Syria's War | Al Jazeera America

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Syria's War

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

  • A spokesman for the Russian Foreign Ministry says observers found the election in Syria fair, free and transparent and criticized the West's reaction, Reuters reports.
  • The OPCW team that came under attack Tuesday Syria is safely back in Damascus, according to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

    From the OPCW:

    The team comprising experts and officials of the OPCW and the United Nations which came under attack yesterday has arrived back in Damascus. All members of the team are safe and well, although one driver has sustained minor injuries.


    The team was en route to Kafr Zita as part of its mission to establish the facts surrounding allegations of use of chlorine in Syria. The visit was subject to a rigorous security assessment and a local ceasefire had been carefully negotiated for the day with the Government of Syria as well as with armed opposition groups in the area. 


    Shortly after leaving government-controlled territory, the lead vehicle in the convoy was struck by an improvised explosive device (IED) sustaining severe damage. The team members were rescued and shifted to two other vehicles in the convoy which turned back to move to a safer location. While entering a built-up area the convoy was ambushed; the first vehicle was shot at from close range with automatic weapons hitting the body, windows and tires. 


    The occupants of the two remaining vehicles, who were briefly detained by some gunmen, were later released upon the intervention of the main opposition group with whom the ceasefire and security arrangements had been negotiated. The reunited team then returned to Damascus via Homs under Syrian Government escort.


    While the situation is assessed, the OPCW fact-finding mission will continue its work by closely monitoring the situation and using all possible means to gather information and data in order to establish the facts surrounding allegations of the use of chlorine in Syria.


    OPCW Director-General Ahmet Üzümcü spoke to the Head of the Mission and the Team Leader in Damascus and praised the dedication and commitment of the OPCW and UN personnel, who showed great courage in undertaking such a high-risk mission.  The Director-General has strongly condemned yesterday’s attack and said that it was a sad day for the people of Syria, and for the international community, because of a blatant attempt to prevent the facts being brought to light. This will not, however, prevent the OPCW from raising its voice against the cruelty of use of toxic chemicals to kill and harm indiscriminately. 

  • While The Associated Press reported Tuesday morning that 11 people were abducted in Syria, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons states its team members came under attack but are safe.

    From the OPCW:

    A convoy of OPCW inspectors and United Nations staff that was travelling to a site of an alleged chlorine gas attack in Syria came under attack this morning. All team members are safe and well and are travelling back to the operating base.


    The OPCW Director-General, Ambassador Ahmet Üzümcü, expressed his personal concern for the OPCW and UN staff members and repeated his call to all parties for cooperation with the mission.


    "Our inspectors are in Syria to establish the facts in relation to persistent allegations of chlorine gas attacks," he said. "Their safety is our primary concern, and it is imperative that all parties to the conflict grant them safe and secure access."

  • Syria's Foreign Ministry says 11 people, including six members of a U.N. fact-finding mission, have been abducted by armed groups in central Syria.

    The ministry says the abductions occurred in the countryside around Hama in central Syria on Tuesday.

    A ministry statement blamed rebels fighting to topple President Bashar Assad, accusing them of committing "terrorist crimes" against the U.N. staff and the U.N. Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

    The organization, which monitors the implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention and oversees the destruction of Syria's chemical weapons, sent a team to Syria this month to investigate claims that chlorine has been used in the region of Hama.

    [The Associated Press]
  • The death toll in Syria's three-year conflict has exceeded 160,000, an activist group said Monday, a harrowing figure that reflects the country's relentless bloodletting that appears no closer to a resolution.

    The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said it has documented 162,402 deaths since the uprising against President Bashar Assad's government began in March 2011.

    The figure includes civilians, rebels and members of the Syrian military, the Observatory said. It also includes militiamen, such as Lebanese Hezbollah members, who have been fighting alongside Assad's forces, and foreign fighters battling with the rebels for Assad's ouster.

