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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

  • #syria amb: i told Joint Special rep to behave and be responsible.
  • #Syria amb Jafaari: it was wrong that it was closed, alleging censorship
  • UN general assembly meeting with Ban and brahimi was at last minute closed to media #Syria
  • The #UN is a place of discrimination rather than equality, says #Syrian ambassador

  • #Syria amb Jafaari: it was wrong that it was closed, alleging censorship
  • According to activists, an Al-Qaeda splinter group in Syria has left two provinces, Reuters reports.

    From Reuters:

    An al Qaeda splinter group in Syria pulled out of two provinces in the country's northwest on Friday and headed to its eastern strongholds after months of clashes with rival rebels, activists said.

    The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), a former al Qaeda affiliate, and competing insurgents have been fighting since the start of the year, killing over 3,000 people and undermining the revolt against President Bashar al-Assad.

    On Friday, ISIL - which alienated many rebels by seizing territory and killing rival commanders - finished withdrawing from the Idlib and Latakia provinces and moved its forces toward the eastern Raqqa province and the eastern outskirts of the northern city of Aleppo, activists said.

    The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said the withdrawal was overseen by the Nusra Front, al Qaeda's acknowledged branch in Syria, making the two provinces "completely free" of ISIL forces.

    ISIL, which draws strength from a core of experienced foreign fighters, was initially welcomed in many rebel-controlled areas because of its fighting prowess and reputation for being relatively free of corruption.

    The group later alienated many residents with a drive to implement a strict interpretation of Islamic law, but has also maintained sympathy in some areas because of its reputation for keeping looting and thievery in check.

  • #Syria Foreign minister Walid Muallam undergoing an open heart surgery now in Beirut
  • Also, @SyrCoalition chief negotiator Hadi al-Bahra will speak to @UNCANews on #Syria , #Geneva2 , etc.
  • Another busy day @UN : #Brahimi & Ban Ki-moon speak about #Syria to General Assembly, #Ukraine Amb presser w/ minority group leaders (1/2)
  • International mediator Lakhdar Brahimi stressed Thursday that holding elections in Syria would doom peace talks.

    The New York Times has a break down of Brahimi's warning:

    The United Nations mediator who has sought to coax the warring parties in Syria to negotiate an end to the three-year-old conflict said on Thursday that holding elections would doom prospects for any future talks, even as lawmakers in Damascus appeared to inch closer to scheduling national polls.

    The Syria conflict, which has threatened to destabilize the Middle East, has also created what the United Nations has called the worst humanitarian crisis in the world.

    In a report released early Friday, the United Nations refugee agency said four out of 10 Syrians had been uprooted from their homes, making Syria “the world’s leading country of forced displacement.” More than 2.5 million are registered as refugees outside the country, mostly in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, while 6.5 million are internally displaced. Half of them are children.

    “We would very much like to continue the Geneva process,” the United Nations mediator, Lakhdar Brahimi, told reporters after a closed session of the Security Council, referring to two rounds of negotiations that have been held in the Swiss city. The last one ended without agreement even on an agenda for talks. Elections would defy one of the central premises for the negotiations: to discuss how to form an interim transitional government.

  • According to the UN Refugee Agency, Syria has topped the world list of forced displacement. 

    From UNHCR:

    Three years after the onset of the conflict there, Syria has become the world's leading country of forced displacement, with more than 9 million of its people uprooted from their homes.

    As of today, 2,563,434 Syrians have registered as refugees in neighbouring countries or are awaiting registration. With displacement inside Syria having reached more than 6.5 million, the number of people in flight internally and externally exceeds 40 per cent of Syria's pre-conflict population. At least half of the displaced are children.

    "It is unconscionable that a humanitarian catastrophe of this scale is unfolding before our eyes with no meaningful progress to stop the bloodshed," said UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres. "No effort should be spared to forge peace. And no effort spared to ease the suffering of the innocent people caught up in the conflict and forced from their homes, communities, jobs and schools."

    In the absence of visible progress towards a political solution, UNHCR predicts the refugee population in the surrounding region will grow to become the largest refugee population in the world.

