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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

  • According to a monitoring group, at least 33 people were killed in an airstrike on a market in Syria's Aleppo province, Reuters reports.
  • Syria government bombs school during art show

    A school was hit in a government airstrike on Wednesday in the opposition-held district of Aleppo, killing at least 19 people, including 10 children, activists reported.

    The attack hit the Ein Jalout school in the eastern part of Aleppo as teachers and students were preparing an exhibit of children’s drawings depicting the war, activists said.

    In an activist video, the bodies of the 10 children were laid on the ground of a local hospital wrapped in sheets.

    The killings come just days after a report from Human Rights Watch saying that both regime and rebel forces had ignored a February condemnation by the United Nations of strikes targeting or hitting civilian areas, with hundreds perishing since then.

    Activist videos of the scene showed bulldozers removing rubble from the smashed building. They also showed some of the children's drawings and paintings. One child’s picture showed a hanging skeleton surrounded by skulls with a child nearby being shot by a gunman in a ditch.

    The child has a speech bubble written above her head in broken English that partly reads: "Syria will still free."

    The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a group opposed to President Bashar al-Assad, said at least 19 people were killed in the strike.

    Read more at Al Jazeera America
  • #UN : Only 15 % of locations identified as in need of aid reached & only 12 % of Syrians in "hard to reach areas" received assistance #Syria
  • Stalemate at #UN over cross-border aid to #Syria . UN says it needs another resolution to enter without govt permission. Russia would veto.
  • According to the governor of Homs, 45 people have died and at least 100 are wounded, Al Jazeera English reports.

    Following the Damascus mortar shell attack, 14 people have died and at least 80 are wounded, according to Al Jazeera English.
  • The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons is undertaking a fact-finding mission in Syria over the alleged chlorine gas attacks, the organization has announced.

    From OPCW:

    At a meeting of the OPCW Executive Council held today, the Director-General announced the creation of an OPCW mission to establish facts surrounding allegations of use of chlorine in Syria.

    The Syrian government, which has agreed to accept this mission, has undertaken to provide security in areas under its control.  The mission will carry out its work in the most challenging circumstances. 

    Delegations speaking at today’s Executive Council meeting expressed their full support for this mission.  The UN Secretary-General Mr. Ban Ki-moon has also expressed his support and assured the assistance of the United Nations in meeting the significant security and logistical demands of this mission.

    The team is expected to depart for Syria soon.

  • A Syrian government official says a car bomb has exploded in a predominantly Alawite district of the central city of Homs, killing 36 people.

    The official says Tuesday's bombing also wounded more than 85 people, most of them civilians.

    The official, who is in Homs, spoke to The Associated Press over the telephone on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to media.

    Syria state TV only said that a car bomb exploded near the Zahra district of Homs, causing "a large number" of casualties. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says at least 13 people, including five children, were killed and that more than 40 were wounded in the bombing.

    Different casualty tolls are common in the immediate aftermath of large bombings.

    [The Associated Press]
  • According to a Syrian official, a car bomb has killed 36 people in the predominately Alawite district of the city of Homs, The Associated Press reports.
  • Thick smoke rises in #Homs after 2 car bombs explode in Abbasiah neighborhood, mainly Alawite & Shiite #Syria

  • Syrian civilians in crosshairs of Assad's barrel bombs, says report

    Attacks on civilians in Syria haven’t abated despite a United Nations resolution two months ago that called on government forces and rebels to curb bombing and shelling of residential areas, according to a new report from Human Rights Watch (HRW) released Tuesday.

    Since a Feb. 22 resolution by the U.N. Security Council called for the end of barrel bomb attacks on civilians, HRW says it has documented 85 separate attacks by the Syrian government on residential areas “including two government barrel bomb attacks on clearly marked official hospitals.” While there have been sieges and massacres across Syria, this report focuses on Aleppo, Syria’s second largest city and the center of the rebellion.

    The death toll of the three-year old civil war is now estimated to top 150,000 with millions of refugees having fled the country.

    Lately, the tide of the conflict seems to have turned further in the favor of the government, with Syrian government forces having largely cornered rebel positions and as opposition factions, some allied with Al-Qaeda, beset by in-fighting.

    In its report, HRW urged harsher international punishments against both sides of the conflict to stop “ongoing war crimes and crimes against humanity.”

