded in central Damascus. More as we get it.
  • Syria's official news agency says two bombs have exploded near the state television building in central Damascus, Sunday.

    The SANA news agency says state TV's headquarters in Umayyad Square was damaged in the blast, but there was no immediate word on casualties. [AP]
  • AFP reports the two car explosion was a suicide bomb attack that blew up in the centre of Damascus.
  • The double blast in Damascus occurred only a few kilometres from the hotel where a team of international experts from the Organisation from the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and the United Nations are staying, AFP reported.
  • This YouTube video is purported to be footage of the double suicide car bombing in Damascus. Al Jazeera cannot independently verify the footage.
    شاهد ماذا حدث وراء الضيف على الهواء مباشرة لحظة انفجار التلفزيون السوري 13-10
    by xxlarg via YouTube on 10:45 PM

  • A striking anecdote from a Washington Post story on the growing influence of al-Qaeda-linked groups like the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) and Jabhat al-Nusra in Syria:

    Yet, in recent weeks, ISIS also has sought to reform its image by reopening schools and delivering food, medicine and energy to war-weary towns and villages. It has sponsored ice-cream-eating contests and tug-of-war competitions for children and built training camps where teens learn fighting skills and participate in singalongs calling for the destruction of Assad and his allies, the “lowlifes and infidels.

  • The state-run SANA news agency is reporting that a malfunction at a Syrian power station has caused electrical outages in several provinces, including the capital Damascus.

    "Power supply is down in several provinces in the centre, south and coastal regions of the country as a result of a malfunction at a power plant," SANA quoted electricity minister Imad Khamis as saying.

    It's unclear where the affected power station is, or what caused the malfunction.
  • This video shows the aftermath of a car bombing in Darkoush, in Idlib province, which killed at least 22 people and injured dozens more, according to an Al Jazeera reporter.

  • Russia on Monday urged the United States to do everything in its power to bring the Syrian opposition to peace talks after a key group said it would not attend a proposed conference in Geneva.

    "We very much expect our American partners and other countries, which not only have influence on various opposition groups but also ... encourage these opposition groups to continue fighting, to realise their responsibility for creating conditions for performing their share of the work for convening Geneva 2," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.

    George Sabra, the president of the Syrian National Council, the biggest member of the opposition National Coalition, said on Sunday that the group would not attend suggested peace talks in Geneva.

    First proposed in May, the Geneva-2 talks have been repeatedly pushed back and are now expected in take place in mid-November.
  • Three of the kidnapped Red Cross aid workers and Red Crescent volunteer have been freed in Syria, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) reported.

    The ICRC is still waiting for information on the remaining three kidnapped staff members. [Reuters]
  • The car bomb in a marketplace within the town of Darkush killed at least 39 people, with many more injured, Al Jazeera reports.

    The marketplace was busy with shoppers on the eve of Eid al-Adha, an important Muslim holiday.

  • Syria's President Bashar al-Assad has jokingly said he should have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, AFP reports, citing a pro-Damascus Lebanese newspaper.

    The prize, which was given to the global chemical weapons watchdog on Friday, "should have been mine," Assad said, according to Al-Akhbar newspaper.

    Assad made the remark "jokingly", the daily said, as he commented on the award on Friday of Nobel Peace Prize to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which is working in Syria to destroy the Assad regime's massive chemical arsenal by mid-2014.
  • Continue reading this story here:

  • Turkey denies building wall at Syrian border

  • Two Turkish pilots kidnapped in Beirut in August were shown in a video broadcast by Lebanese television channel LBC on Tuesday, saying they wished they could be at home.

    Murat Akpinar and Murat Agca, both Turkish Airlines employees who were kidnapped on Beirut's airport road on August 9, appeared in good health but pale and nervous.

    Both said they were well, but wanted to be with their families for Eid al-Adha, the Muslim holiday that began on Tuesday in most of the Islamic world.

    "My name is Murat Akpinar, today is 14th October 2013, there is only one day before Bayram (Eid). I would like to be at my home. I am fine," Akpinar said.

    "My name is Murat Agca. Today is the 14th of October, which is the day before Bayram," Agca added afterwards.

  • Syrian warplanes bombed several rebel-held areas on Tuesday and opposition fighters fired mortar rounds and homemade rockets at Damascus on the first day of a major Muslim holiday, activists said.

    The fighting during Eid al-Adha, or the Feast of Sacrifice, showed how entrenched both sides have become in Syria's civil war, now in its third year.

    Previously, combatants occasionally attempted to observe holiday cease-fires.

  • None of Syria's chemical weapons sites are under rebel control, the key opposition National Coalition said on Tuesday.

    The assertion came after the head of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said one abandoned site was in a rebel-held area and that inspectors from a UN-OPCW team were hoping to visit it.