  • According to RIA, the Russian Foreign Ministry says all chemical weapons which should be destroyed outside Syria could be removed from the country by April 13 and there is no need to adjust the timeframe, Reuters reported early Friday morning.
  • A photo of children in Za'atari refugee camp in Jordan stand #WithSyria @storyful @SaveChildrenJOR

  • During his very short briefing, Brahimi also said if there is an election in Syria, his suspicion is that the opposition would probably not be interested in such a proceeding.
  • When speaking to media after briefing the United Nations Security Council, international mediator Lakhdar Brahimi said he told the council that if they hold a third round of Geneva 2 talks, he would like them to be more productive.

    He also spoke about wanting more help from the council. 

    Brahimi said he didn't speak specifically to Russia, but do the Security Council in general — of which Russia is a member.

    When asked about his discussions with the council, Brahimi said he talk about the economy and the suffering of the Syrian people, adding that all he did was draw their attention to the issue.

  • Brahimi said #Syria govt was
    engaged in "delaying tactics" and that any re-election of Assad would complicate search for apolitical solution
  • The international mediator on #Syria told UN Security Council Damascus was
    delaying efforts to resume peace talks in Geneva
  • UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Mr. Lakhdar Brahimi will brief the #UNGA on #Syria tomorrow at 10am
  • Secretary of State John Kerry acknowledged Thursday that tension between Russia and the United States over the current crisis in Ukraine 'has the capacity' to affect America's relationship with Moscow on Syria, according to Reuters.
  • UNICEF released this month a report on the 'devastating impact' Syria's war has had on the country's children.

    From the report: 

    For a child, three years can seem like a lifetime. Three years can transform a baby into a preschooler learning to read. Three years can see a young schoolchild grow into a teenager entering the exciting world of secondary school. Three years can turn an 
    uncertain fifteen year-old into a proud young student on the first day of university.

    But not for Syria’s children. These past three years have been the longest of their lives so far. And for most, they have brought only loss and despair. 

    Today, they are living through the most damaging conflict for children in the region’s recent history. More than 5.5 million Syrian children now see their future besieged by war. It is estimated there are up to one million children who live under siege and in hard-to-reach areas that UNICEF and other humanitarian partners cannot access on a regular basis.

    Click here to read the full report.
  • Big day in #UNSC . Sp envoy Brahimi briefs on #Syria , then #Ukraine PM Yatseniuk briefs on #Crimea conflict.
  • Aleppo TV provides lifeline in wartime

    GAZIENTEP, Turkey — The scene on TV unfolds quickly, showing a group of boys playing soccer in a street littered with broken concrete, amid apartment buildings scarred by bullet and shell holes. One of the boys accidentally kicks the ball down an alley. Another chases it down. But the ball is right next to a hidden mine. As the boy is just inches from stepping on the detonator, a Syrian opposition fighter scoops him up. An announcer’s voice warns children to beware of mines and unexploded ordnance.

    This is one of the messages that the Syrian satellite TV station Aleppo Today airs daily that, along with its news programs and a breaking-news ticker, have made it the most popular network for current residents of Aleppo, refugees who have fled the war-torn city and opposition fighters in Syria’s north.

    “You see it in all houses inside Aleppo and outside, and even with refugees,” said a wounded fighter being treated in a Gazientep hospital who called himself Hussein Doshka, 34, from the Aleppo countryside.

    On a recent day, wounded Syrian opposition fighters on every floor of the hospital had their TVs tuned to the channel for the latest news from their hometowns.

    The 24-hour, opposition-aligned news channel started a few months after the uprising began in Syria in March 2011, in order to cover protests and broadcast news about the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad, back when it was hard to find any independent, non-government-controlled news out of Syria’s largest city.

    ”It’s an experiment of having a local TV [station] inside Syria, because previously we had only the government’s national TV,” said Aleppo Today’s manager, Khaleel Agha.