    Despite the ever growing body count, the weapons used by both sides remain simple in their brutality. “Barrel bombs,” used by the Syrian government, terrify civilians living in rebel-held territory. They are made using gas canisters, oil drums or water tanks stuffed with shrapnel and explosives. Often dropped from helicopters, they have fallen on apartment complexes and even hospitals in densely populated areas.

    Read more at Al Jazeera America
  • According to Syrian state media, mortar rounds strike central Damascus and kill 12 people, The Associated Press reports.
  • #SNC : #Assad decision to stand for election is another chapter of repression against people’s aspirations for freedom, justice &democracy
  • Syrian President Bashar al-Assad declared on Monday he will run for re-election in a vote on June 3 which is widely expected to secure him a third term in office despite a three-year civil war stemming from protests against his rule.

    Parliament Speaker Mohammad al-Laham made the announcement during a televised session of Syria's parliament.

    Assad's Western and Arab foes have condemned the election as a parody of democracy, saying no credible poll can be held in a country where 6 million people have been displaced, 2.5 million have fled as refugees and hundreds are killed daily.

    Assad's letter to Syria's constitutional court, read out in parliament by Laham, said: "I ... Dr Bashar Hafez al Assad ... wish to nominate myself for the post of president of the republic, hoping that parliament will endorse it."

    A handful of other candidates have put themselves forward to run in the election but Syria's opposition leaders in exile, who are barred from standing, have dismissed the vote as a charade to extend four decades of Assad family rule in Syria.

    Syria's constitution says presidential candidates must win the backing of 35 members of the pro-Assad parliament, and cannot have lived outside the country in the last 10 years.

  • Syria misses self-imposed deadline on chemical weapons

    Syria appeared to have missed a self-imposed deadline to get rid of all its chemical weapons by April 27, as the United Nations announced that more than 92 percent of the arsenal had been shipped out of the country or destroyed.

    The UN deadline for the total destruction of Syria's chemical weapons is June 30, but the government had vowed to complete the removal of its 1,300 tons of chemical substances on April 27, after missing several deadlines. It is widely believed that Syria stockpiled the chemicals to turn them into poison gas and nerve agents.

    Sigrid Kaag, head of the joint mission of the United Nations and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, told reporters in Damascus that the UN hoped Syria would meet the June deadline.

    "Few days ago we were able to announce and confirm that over 92 percent of Syria chemical weapons stockpile has been removed or destroyed in the country. This is significant," she said.

    "(Also) a total of 18 removal operations have been carried out ...and always with due regard for the environment and public safety," she added.

    Read more at Al Jazeera America
  • Activists say fighters had no choice but to surrender; Zabadani is besieged by #Syria army; and #Lebanon border under control of #Hizbullah
  • SOHR: Rebels trying to connect territory they hold in Daraa and the
    Quneitra region, alongside the occupied Golan Heights #Syria
  • #Syria Observatory for HR: At least 88 rebel &regime forces killed in 2 days of clashes for control of strategic sites in Daraa province
  • Russia says opponents of the Syrian government 'continue to fabricate allegations' of the use of toxic chemicals, Reuters reports.
  • State Dept briefing opens w/condemnation of "Assad regime's barrel bombing," of vegetable market.
  • The United States 'strongly condemns' the regime's bombing of a vegetable market, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said at the start of her daily briefing Thursday.
  • Airstrikes in Syria kill 25, activists say

    Syrian government airstrikes hit a vegetable market in a northern opposition-held town Thursday, killing at least 25 people and wounding scores of others, opposition activists said.

    Fighter jets hit the crowded market in the Aleppo province town of Atareb early in the morning, killing 25 people, the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. The group, which documents the Syrian conflict through a network of activists on the ground, said the death toll is likely to rise because many of the victims were seriously wounded.

    Atareb is located near the city of Aleppo, which is Syria’s largest urban center and former commercial hub, and a major battleground in the country’s civil war.

    Another activist group, the Syria-based Local Coordination Committees, said the airstrikes killed 24 people. The Aleppo Media Center activist group said the strikes killed more than 20. The discrepancy in the death toll is not unusual in the immediate aftermath of such large attacks, and could not be immediately reconciled.

    The Syrian conflict began in March 2011 as largely peaceful protests against President Bashar al-Assad’s rule. It turned into a civil war after some opposition supporters took up arms to fight a brutal government crackdown. The fighting has taken increasingly sectarian overtones, pitting predominantly Sunni Muslim rebels against Assad’s government that is dominated by Alawites, a sect in Shia Islam.

