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Syria's War Live

Breaking news coverage of developments in Syria's War and the broader regional conflict, including allegations of the deadly use of chemical weapons and the international community's response

  • Welcome to Al Jazeera America's live blog for Syria's ongoing civil war. We're tracking the latest developments on the ground, including recent allegations of the use of chemical weapons and the international community's response. 

    For breaking news and the latest updates, follow us on Twitter at @AJAMLive

    We welcome your questions and feedback. Feel free to submit a comment below. 
  • Syria announces June election, with Assad's victory all but certain

    Amid the chaos of a three-year civil war, Syria will mount a regularly scheduled presidential election on June 3, an exercise many suspect will sink the already floundering peace process and inevitably extend the four-decade reign of the Assad family another seven years.

    “I call on the citizens of the Syrian Arab Republic, inside and outside [the country], to exercise their right in electing a president,” parliament speaker Mohammed al-Lahham said Monday, adding that voting would be “free and fair…and under full judicial supervision.”

    Though Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has not formally announced his candidacy yet, he said in January he “saw no reason” why he would not run again — even as activists say more than 150,000 people have been killed in an uprising against his rule.

    Assad, who became president when his father Hafez died in 2000, was re-elected with over 97 percent of the vote in an uncontested referendum in 2007. Syria revised its election rules in 2012 to allow for multiple candidates, but the reform did little to convince the opposition or its Western backers that elections would be any more legitimate this time around.

    Read more at Al Jazeera America

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  • According to activists, government airstrikes on a vegetable market in norther Syria have killed at least 18 people, The Associated Press reports.
  • When Secretary of State Kerry spoke Tuesday with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov, the pair did not discuss the chlorine gas attack allegations, State Department Jen Psaki said Wednesday.
  • #Syria CW briefing in #UNSC : more progress on removal of chemicals from Syria, but new reports of CW attacks by regime deeply disturbing.
  • #UN :In Aleppo, at least 1million people now in need of urgent assistance but road linking city to Damascus often cut by warring sides
  • #UN :For civilians remaining in Aleppo, Old City of Homs & other parts of country experiencing heavy fighting, worst days seem yet to come
  • A Syrian lawmaker has nominated himself for president, state media said on Wednesday, the first candidate in an election likely to cement President Bashar al-Assad's rule over a country devastated by civil war.

    Parliament this week set the election for June 3, a move Assad's international opponents said was a "parody of democracy" that would undermine any chance of resolving the conflict through peace talks.

    Assad has yet to formally declare his candidacy but his allies have voiced increasing confidence that he will run and win, after government forces scored several victories against rebels around Damascus and along the Lebanese border.

    State media said Maher Abdel-Hafiz Hajjar - a member of the government-sanctioned opposition, as opposed to Western-backed opposition politicians in exile or the armed rebels Assad denounces as "terrorists" - had nominated himself. He is unlikely to pose a real challenge to Assad.

    The Supreme Constitutional Court is accepting nominations until May 1.

    "Anyone who meets the conditions and submits a request for nomination to this court, we will accept this request and register it," court spokesman Majid Khadra said.

    Hajjar, formerly a member of the Communist Party, won a parliamentary seat for the northern city of Aleppo in 2012 under the Popular Front for Change and Liberation list, SANA said.

    Aleppo was Syria's largest city before the war and a major commercial hub but is now divided between rebel and government forces. Much of the population has fled and many districts have been devastated by bombardment and fighting.

    The Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday the decision to hold the election was a "purely sovereign" one and that it would not permit foreign interference.

    "If these countries, foremost among them the Western nations, are calling for democracy and freedom, then they should listen to the views of Syrians and who they choose through the ballot box," the ministry was quoted as saying by SANA.

    More than 150,000 people have been killed in Syria's three-year-old conflict, which started as a peaceful protest movement against Assad's rule but descended into civil war after a government crackdown.

    Much of the country's infrastructure has been devastated and the government has lost control of swathes of territory. Bombings, gunbattles, air strikes and shelling continue daily across the country.

    Assad said last week the conflict was at a "turning point" due to his forces' military gains against rebels.

    [Reuters]
  • Syrian government accused of using chlorine gas

    Syria's government has disposed of more than 86 percent of its total chemical weapons stockpile, the watchdog agency charged with overseeing its removal announced Tuesday.

    But there are new reports alleging that Syria launched several chlorine gas attacks this month, potentially exposing a major loophole in the international deal to remove the chemical weapons.

    President Bashar al-Assad agreed with the United States and Russia to dispose of his chemical weapons — an arsenal that Damascus had never previously formally acknowledged — after hundreds of people were killed in a sarin gas attack on the outskirts of the capital last August.

    Washington and its Western allies said Assad's forces unleashed the nerve agent in the world's worst chemical attack in a quarter-century, while the Syrian government blamed the rebel side in Syria's three-year-old civil war.

    Director-General Ahmet Uzumcu of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said Syria has just surrendered another batch of raw materials used for making chemical weapons. Syria submitted a list of its chemical weapons to OPCW in the process of destroying them.

    Syria has missed several deadlines for progress specified in last year's agreed timetable to eradicate its poison gas and nerve agent program by June 30. It insists it will meet the final deadline.

    But chlorine gas was never included on the list submitted to the OPCW and is now allegedly being used on the battlefield, leading some countries to consider requesting an investigation, possibly through the United Nations.