    The station lets viewers know where fighting has broken out, where snipers are located, which roads are safe and what the constantly fluctuating currency exchange rates are. It also keeps viewers up to date on which border crossings with Turkey are open, and whether they are open to foot traffic only, or also to cars.

    Read more at Al Jazeera America
  • #Syria parliament just adjourned session to discuss new election law, they went through 10 articles, back tomorrow #Assad
  • As the world turns its attention to the crisis enveloping Ukraine, the United Nations refugee chief wants to make sure Syria isn't getting lost in the global shuffle, according to Reuters.

    From Reuters:

    The head of the United Nation's refugee agency said on Tuesday it must be ready in case Ukraine's crisis causes refugees to flee Crimea, but his biggest worry is that "a total disaster" could occur if the international community diverts its attention away from Syria's conflict.

    Antonio Guterres, the head of the U.N.'s High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), said in an interview that little progress was being made in efforts by the United States and Russia, now at loggerheads over Ukraine, to bring Syria's warring sides together after the collapse of talks in Geneva last month.

    "In the moment in which we need the most relevant countries in the world to be able to come together to narrow their differences and to try to find a way to move into peace forSyria, this tension around Ukraine will obviously not help," Guterres told Reuters while visiting Washington to discuss Syria's refugee crisis.

    "I hope that those that have the most important responsibility in world affairs will be able to understand that forgetting Syria will be a total disaster," he said.

  • Campaigns mark three years of Syria's crisis

    As the third anniversary of the conflict in Syria approaches, a pair of online campaigns are aiming to put a face to the victims of the conflict and inspire action to help those in need. Both campaigns are accompanied by significant offline action in the form of vigils, protests and calls for aid. 

    coalition of 50 humanitarian and human rights groups is using the hashtag #WithSyria to broadcast information about vigils around the world and ways to contribute to aid efforts. 

  • President Bashar al-Assad visited displaced Syrians in the town of Adra on Wednesday, state media said, in a rare public appearance outside the heart of Damascus.

    State television said Assad inspected a shelter for people displaced by fighting in Adra, which lies about 12 miles northeast of central Damascus and was partly captured by rebels three months ago.

    A picture on the presidency's Twitter account showed Assad, in a dark jacket and white shirt, talking to a group of women at a building identified as the Dweir shelter.

    Syrian television said Assad was "listening to their needs" and told them that the state would continue "to secure basic necessities for the displaced until they can return to their homes in Adra and elsewhere".

    Assad has made few public appearances since Syria's conflict began three years ago. Wednesday's trip underlined his increasing confidence just 18 months after rebels appeared to be challenging his control over the capital.

    Adra, close to rebel strongholds east of Damascus which are under siege by Assad's forces, is located by the main highway running north from Damascus to Homs which the army has fought to secure from rebel fighters over the last year.

    Many residents fled Adra in December when mainly Sunni Muslim rebels took over part of the town and killed 28 people in a sectarian attack targeting Druzes, Christians and Alawites - the same sect to which Assad belongs.

    Adra had a population of about 100,000 including Alawites, Druzes, Christians and Sunni Muslims before the conflict erupted.

    The Syria crisis, which began with protests against more than 40 years of Assad family rule, became militarised after authorities cracked down on demonstrators and has descended into a civil war in which 140,000 people have been killed.

    Assad's forces, backed by Shi'ite powers Iran and Hezbollah, are fighting Syrian rebels backed by foreign jihadis and have secured much of the center of the country. Authorities have rejected opposition calls for Assad to step down and are preparing for a presidential election later this year.

  • Al Jazeera America's Nick Schifrin did a Reddit 'Ask Me Anything' where he discussed the crisis in Ukraine. But when asked about other important, potentially undercovered, global stories, Schifrin highlighted the war in Syria:

    Q: Crimea is an important topic, and is getting wide coverage. As a reporter do you know of another current event that isn't getting the coverage it deserves.

    A: I always think Syria needs more coverage than it gets. It does receive a lot of attention. But the scale of the suffering and destruction is impossible to overstate.