    More than 150,000 people have been killed so far, activists say, and millions have been driven out of their homes.

    Read more at Al Jazeera America
  • UN Spox: Secretary General v concerned about claims of chlorine gas use in #syria .
  • #UN : 92.5 per cent of #syria chemical weapons either removed or destroyed.
  • Al Jazeera America has compiled a collection of heart-wrenching photos chronicling the journey Syrian refugees take to Lebanon:

    A Syrian man carries his newborn baby in his arms, left, as he and his wife, right, descend a mountain path from the 2,814-meter (9,232-foot) high Mount Hermon (Jabal el-Sheikh), into the town of Shebaa in southeast Lebanon. Violence forced them to flee their home in the Syrian village of Beit Jinn, near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. (Hussein Malla/AP) 

    Samira Asrawi 45, right, and her daughter Marwa, 19, left, sit on the ground weeping next to their belongings as they wait to be vetted by Lebanese soldiers at an army check point after descending Mount Hermon. (Hussein Malla/AP) 

    Aid workers lift Kabalan from a horse after fleeing Beit Jinn in Syria, where no food and medicine has been allowed to reach thousands of trapped civilians. (Hussein Malla/AP) 

  • According to Al Jazeera English, 65 have died in Aleppo and the countryside as a result of a bombardment.
  • OPCW: Today’s operation brings total of chemical material removed and destroyed to 92.5%. #Syria
  • The head of the global chemical weapons watchdog overseeing the destruction of Syria's toxic stockpile is considering launching a fact-finding mission there to investigate reports of attacks with chlorine gas, sources said.

    Syria became a member of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) last year as part of a deal with Russia and the United States to destroy its chemical weapons program.

    OPCW's head, Ahmet Uzumcu, has the authority to initiate an investigation into alleged use of chemical weapons in member states, including Syria, without the need to seek a formal request from a member state, sources told Reuters on Thursday.

    "The OPCW director general is considering, on his own initiative, sending a fact-finding mission," one source said.

    "A number of questions are still to be answered: Syrian consent, mandate of the mission, participants from other organizations, such as the World Health Organization," the source said.

    Several of Washington's key European allies support an investigation into the latest claims of chlorine gas use, the sources said.

    Syria has vowed to hand over or destroy its entire arsenal by the end of this week. It still has roughly 14 percent of the chemicals it declared to the OPCW and has not yet destroyed all of a dozen production and storage facilities.

    Cooperation from Syria and other international organizations would need to be arranged to provide security because of the country's ongoing civil war, which has left 130,000 dead and forced millions more from their homes.

    Washington and its Western allies have blamed President Bashar al-Assad's forces for using sarin gas in an attack in August that killed hundreds of people in the outskirts of Damascus. Assad has blamed the rebels.

    A U.N.-led inquiry found that chemical weapons were likely used in five attacks in 2013, although it did not apportion blame. The nerve agent sarin was probably used in four of the five attacks, it found.

    Chlorine, which was first used as a weapon in World War I, is believed to have been used in attacks in several areas of Syria this month.

    All the attacks shared the same characteristics, leading analysts to believe they are part of a coordinated campaign, in which barrels of the toxic chemical have been dropped from helicopters.

    Rebels have posted photos and video footage they claim show the latest attacks are also the work of forces under Assad.

    Syria's remaining chemical weapons are in 16 truck containers, roughly 13 of them in a location near Damascus that the government has said was unreachable due to fighting.

    The OPCW enforces adherence to the Chemical Weapons Convention, which requires members to declare all chemical stocks to the organisation, which won the Nobel Peace prize last year.

    Syria has not declared either the sarin, munitions used in last year's attack, or chlorine, officials said. If it had them, they should be reported to the OPCW.

    U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said on Monday that Washington had indications that chlorine was probably used by government forces in Syria and said an investigation was needed.

  • According to activists, government airstrikes on a vegetable market in norther Syria have killed at least 18 people, The Associated Press reports.
  • When Secretary of State Kerry spoke Tuesday with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov, the pair did not discuss the chlorine gas attack allegations, State Department Jen Psaki said Wednesday.
  • #Syria CW briefing in #UNSC : more progress on removal of chemicals from Syria, but new reports of CW attacks by regime deeply disturbing.
  • #UN :In Aleppo, at least 1million people now in need of urgent assistance but road linking city to Damascus often cut by warring sides
  • #UN :For civilians remaining in Aleppo, Old City of Homs & other parts of country experiencing heavy fighting, worst days seem yet to come
  • A Syrian lawmaker has nominated himself for president, state media said on Wednesday, the first candidate in an election likely to cement President Bashar al-Assad's rule over a country devastated by civil war.