    In a statement, the Syrian National Coalition opposition grouping said it backed the UN-OPCW mission but insisted none of the weapons sites were under rebel control.

    "There are chemical sites under regime control that Free Syrian Army brigades are laying siege to but there are no chemical sites at all that are controlled by the rebel brigades," the Coalition said.

    The statement said the Coalition and rebel command sought "full cooperation with all international missions to facilitate their work and ensure their full protection".

  • A general director of Doctors Without Borders is calling for greater access for humanitarian aid in Syria to help people affected by the country's civil war.

    Christopher Stokes also urged the international community to show the same urgency to secure access for such assistance as it did to rid Syria of its chemical weapons.

    Stokes said the recent access granted to weapons inspectors proves areas that have long been sealed-off can be opened if the political will exists.

    Doctors Without Borders currently operates four clinics in opposition-held areas, and clandestinely supports 70 in government-controlled territory.

    Stokes said Tuesday that the government has not authorised the group to work in Syria.

  • A girl with a Syrian national flag painted on her face sings with other children during a day of activities organised by a volunteer group on the first day of Eid al-Adha at the historic al-Azem Palace in Damascus on October 15. [Reuters]
    by AJE Staff

  • An image grab taken from a video released by Syrian state TV on October 15, 2013, allegedly shows Syria's first lady Asma al-Assad (L) talking to a woman before planting olive trees with children at an undisclosed location in Syria [AFP]
    by Amna Bagadi

    Syria's first lady Asma al-Assad laughed off claims she has fled the war-hit country in footage broadcast on Tuesday, saying she was standing by her embattled husband President Bashar al-Assad.

    The British-educated Asma has rarely appeared in public since the beginning of the conflict in Syria, where more than 115,000 people have been killed since March 2011 according to a watchdog.

    But on Tuesday, hours after her husband attended prayers to mark the Muslim Eid al-Adha feast in Damascus, Syrian state television broadcast a clip of the first lady.

    The mini-feature showed her comforting the bereaved and planting olive trees with children, dressed in black trousers and a grey T-shirt with the Syrian flag on the front.

    "I am here, my husband and my children are here in Syria. It's obvious that I'd be here with them," she told reporters, when asked of claims that she had left the country.

    "How can I teach my children to love Syria if they don't live here?" she added with a smile.

    "I was here yesterday, I'm here today and I will be here tomorrow."

    There was no indication of when the footage was recorded or where.

    - AFP
  • The AFP news agency has reported citing a local NGO that a bomb has killed at least 21 people in south Syria. More soon...
  • A powerful blast ripped through a pickup truck in the south Syria province of Deraa early Wednesday, killing 21 people including four children, a monitoring group said.

    "Twenty-one people were killed in the Nawa area (of Deraa), among them four children and six women, in a blast that detonated as their vehicle went past Tal al-Jumua," where a battalion of troops loyal to President Bashar al-Assad is positioned, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

    - AFP
  • Several dozen rebel groups in southern Syria have broken with the main political opposition group in exile, a commander said in a video posted on Wednesday, dealing a potential new setback to Western efforts to unify moderates battling President Bashar Assad's regime.

    The Turkey-based Syrian National Coalition, the political arm of the Free Syrian Army rebel group, has long struggled to win respect and recognition from the fighters.

    It is widely seen as cut off from events on the ground and ineffective in funneling aid and weapons to the rebels.

    In the video, a rebel, later identified by a Free Syrian Army official as a captain in a local brigade, read a statement with about two dozen fighters standing behind him, some holding a banner with FSA emblems.

    The man said political opposition leaders have failed to represent those trying to bring down Assad.

    "We announce that we withdraw our recognition from any political group that claims to represents us, first among them the Coalition and its leadership which have relinquished the principles of the homeland and the revolution," he said.

    The man suggested rebel groups would reorganise, saying that "we are unifying the forces of the revolution militarily and politically," but did not explain further.

    The claims made in the video could not be confirmed independently, including that the statement is backed by dozens of rebel groups.

  • France on Wednesday committed to taking in 500 Syrian refugees at the United Nations' request, the UN refugee agency said.

    The announcement followed talks in Paris between French President Francois Hollande and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres, the agency's local representative Philippe Leclerc told AFP.

    These refugees are among those considered "particularly vulnerable", he said, adding that the United Nations had asked all EU states to help offer shelter to Syrians fleeing their war-torn country.

    More than two million Syrians have left their country since the fighting first erupted in March 2011, mainly seeking refuge in neighbouring Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey, placing a huge burden on these nations.

    Details of the refugee agreement with France will be discussed "in coming days", Leclerc said.

  • A Syrian girl blows a balloon beside ruins they fled to in fear of shelling, on the second day of Eid al-Adha in Jabal Al-Zawiya near Idlib on October 16. [Reuters]
    by AJE Staff

  • Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appointed Dutch Mideast expert Sigrid Kaag on Wednesday to lead the team charged with destroying Syria's chemical weapons and announced stepped up efforts to hold a peace conference on Syria in mid-November.