  • Q. Is Kerry still discussing #Syria w/Lavrov? State Dept: 'Obviously, Ukraine has taken a great deal of prominence in their conversations.'
  • During a talk at the Council of Foreign Relations, CIA Director John Brennan said he thinks President Assad feels more confident after developments on the battlefield in the past year.

    Syria is a real army,' he said, adding that the opposition deserves credit for staying in the game as long as it has. 

    The tragedy that has been put upon the Syrian people by the Assad regime, it really is a tragedy, Brennan said, adding that Assad has become a 'magnet' for extremists.

  • UNICEF estimates 1 in 10 Syrian refugee children is now working and 1 in every 5 registered marriages of Syrian women in Jordan is a child.
  • According to Syrian state media, three suicide bombers strike in a hotel in a northern city and casualties are feared, The Associated Press is reporting.
  • As the world seems to shift focus from the ongoing Syrian civil war to the Ukrainian crisis, Reuters takes a look at how Al-Qaeda has hijacked the spirit of the Syrian revolt after three years.

    From Reuters:

    For Syrians who three years ago rose up against 43 years of Assad family rule, living under the hard-line Sunni jihadists who said they had come to save them from the president's atrocities was even worse than Assad himself.

    While neither Assad nor the rebels have the upper hand, there is a growing sense among his foreign opponents that the battle for Syria has become a twin-track operation, with defeating the jihadists as important as ousting Assad.

    In interviews with Reuters, Syrians who have escaped areas that have fallen under the control of al Qaeda-linked groups have spoken of the way the jihadists have imposed their harsh and often violent version of Islam on their fellow Muslims.

    When the uprising started in March 2011 - part of the wave of Arab Spring revolts - many Syrians had hoped either for reform or a quick end for Assad.

    Three years on, Assad is still in power, while his subjects have been gassed, starved, exiled and bombed with impunity.

    Many of those who initially succeeded in liberating large parts of northern Syria from government control soon found themselves under the yoke of foreign jihadists.

    Syria's conflict has drawn in foreign fighters who, while ostensibly rallying to the cause of their Muslim brothers against Assad, have turned their guns on rival rebel groups.

  • The United Nations says 2.8 million Syrian children cannot go to school because of a civil war now entering its fourth year.

    The U.N. children's agency says 2.3 million of Syria's nearly 5 million school-age children are out of school as education and health services collapse, and classrooms are bombed or used as shelters and military barracks.

    UNICEF says another 300,000 Syrian children are out of school in Lebanon, along with some 93,000 in Jordan, 78,000 in Turkey, 26,000 in Iraq and 4,000 in Egypt.

    Agency officials told reporters Tuesday in Geneva that 2 million children affected by the fighting are in need of psychological support or treatment.

    [The Associated Press]
  • Syrian info minister Omran al-Zo'bi says his regime only released 25 prisoners in exchange for nuns, not 150 #Syria
  • State Dept: Pleased to hear of nuns' release; call for release of all unjustly detained in #Syria . No details of our own; Lebanon helping
  • Of course we were relieved by the reports the nuns have been released, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said during her briefing Monday.
  • Report: More than 4.3 million Syrian children need humanitarian aid

    Syria's civil conflict has left the country's health system so severely crippled that some patients are "opting to be knocked out with metal bars for lack of anesthesia," according to a new report by international charity Save the Children.

    The report, A Devastating Toll, details the impact of three years of war on the health of the country's children and adds that more than 10,000 children have been lost as a direct result of the violence.

    "We received a little girl with critical injuries; we could do nothing but wait for her to die because we didn't have the equipment or the medicines. Till now I can't remove her face from my mind," said one health worker identified in the report only as Anas.

    "The extent of the decline in Syria's health system is demonstrated in many horrific ways, including children having limbs amputated because the clinics they present to don't have necessary equipment to treat them," said the report, which paints a gruesome picture of the dire health care crisis.

    "Newborn babies [are] dying in their incubators due to power cuts; in some cases, patients [are] opting to be knocked out with metal bars for lack of anesthesia; parents [are] arriving at hospital to find no medical staff and hooking up children themselves to intravenous drips."