    Parliament this week set the election for June 3, a move Assad's international opponents said was a "parody of democracy" that would undermine any chance of resolving the conflict through peace talks.

    Assad has yet to formally declare his candidacy but his allies have voiced increasing confidence that he will run and win, after government forces scored several victories against rebels around Damascus and along the Lebanese border.

    State media said Maher Abdel-Hafiz Hajjar - a member of the government-sanctioned opposition, as opposed to Western-backed opposition politicians in exile or the armed rebels Assad denounces as "terrorists" - had nominated himself. He is unlikely to pose a real challenge to Assad.

    The Supreme Constitutional Court is accepting nominations until May 1.

    "Anyone who meets the conditions and submits a request for nomination to this court, we will accept this request and register it," court spokesman Majid Khadra said.

    Hajjar, formerly a member of the Communist Party, won a parliamentary seat for the northern city of Aleppo in 2012 under the Popular Front for Change and Liberation list, SANA said.

    Aleppo was Syria's largest city before the war and a major commercial hub but is now divided between rebel and government forces. Much of the population has fled and many districts have been devastated by bombardment and fighting.

    The Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday the decision to hold the election was a "purely sovereign" one and that it would not permit foreign interference.

    "If these countries, foremost among them the Western nations, are calling for democracy and freedom, then they should listen to the views of Syrians and who they choose through the ballot box," the ministry was quoted as saying by SANA.

    More than 150,000 people have been killed in Syria's three-year-old conflict, which started as a peaceful protest movement against Assad's rule but descended into civil war after a government crackdown.

    Much of the country's infrastructure has been devastated and the government has lost control of swathes of territory. Bombings, gunbattles, air strikes and shelling continue daily across the country.

    Assad said last week the conflict was at a "turning point" due to his forces' military gains against rebels.

  • Syrian government accused of using chlorine gas

    Syria's government has disposed of more than 86 percent of its total chemical weapons stockpile, the watchdog agency charged with overseeing its removal announced Tuesday.

    But there are new reports alleging that Syria launched several chlorine gas attacks this month, potentially exposing a major loophole in the international deal to remove the chemical weapons.

    President Bashar al-Assad agreed with the United States and Russia to dispose of his chemical weapons — an arsenal that Damascus had never previously formally acknowledged — after hundreds of people were killed in a sarin gas attack on the outskirts of the capital last August.

    Washington and its Western allies said Assad's forces unleashed the nerve agent in the world's worst chemical attack in a quarter-century, while the Syrian government blamed the rebel side in Syria's three-year-old civil war.

    Director-General Ahmet Uzumcu of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said Syria has just surrendered another batch of raw materials used for making chemical weapons. Syria submitted a list of its chemical weapons to OPCW in the process of destroying them.

    Syria has missed several deadlines for progress specified in last year's agreed timetable to eradicate its poison gas and nerve agent program by June 30. It insists it will meet the final deadline.

    But chlorine gas was never included on the list submitted to the OPCW and is now allegedly being used on the battlefield, leading some countries to consider requesting an investigation, possibly through the United Nations.

    Read more at Al Jazeera America
  • According to the OPCW, Syria has removed more of its chemicals stockpile:

    The Director-General of the OPCW welcomed delivery of a further consignment of chemicals to the port of Latakia by the Syrian government today.  The chemicals were immediately boarded onto cargo ships upon arrival at the port and removed from the country.

    This raises the overall portion of chemicals removed from Syria to 86.5% of the total, including 88.7 % of all Priority 1 chemicals. Today’s consignment was the 17th to date and the sixth consignment since 4 April, marking a significant acceleration in the pace of deliveries to Latakia this month. 

    “This latest consignment is encouraging," the Director-General said. “We hope that the remaining two or three consignments are delivered quickly to permit destruction operations to get underway in time to meet the mid-year deadline for destroying Syria’s chemical weapons."

