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Masked gunmen abducted a leading Syrian human rights lawyer and three other prominent activists in a rebel-held Damascus suburb Tuesday in a new sign that Al-Qaeda linked militants who have joined the fight against President Bashar al-Assad are trying to silence rivals in the opposition movement.
Razan Zaytouni, one of the most outspoken critics of Assad as well as Islamic militants who have gained increasing sway over the fight to oust the government, was seized along with her husband and two other colleagues from her office in Douma.
No group claimed responsibility for the kidnapping, but Zaytouni herself had publicly blamed Al-Qaeda linked rebels for kidnapping activists and colleagues said she had received indirect threats from extremists in recent days.
"I want to tell their kidnappers what their captives and what my family has done for Syria ever since the start of the revolution. From the first months of the uprising, we crossed the border illegally in order to report on the suffering of the population. Javier didn't only survive the bombardment of Baba Amr, which killed two of his colleagues right before his eyes, he even chose to stay in the neighborhood until the last civilian was evacuated.
But you, as Syrians, also have a responsibility towards all those, Arabs and Westerners, who have defended you. Javier and Ricardo are not your enemy. Please, honor the revolution they protected and set them free."
Croatia is considering taking part in the destruction of Syria's chemical weapons, but only if there is no opposition from the public, the Adriatic country's prime minister said Tuesday.
Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic said there are "consultations" throughout the Mediterranean states about Syrian weapons possibly being shipped to one of their ports before being reloaded and destroyed by the U.S. military, "probably somewhere in the Atlantic."
Milanovic called for a "public debate" over the possible reloading project.
"We can take part in the noble project, or we don't have to," Milanovic said. "But the Croatian public has to know what it's all about."
Under a threat of public unrest, Albania last month refused a U.S. request to host the destruction of Syria's chemical arsenal, a serious blow to efforts to destroy that stockpile by mid-2014.
Director-General Ahmet Üzümcü this afternoon accepted the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).
“This is the first time that the Peace Prize has been awarded to an organisation that is actively engaged in disarmament as a practical and ongoing reality,” Ambassador Üzümcü said in his acceptance speech. “For sixteen years now, the OPCW has been overseeing the elimination of an entire category of weapons of mass destruction. Our task is to consign chemical weapons to history forever.”
Ambassador Üzümcü said that, with 190 States now party to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), “we are hastening the vision of a world free of chemical weapons to reality.” Recalling that chemical weapons had been used with “brutal regularity” “from Ieper in Belgium to Sardasht in Iran, from Halabja in Iraq to Ghouta in Syria,” he also paid homage to all victims.
The Director-General commended the “singular achievement” represented by conclusion of the CWC and the creation of the OPCW as its “arbiter and guardian.” “For the first time in the history of multilateral diplomacy, we were able to show that consensus-based decision-making can yield practical, effective and, above all, verifiable results in disarmament.”
The Director-General said that the OPCW had been “able to cross, and link, the wide space in disarmament between passion and practicality, between sentiment and action, between noble ambition and concrete achievements.”
In the last photo we have of him alive, Yasser looks up into the horizon as if contemplating a bright future ahead of him. Behind him, on a red dirt road, is an abandoned Syrian village and endless sky.
He'd left Baghdad at the end of November on a flight to Turkey with a new camera, new clothes and boundless confidence. If he'd told his family or friends he was crossing over into Syria they would have tried to stop him.
Once across the Turkish border, a Syrian journalist took him into Idlib province and warned him not to go any further.
"I told him this is not like Iraq – this is a whole other story," says Muhanad Dhugeim who took the photos of Yasser before they parted ways. "He said he could handle it."
Yasser didn't tell anyone what story he was chasing when he borrowed money to buy an expensive new video camera and leave the country.
It will be the largest-ever immunization response in the region, WHO and the U.N. children's fund said in a joint statement.
WHO has said the vaccinations would take place in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and Turkey.
Syrian refugees fleeing their country's conflict have taken shelter in surrounding states, particularly Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Iraq.
"As if children in Syria had not suffered enough, they now have to contend with yet another threat to their health and well-being," said Maria Calivis, UNICEF regional director for the Middle East and North Africa.Read more at Al Jazeera America
Barack Obama did not tell the whole story this autumn when he tried to make the case that Bashar al-Assad was responsible for the chemical weapons attack near Damascus on 21 August. In some instances, he omitted important intelligence, and in others he presented assumptions as facts. Most significant, he failed to acknowledge something known to the US intelligence community: that the Syrian army is not the only party in the country’s civil war with access to sarin, the nerve agent that a UN study concluded – without assessing responsibility – had been used in the rocket attack. In the months before the attack, the American intelligence agencies produced a series of highly classified reports, culminating in a formal Operations Order – a planning document that precedes a ground invasion – citing evidence that the al-Nusra Front, a jihadi group affiliated with al-Qaida, had mastered the mechanics of creating sarin and was capable of manufacturing it in quantity. When the attack occurred al-Nusra should have been a suspect, but the administration cherry-picked intelligence to justify a strike against Assad.
Hersh is a freelancer, but he's best known these days for his work in The New Yorker, where he helped break the Abu Ghraib scandal in 2004. While Hersh is not a New Yorker staff writer, it was notable that his 5,500-word investigative piece landed in the London Review of Books, a London literary and intellectual magazine, rather than the publication with which he's most closely associated.
In an email, Hersh wrote that “there was little interest” for the story at The New Yorker.
A New Yorker spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
A few weeks ago, Hersh sent the Syria story to editors at the London Review of Books, LRB Senior Editor Christian Lorentzen told HuffPost.
Lorentzen said the piece was not only edited, but thoroughly fact checked by a former New Yorker fact checker who had worked with Hersh in the past.
While The New Yorker is renowned for its fact-checking department, government officials have taken issue with Hersh's findings.
“We were clear with the Washington Post and Mr. Hersh that the intelligence gathered about the 21 August chemical weapons attack indicated that the Assad regime and only the Assad regime could have been responsible."
Spokespeople for the White House and the State Department declined to comment on the broad outlines of the coming story, which was shared in advance and under embargo with BuzzFeed, Saturday. DNI spokesman Turner told Hersh that no American intelligence agency “assesses that the al-Nusra Front has succeeded in developing a capacity to manufacture sarin.”
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces have taken control of a highway connecting Damascus to the coast that is needed to extract hundreds of tons of toxic chemicals for destruction, a monitoring group said on Monday.Fighting in Syria poses a hurdle to implementing an agreement between Damascus and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to remove the deadliest chemicals weapons by the end of the year to be destroyed.The army started an offensive in mid-November to secure the highway, which passes through the mountainous area of Qalamoun, roughly 50 km (30 miles) north of Damascus, stretches along the Lebanese border and hosts many military bases and outposts.The army has retaken the highway towns of Qara and Deir Attiyah from mostly Sunni Muslim rebels fighting to oust Assad, and has made inroads around the town of Nabak close to the road.