    The Observatory remains the sole organization providing a reliable tally of Syria's dead.

    The U.N. has stopped updating its own tally of the Syrian dead, saying it can no longer verify the sources of information. The world body's last count in late July was 100,000 dead.

    The Observatory bases its tally on information it gets from a network of activists on the ground in Syria. The figures are based on the names of those killed, collected by activists who document the dead in hospitals, morgues and identify them from video materials.

    Of the 160,402 people that Observatory said have died in the conflict so far, about a third - or 53,978 - were civilians. Those deaths include 8,607 children and 5,586 women.

    The uprising has also claimed the lives of 26,858 rebel fighters and 37,685 Syrian soldiers, the Observatory said.

    The Syrian government does not publicize the number of its casualties.

    In addition, the Observatory said 25,147 pro-government fighters have also died on the battlefield, including 438 Hezbollah militants, and 1,224 Shiite foreign fighters and Palestinian militants.

    From among foreign and other fighters who have sided with the rebels, 13,529 were killed, including members of the al-Qaida-linked group and other hard-line Islamic and Islamic leaning groups. There are also 2,891 unidentified bodies in the conflict and 2,314 identified bodies of Syrian army troops, who have crossed over to the opposition side to fight the government.

    Syria's uprising began with largely peace protests against Assad's rule. It has since then evolved into a civil war with sectarian overtones, pitting predominantly Sunni Muslim rebels against Assad's government that is dominated by Alawites, a sect in Shiite Islam.

    On the opposition side, Islamic extremists, including foreign fighters and Syrian rebels who have taken up hard-line al-Qaida-style ideologies, have played an increasingly prominent role among fighters, dampening the West's support for the rebellion to overthrow Assad.

    [The Associated Press]
  • Head of Syrian air defenses killed

    The head of Syria's air defenses was killed in clashes near the capital, Damascus, activists said Sunday, one of a few high-ranking military officers to die in the country's 3-year-old civil war.

    The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a group based in Britain, said General Hussein Ishaq died of wounds suffered during a military offensive by President Bashar al-Assad's forces against rebels in Mleih, a Damascus suburb, where the Air Defense administration has a large base.

    A government official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to brief journalists about Ishaq's death said the general died Saturday.

    The monitoring group said the general died on Sunday from wounds suffered on Saturday.

    The Observatory, which bases its reports on a network of activists on the ground, said Ishaq was killed in clashes with fighters from the Nusra Front, the Al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria, and other Islamic rebel groups.

    State media made no mention of Ishaq's reported death but pro-Assad Internet sites said he had been “martyred” in Mleiha, which has seen heavy fighting for several days and is close to the road linking central Damascus to the international airport.

    Read more at Al Jazeera America
  • Al Jazeera English has the story on Syria mediator Lakhdar Brahimi's recently announced resignation:

    Lakhdar Brahimi has announced his resignation from his position as the UN-Arab League envoy for Syria, largely out of frustration at Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's plans to hold an election in June.


    UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in a joint press conference with Brahimi in New York on Tuesday, said the decision would be effective from May 31.


    For more than a year, Brahimi has made no secret that he is contemplating stepping down from the post as the UN and Arab League joint special representative on Syria. Brahimi told reporters a year ago that he thought about resigning every day.


    Brahimi has organised two rounds of negotiations in Geneva between Assad's government and members of the opposition seeking to oust him.


    While there were no breakthroughs at those talks, diplomats and UN officials said that Brahimi had wanted to continue the Geneva process to find a negotiated solution that would end the fighting, launch a political transition and begin the process of reconciliation between the supporters and opponents of Assad.


    But Syria's April 21 announcement that it will hold presidential elections on June 3 dealt a severe blow to Brahimi's efforts in Geneva, diplomats said, since the vote is widely seen as a bid by Assad to defy widespread opposition and extend his grip on power.


  • Ban: Urging [both sides] to think about their own future. This is their country. #Syria
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