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A blustery storm dropped torrential rain and snow on Lebanon and Jordan on Wednesday, forcing aid agencies to scramble to distribute desperately needed winter supplies like blankets and plastic tarps to Syrian refugees who have sought safe haven in the countries.
The storm, dubbed Alexa, pushed temperatures below freezing in northern Lebanon and some areas of the Bekaa Valley, which is dotted with informal refugee settlements. The winter weather heaped another layer of misery on the already grim existence of many of the estimated 1.4 million Syrians in Lebanon who fled the civil war raging in their homeland.
"We are extremely concerned for the refugees this winter that promises to be very harsh," Dana Sleiman of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees told The Associated Press.
The United States and Britain suspended non-lethal aid to northern Syria after Islamist fighters seized Western-backed rebel weapons warehouses, highlighting fears that supplies could end up in the wrong hands and the general chaos engulfing the nation.
The rebel Free Syrian Army fighting President Bashar al-Assad said the U.S. and British moves were rushed and mistaken. "We hope our friends will rethink and wait for a few days when things will be clearer," FSA spokesman Louay Meqdad said.
The suspension underlines a crisis for the FSA leadership which needs international backing to reinforce its credibility and to stop its fighters joining powerful al Qaeda-backed Islamist militants who now dominate the war with Assad.
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.
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.
"Yasser Al-Joumaili is the first foreign journalist killed by an armed group" opposition "in the said areas" liberated "northern Syria. This murder shows the importance of the mobilization of the international community, Syrian and international organizations defending freedom of the press and all the players information to fight against all those who intend to muzzle the media and silence their employees, "said Reporters Without Borders. The organization is a partner of the "Campaign for Free press Syria ", launched on December 2, to denounce the" deliberate strategy (ISIS) to stifle press freedom and impose a new widespread censorship of the Syrian people ".
According to reports, Yasser Al-Faysal Joumaili was ten days in northern Syria, where he was reporting on behalf of a Spanish media. Several sources indicate that he was abducted Dec. 4, 2013 by the jihadist group ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Sham) in the Idlib region before being executed. The exact circumstances of this murder is still unknown. His body is now in Turkey.
The Syrian exodus has become one of the gravest global refugee crises of recent decades. More than two million people have fled Syria’s civil war, most resettling in neighboring Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon. But since this summer, refugees have also started pouring into Europe in what became for many weeks a humanitarian crisis in the Mediterranean. Over five months, Italy’s Coast Guard rescued thousands of Syrians, even as hundreds of other migrants, including many Syrians, died in two major shipwrecks in October.Joe Burgess/The New York Times
For many, reaching Europe was merely the beginning of another difficult journey. Having risked their lives in hopes of settling in prospering Northern Europe, many Syrians found themselves trapped in the south, living illegally in Italy, hiding from the police, as they tried to sneak past border guards and travel north to apply for asylum.
Healthcare has also become a 'weapon of war' for the government, which has targeted doctors and withheld vaccinations from children in opposition-held areas, said Rola Hallam, a volunteer with the medical charity Hand in Hand in Syria.
She said women and girls who had been raped during the conflict then found they were being stigmatised by their relatives, adding to their misery.
"If they are married they are (being) divorced. Their families do not want them. There are lots of honour killings going on," she told an international women's rights conference in London hosted by Thomson Reuters Foundation and the International New York Times.
Women and minors in Syria are being raped by government and paramilitary forces, Hallam said.
"My dad is a gynaecologist and he was referred an 11-year-old and a 14-year-old pregnant girl as a result of that," she said. Their fathers had threatened to kill them, and they had been abandoned by their families.oth Saudi Arabia and Israel are highly critical of embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
“We need to start talking to the Assad regime again” about counterterrorism and other issues of shared concern, said Ryan C. Crocker, a veteran diplomat who has served in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. “It will have to be done very, very quietly. But bad as Assad is, he is not as bad as the jihadis who would take over in his absence.”
Rockets fired into a government-controlled district of Aleppo killed at least 17 people in the northern Syrian city on Wednesday, state media and a monitoring group said.
Photographs from the incident in Meridien and Furqan, two adjacent neighborhoods in western Aleppo, showed pools of blood on the pavements and a crater in the road where one of the rockets appeared to have landed.
The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the casualties included nine civilians and five members of President Bashar al-Assad's security forces.
It put the death toll at 18, one more than was reported by state news agency SANA which called the rocket fire a "terrorist attack ...on residential districts" of the disputed city.
Assad's forces have gained ground to the southwest of Aleppo and carried out air strikes, dropping improvised barrel bombs from helicopters on the town of al-Bab to the northeast.
The NATO Russia Council (NRC) also exchanged views on global security issues including Afghanistan, Iran and Syria. The NRC adopted a statement supporting the work of the joint United Nations-Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) mission which is overseeing the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles and production facilities. The Foreign Ministers urged “all Syrian parties to cooperate” with the joint UN-OPCW mission. Ministers urged all Syrian parties to ensure unfettered access and a secure environment for the joint mission. The statement added that NRC member states stand ready to consider further assistance to the mission, if requested. Ministers also made clear that the only solution to the Syrian crisis was an inclusive and Syrian-led political process and they welcomed the decision to convene the International Conference on Syria in Geneva in January 2014.