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On the basis of our analysis of the evidence gathered during our investigation between April and November 2013 and the laboratory results obtained, the conclusion is that chemical weapons have been used in the ongoing conflict between the parties in the Syrian Arab Republic, not only in the Ghouta area of Damascus on 21 August 2013 as concluded in (A/67/997-S/2013/553), but also on a smaller scale in Jobar on 24 August 2013, Saraqueb on 29 April 2013, Ashrafiah Sahnaya on 25 August 2013 and Khan Al Asal on 19 March 2013. This result leaves us with the deepest concern.
The civil war in Syria has become a matter of U.S. homeland security over concerns about a small number of Americans who have gone to fight with Syrian rebels and returned home, new Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said Friday.
Johnson said he and other law enforcement and security officials around the world were focused on foreign fighters heading to the bloody war, including those from the United States, Canada and Europe.
In excerpts from his first major speech since taking office last year, Johnson did not discuss how many U.S. fighters may be in Syria.
U.S. intelligence officials have said a handful of Americans and hundreds of Europeans have already returned to their home countries. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly on the topic.
The State Department has no estimates of how many Americans have gone to fight with Syrian rebels, but British defense consultant IHS Jane's puts it at a few dozen. An estimated 1,200 to 1,700 Europeans are among rebel forces in Syria, according to government estimates.
Syria said it reached a deal with the United Nationson Thursday to allow "innocent" civilians to leave the besieged rebel-held old city of Homs, potentially the first positive result after deadlocked peace talks in Switzerland last week.
However, U.N. officials initially declined to comment on the reported deal, and it was not clear whether the offer would come with sufficient guarantees for the safety of those trapped in the besieged area to satisfy aid agencies.
The government's announcement of the agreement came hours after rebels declared a new offensive in the northern province of Aleppo, in response to an escalated air assault by government forces trying to recapture territory and drive residents out of opposition-held areas.
President Bashar al-Assad's forces have used a siege tactic to surround and try to starve out rebels holding strategic areas, a technique increasingly copied by rebels as well.
The siege of the old city of Homs has gone on for over a year, and activists say some 2,500 people are trapped inside the area struggling with hunger and malnourishment. They represent only a small fraction of besieged Syrians across the country in desperate need of aid.
Each and every day that the barrel-bombing of Aleppo continues, the Asad regime reminds the world of its true colors. It is the latest barbaric act of a regime that has committed organized, wholesale torture, used chemical weapons, and is starving whole communities by blocking delivery of food to Syrian civilians in urgent need.
Now, with air raids killing dozens more civilians in just the past few days, destroying apartment buildings, and barrel bombs striking a mosque today, the staggering civilian toll dramatically climbs. Each and every barrel bomb filled with metal shrapnel and fuel launched against innocent Syrians underscores the barbarity of a regime that has turned its country into a super magnet for terror. Given this horrific legacy, the Syrian people would never accept as legitimate a government including Asad.
While the opposition and the international community are focused on ending the war, as outlined in the Geneva communiqué, the regime is single-mindedly focused on inflicting further destruction to strengthen its hand on the battlefield and undermining hopes for the success of the Geneva II process.
Moaz al-Khatib was the first Syrian opposition leader to suggest negotiations with Bashar al-Assad’s regime. He proposed them a year ago while president of the Syrian National Coalition, which is in Geneva now for the first round of peace talks between the two sides. The idea, still controversial among the opposition, was even more divisive then — and Khatib saw backlash from within its ranks. He dismissed these critics as armchair generals, as he wrote at the time: “sitting down on their couches and then saying, ‘Attack — don’t negotiate.’”
A prominent Damascus imam, Khatib had been arrested multiple times for his activism against Assad. Amid the fractious politics of the opposition-in-exile, many Syrians saw him as a uniquely charismatic and effective leader, a view shared by many in the West. But the coalition’s toxic mix of internal factionalism and outside meddling pushed him to resign last April, and he has largely kept out of the spotlight since.
In a phone interview with BuzzFeed, Khatib said he’d been paying close attention to the talks in Geneva, where the first round will likely draw to a close on Friday with little progress. And while he still supported the principle of negotiations, he said, he was wary of the current process — concerned that it might be intended mainly “to buy time and give some countries that are feeling guilty the chance to say, ‘we gave it our best.’”
“Let us wait to see what will happen,” he said. “If this is the beginning of a resolution [to the conflict], which I understand will take some time, then it will be a good thing. But if it’s a kind of game, I would say to all the countries involved that they will pay a price for this game.”