  • "Not going to speculate" whether POTUS will reconsider use of force after #Syria chlorine use, Psaki says, but "its a good question." #jpost
  • When asked about chlorine gas and the chemicals agreement reached in Syria, Psaki said the State Department was horrified by any use of chemicals in the country.

    She said she had no additional details on how it was delivered, who was responsible, or what chemical was specifically used.

    But, when asked, she did confirm that chlorine was not included in the chemicals agreement reached with the country.
  • In light of the most recent chemical weapons attack allegations, Reuters has investigated how chlorine gas plays into the agreement reached over Syria's chemical stockpiles. 

    From Reuters: 

    Chlorine gas attacks in Syria this month, if proven, expose a major loophole in an international deal which promised to remove chemical weapons from Syria and suggest chemical warfare could persist after the removal operation has finished.

    President Bashar al-Assad agreed with the United States and Russia to dispose of his chemical weapons - an arsenal which Damascus had never previously formally acknowledged - after hundreds of people were killed in a sarin gas attack on the outskirts of the capital last August.

    Washington and its Western allies said it was Assad's forces who unleashed the nerve agent, in the world's worst chemical attack in a quarter-century. The government blamed the rebel side in Syria's civil war, which is now in its fourth year.

    Syria has vowed to hand over or destroy its entire arsenal by the end of this week, but still has roughly 20 percent of the chemicals it declared to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

    In addition, chlorine gas that was never included on the list submitted to the OPCW is now allegedly being used on the battlefield, leading some countries to consider requesting an investigation, possibly through the United Nations.

    Attacks this month in several areas of the country share characteristics that have led analysts to believe that there is a coordinated chlorine campaign, with growing evidence that it is the government side dropping the bombs.

    U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said on Monday that Washington had indications that chlorine was probably used by government forces in Syria.

    "We are examining allegations that the government was responsible," she said. "Obviously there needs to be an investigation of what's happened here."

  • When asked about the chlorine attack in Syria, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said there is nothing more to add but the United States ambassador to the OPCW has been in touch with the organization.
  • Syria announces June election, with Assad's victory all but certain

    Amid the chaos of a three-year civil war, Syria will mount a regularly scheduled presidential election on June 3, an exercise many suspect will sink the already floundering peace process and inevitably extend the four-decade reign of the Assad family another seven years.

    “I call on the citizens of the Syrian Arab Republic, inside and outside [the country], to exercise their right in electing a president,” parliament speaker Mohammed al-Lahham said Monday, adding that voting would be “free and fair…and under full judicial supervision.”

    Though Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has not formally announced his candidacy yet, he said in January he “saw no reason” why he would not run again — even as activists say more than 150,000 people have been killed in an uprising against his rule.

    Assad, who became president when his father Hafez died in 2000, was re-elected with over 97 percent of the vote in an uncontested referendum in 2007. Syria revised its election rules in 2012 to allow for multiple candidates, but the reform did little to convince the opposition or its Western backers that elections would be any more legitimate this time around.

    Read more at Al Jazeera America
  • Sen. John McCain released the following statement regarding allegation the Assad regime has again used chemical weapons in Syria:

    “The allegations that President Bashar al-Assad’s forces have again used chemical weapons against the Syrian people in recent attacks are deeply disturbing, but not surprising. It is essential that the Obama Administration work with the international community to fully and immediately investigate these reports. If substantiated, it is clear that such attacks violate the spirit of the U.S. agreement with Russia for the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons and the Assad regime must finally be held accountable for it actions.

    “Assad’s forces have systematically committed gross violations of the Syrian people’s basic human rights. Whether by chemical weapons attacks or other barbaric means including barrel bombing and starvation campaigns, the Assad regime continues to carry out war crimes in its slaughter of innocent men, women, and children. Its breach of the chemical weapons agreement should surprise no one, and unless the Obama Administration is willing to force a price for such behavior, we should only expect more atrocities to come.

  • White House spokesman Jay Carney said Monday the White is examining allegations the Syrian government is responsible for chemical — probably chlorine — being used in the country.
  • State Department Jen Psaki said the State Department has indications of the use of a toxic industrial chemical, probably chlorine, in Syria this month, Reuters reports.

    The State Department says it is examining allegations the Syrian government is responsible for the use of chlorine, according to Reuters.
  • Is Geneva2 still alive? State Dept: Many tracks to our process...We're still working to determine what the next steps are. #Syria
  • The Assads have never held a credible, free or fair election, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said during the daily State Department briefing.
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