    Read more at Al Jazeera America
  • According to the OPCW, Syria has removed more of its chemicals stockpile:

    The Director-General of the OPCW welcomed delivery of a further consignment of chemicals to the port of Latakia by the Syrian government today.  The chemicals were immediately boarded onto cargo ships upon arrival at the port and removed from the country.


    This raises the overall portion of chemicals removed from Syria to 86.5% of the total, including 88.7 % of all Priority 1 chemicals. Today’s consignment was the 17th to date and the sixth consignment since 4 April, marking a significant acceleration in the pace of deliveries to Latakia this month. 


    “This latest consignment is encouraging," the Director-General said. “We hope that the remaining two or three consignments are delivered quickly to permit destruction operations to get underway in time to meet the mid-year deadline for destroying Syria’s chemical weapons."

  • "Not going to speculate" whether POTUS will reconsider use of force after #Syria chlorine use, Psaki says, but "its a good question." #jpost
  • When asked about chlorine gas and the chemicals agreement reached in Syria, Psaki said the State Department was horrified by any use of chemicals in the country.

    She said she had no additional details on how it was delivered, who was responsible, or what chemical was specifically used.

    But, when asked, she did confirm that chlorine was not included in the chemicals agreement reached with the country.
  • In light of the most recent chemical weapons attack allegations, Reuters has investigated how chlorine gas plays into the agreement reached over Syria's chemical stockpiles. 

    From Reuters: 

    Chlorine gas attacks in Syria this month, if proven, expose a major loophole in an international deal which promised to remove chemical weapons from Syria and suggest chemical warfare could persist after the removal operation has finished.


    President Bashar al-Assad agreed with the United States and Russia to dispose of his chemical weapons - an arsenal which Damascus had never previously formally acknowledged - after hundreds of people were killed in a sarin gas attack on the outskirts of the capital last August.


    Washington and its Western allies said it was Assad's forces who unleashed the nerve agent, in the world's worst chemical attack in a quarter-century. The government blamed the rebel side in Syria's civil war, which is now in its fourth year.


    Syria has vowed to hand over or destroy its entire arsenal by the end of this week, but still has roughly 20 percent of the chemicals it declared to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).


    In addition, chlorine gas that was never included on the list submitted to the OPCW is now allegedly being used on the battlefield, leading some countries to consider requesting an investigation, possibly through the United Nations.


    Attacks this month in several areas of the country share characteristics that have led analysts to believe that there is a coordinated chlorine campaign, with growing evidence that it is the government side dropping the bombs.


    U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said on Monday that Washington had indications that chlorine was probably used by government forces in Syria.


    "We are examining allegations that the government was responsible," she said. "Obviously there needs to be an investigation of what's happened here."


  • When asked about the chlorine attack in Syria, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said there is nothing more to add but the United States ambassador to the OPCW has been in touch with the organization.
  • Syria announces June election, with Assad's victory all but certain

    Amid the chaos of a three-year civil war, Syria will mount a regularly scheduled presidential election on June 3, an exercise many suspect will sink the already floundering peace process and inevitably extend the four-decade reign of the Assad family another seven years.

    “I call on the citizens of the Syrian Arab Republic, inside and outside [the country], to exercise their right in electing a president,” parliament speaker Mohammed al-Lahham said Monday, adding that voting would be “free and fair…and under full judicial supervision.”

    Though Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has not formally announced his candidacy yet, he said in January he “saw no reason” why he would not run again — even as activists say more than 150,000 people have been killed in an uprising against his rule.

    Assad, who became president when his father Hafez died in 2000, was re-elected with over 97 percent of the vote in an uncontested referendum in 2007. Syria revised its election rules in 2012 to allow for multiple candidates, but the reform did little to convince the opposition or its Western backers that elections would be any more legitimate this time around.

    Read more at Al Jazeera America
  • Sen. John McCain released the following statement regarding allegation the Assad regime has again used chemical weapons in Syria:

    “The allegations that President Bashar al-Assad’s forces have again used chemical weapons against the Syrian people in recent attacks are deeply disturbing, but not surprising. It is essential that the Obama Administration work with the international community to fully and immediately investigate these reports. If substantiated, it is clear that such attacks violate the spirit of the U.S. agreement with Russia for the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons and the Assad regime must finally be held accountable for it actions.


    “Assad’s forces have systematically committed gross violations of the Syrian people’s basic human rights. Whether by chemical weapons attacks or other barbaric means including barrel bombing and starvation campaigns, the Assad regime continues to carry out war crimes in its slaughter of innocent men, women, and children. Its breach of the chemical weapons agreement should surprise no one, and unless the Obama Administration is willing to force a price for such behavior, we should only expect more atrocities to come.


  • White House spokesman Jay Carney said Monday the White is examining allegations the Syrian government is responsible for chemical — probably chlorine — being used in the country.
  • State Department Jen Psaki said the State Department has indications of the use of a toxic industrial chemical, probably chlorine, in Syria this month, Reuters reports.

    The State Department says it is examining allegations the Syrian government is responsible for the use of chlorine, according to Reuters.
  • Is Geneva2 still alive? State Dept: Many tracks to our process...We're still working to determine what the next steps are. #Syria
  • The Assads have never held a credible, free or fair election, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said during the daily State Department briefing.
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