    The UN chief appeared with Kaag shortly after UN spokesman Martin Nesirky announced her appointment and the official establishment of the joint mission of the UN and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons that she will lead.

    Its goal is to destroy Syria's chemical weapons stockpile, all chemical precursors, and the equipment to produce the deadly weapons by mid-2014.

    "We have no illusions on the challenges ahead," the secretary-general said. "The situation in Syria remains dangerous and unpredictable. The cooperation of all parties in Syria is required."

    The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said on Wednesday that an advance team of inspectors have so far visited 11 of more than 20 sites linked to Syria's chemical weapons programme.

    The team destroyed "critical equipment" at six sites as well as unloaded chemical weapons munitions, said the OPWC.

  • Turkish Army fired at al-Qaeda bases in Northern Syria.

    Turkey's army said it had fired on al-Qaeda-linked fighters
    over the border in northern Syria on Tuesday in response to a stray mortar
    shell which struck Turkish territory.

    In a second statement Turkish army said 85 Syrian fighters
    from the North Storm Brigade crossed the border and surrendered.

    They laid down their arms at the border police department.

  • Sky News Arabia says that it has lost contact with its team of reporters in the contested city of Aleppo in northern Syria.

    The Abu Dhabi-based channel said in a statement on Thursday that reporter Ishak Moctar, cameraman Samir Kassab and a Syrian driver whose name is being withheld at his family's
    request have been missing since Tuesday morning.

    Sky News Arabia chief Nart Bouran says the crew is on assignment primarily to focus on the humanitarian aspects of the conflict in Aleppo, where rebels and Syrian government troops
    have been locked in a bloody battle since 

    The channel appealed  for any information on the team's whereabouts and for help to ensure the
    journalists' safe return. 

    Sky News Arabia said Moctar is a Mauritanian national, while Kassab is 

    [Source: AP]
  • Syrian Deputy Prime Minister Qadri Jamil said on Thursday that  a long-delayed international conference aimed to bring the Syrian government  and opposition together to seek an end to the country's civil war is scheduled to be held Nov. 23-24. 

    Jamil named the dates when he was asked at a news conference 
    in Moscow whether plans for the "Geneva 2" conference, which Russia and the United States have been trying to organise since May, had been pushed back from mid-November to late November or December.

    [Source: Reuters]

  • Car bombs and mortars have exploded close to the hotel where chemical weapons inspectors are staying in the Syrian capital in recent days, but officials say there is no way of knowing if the team is being deliberately targeted.

    Malik Ellahi, a senior official at the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, said Thursday the latest "mortar incident'' happened late on Wednesday close to the team's Damascus hotel.

    He says car
    bombs and mortars also detonated close to the hotel on October 

    Ellahi says security for the team working in the midst of the Syrian civil 
    war "is a concern'' but has not impeded its work. 

    The OPCW won Nobel Peace Prize last week for their work in attempting to 
    rid the world of chemical weapons.

    [Source: AP]
  • The world's chemical weapons watchdog said Thursday that it had completed nearly half its inspections of Syria's arsenal, despite working against a background of car bombings and mortar attacks.

    "We have done nearly 50 percent of the verification work of the facilities that have been declared
    to us," Malik Ellahi, a political advisor on Syria for
    the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, told journalists in The Hague.

    Despite the progress towards destroying Syria's arsenal by mid-2014, Ellahi said security remained a concern for the unprecedented mission in a war zone.

    Several car bombs exploded near the inspectors' Damascus hotel on Saturday, and mortars fell as recently as Wednesday night, giving "some cause for concern", said Ellahi, who advises OPCW Director-General Ahmet Uzumcu.

    Nevertheless, the "security situation has not impeded any of their work," he said.

    [Source: AFP]
  • Syrian Foreign Ministry says Canadian UN worker who was kidnapped in February has been handed over to the United Nations in Syria

    [Source: State TV-Reuters]
  • A top Syrian army general has been killed in fighting with rebels, state-run Syrian television reported on Thursday, as the country's deputy prime minister floated November 23-24 as possible dates for talks on a political solution to the conflict.

    The television report said General Jameh Jameh was killed while on duty in eastern Syria. It said Jameh, who was the head of the military intelligence directorate in the eastern province of Deir el-Zour, was killed by rebels in
    the provincial capital that carries the same name.

    Jameh was one of the most powerful Syrian army officers in the country and played a major role in Lebanon when Damascus dominated its smaller neighbour.

    The TV report did not say when Jameh was killed. It said he died "while he was carrying out his mission in defending Syria and its people".

    The city of Deir el-Zour has witnessed clashes between troops and rebels for more than a year.

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