    Read more at Al Jazeera America
  • #Syria 16 million dollars were paid by the Qatari mediator to help the release of the Maaloula nuns .
  • Amnesty International accused President Bashar al-Assad's forces on Monday of perpetrating war crimes as part of a siege in southern Damascus which has killed nearly 200 people, mostly by starvation.

    Yarmouk, once home to hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees and Syrian nationals, is one of several districts on the edge of the Syrian capital which the army has surrounded to choke off rebel forces seeking Assad's overthrow.

    "The Syrian government has committed numerous war crimes as part of the siege of Yarmouk," Amnesty said in a report released on Monday.

    "Hundreds of civilian residents of Yarmouk have been killed, wounded or have perished as a result of deliberate starvation and destruction of their means of support, direct attacks on civilians and indiscriminate attacks."

    Mainly Sunni Muslim rebels in northern Syria have also besieged two Shi'ite towns, but most of the blockades across the country have been carried out by Assad's forces.

    Only around 20,000 residents remain in Yarmouk, living under a siege which started in late 2012 but was tightened in July last year when fighters from al Qaeda's Nusra Front and the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, which had moved into the district, clashed with the army.

    Amnesty listed 194 people it said were civilians who had died in Yarmouk since then. Two thirds were reported to have died of starvation, the London-based human rights group said.

    Under an agreement reached in mid-January, the United Nations relief agency for Palestinian refugees UNRWA has distributed food to the remaining Yarmouk inhabitants, but its work has been interrupted by continued fighting and it says the food which has reached Yarmouk is inadequate.

    UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness said on Monday that clashes and shelling continued in Yarmouk over the weekend and the agency had not been able to deliver humanitarian aid for the last nine days.

    "The siege of Yarmouk amounts to collective punishment of the civilian population," said Amnesty's regional director Philip Luther.

    "The Syrian government must end its siege immediately and allow humanitarian agencies unfettered access to assist its suffering civilians."

  • According to a new report, Syria's civil war has had a 'devastating toll' on the health of the country's children, The New York Times reported Sunday. 

    From the Times:

    The Syrian civil war’s impact on the health of Syria’s children is far more insidious than has been widely understood, a leading children’s advocacy group reported Sunday, with large numbers dying or at risk from chronic and preventable diseases that have flourished because the country’s public health system has basically collapsed.

    In a report timed to coincide with the start of the fourth year of the conflict, the group, Save the Children, said the effects of untreated illnesses on Syrian children were only partly reflected in the documented statistics. They show that at least 1.2 million children have fled to neighboring countries, that 4.3 million in Syria need humanitarian assistance and that more than 10,000 have died in the violence.

    “It is not just the bullets and the shells that are killing and maiming children,” said the report, “A Devastating Toll.” The conflict, which began in March 2011, has left a “shattered health system resulting in brutal medical practices that have left millions of children suffering,” the report said.

  • As #Assad prepares for another term in office, page1 of today's Ba'ath paper shows meeting with all #Syria governors

  • Nuns kidnapped in Syria freed

    About a dozen nuns held by rebels in Syria for more than three months have been released and are on their way to Damascus via Lebanon, a security source and church officials said on Sunday.

    A Lebanese security source said the nuns had been taken to the Lebanese town of Arsal earlier in the week and were headed to Syria on Sunday accompanied by the head of a Lebanese security agency and a Qatari intelligence official.

    Lebanese security chief, Gen. Abbas Ibrahim, indicated to Lebanon's National News Agency that the kidnappers had on multiple occasions changed their demands, delaying the release.

    Ibrahim also reportedly said efforts to demand the release of two bishops and a Lebanese and Mauritanian journalist would continue.
    The nuns went missing in December after Islamist fighters took the ancient quarter of the Christian town of Maaloula north of Damascus.

    After being held in the Greek Orthodox monastery of Mar Thecla in Maaloula, they were reportedly moved to the rebel-held town of Yabroud, about 13 miles to the north, which is now the focus of a government military operation.

    Read more at Al Jazeera America
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