Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Iran sends Syria 30,000 tons of food supplies


BEIRUT (AP) -- Iran delivered 30,000 tons of food supplies to Syria on Tuesday to help the government deal with shortages due to the civil war, state media said.
As the announcement came that the massive shipment arrived at a Mediterranean port, state TV also reported that government forces had made further advances against rebels near the capital, Damascus.
The aid is part of Iran's broader support for President Bashar Assad as he prepares to run for a third presidential term while his troops battle rebels seeking his overthrow.
Iran has been Assad's major backer throughout the 3-year-old conflict, lending Damascus military support through its proxy Hezbollah group and advising the government on strategy to fight the opposition. Tehran has also been pumping funds into Syria to save the country's battered economy from collapsing.
Last May, Iran extended a $3.6 billion credit line to Syria, enabling Assad's government to buy oil products and help shore up the diving value of the Syrian pound.

France says Assad survival would be 'total impasse' for Syria


(Reuters) - France said on Tuesday Syrian President Bashar al Assad had a policy to "wipe out" his people in his bid to stamp out a three-year uprising, but this would leave Syria at a total impasse.
Assad has forecast that much of the fighting in the Syrian civil war will be over by the end of the year, a former Russian prime minister was quoted on Monday as saying.
Responding to those remarks, French Foreign Ministry spokesman Romain Nadal appeared to acknowledge that the international community may have to accept the new status quo.
"A military victory against his own people? The only objective of Bashar al Assad is to wipe out his own people," Nadal said. "Maybe he will remain the sole survivor of this policy of mass crimes, but it is a total impasse for Syria."

Monday, March 24, 2014

Assad relative killed in Syria's Latakia

Hilal founded the National Defence Army, a pro-government group fighting alongside the Syrian army [SOHR]
Hilal al-Assad, a cousin of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, has been killed along with seven of his fighters during fighting in the border town of Kasab in Latakia province, after shells from rebels targeted his vehicle.
The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an activist group, reported Assad's death. It was confirmed by Syrian state television, which described Hilal as the head of the National Defence Force in the province of Latakia.

Twenty soldiers killed in Yemen attack

Yemeni security forces have faced frequent attacks by fighters they say belong to al-Qaeda [AFP]
Gunmen have killed 20 soldiers in an attack on a military checkpoint in eastern Yemen, according to the country's state news agency.
Military sources blamed Monday's attack, which happened in Hadramawt province, on al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).
One source told the AFP news agency that fighters in several vehicles attacked the position in Reida, 135km from the provincial capital Mukalla.

Ukraine troops set to leave Crimea



Russian troops now have control of nearly all military sites in Crimea [EPA]
Ukraine's acting president has announced that the ex-Soviet nation's troops have been given orders to withdraw from Crimea following the peninsula's seizure and annexation by Russia.
Acting President Oleksander Turchinov told parliament on Monday that the decision had been taken in the face of "threats to the lives and health of our service personnel" and their families.
His comments came after Russian troops entered a key Ukrainian marine base near Feodosia crowning a gradual take-over of Ukrainian military facilities on the peninsula.
Russia completed its annexation of Crimea last week, following the February ouster of a Russian-leaning government in Kiev.

Muslim Brotherhood members sentenced to death

An Egyptian court has sentenced 529 members of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood to death on charges including murder, in a sharp escalation of a crackdown on the movement.
Family members stood outside the courthouse screaming after the verdict - the biggest mass death sentence handed out in Egypt's modern history, defence lawyers said.
Turmoil has deepened since the army overthrew Egypt's first freely elected president, Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood, in July.
Human rights groups said Monday's verdict suggested the authorities intended to tighten their squeeze on the opposition, according to the Reuters news agency. State television reported the sentences without comment.
A government spokesman and other government officials did not immediately respond to calls.
Most of the defendants at Monday's hearing were detained and charged with carrying out attacks during clashes which erupted in the southern province of Minya after the forced dispersal of two Muslim Brotherhood protest camps in Cairo on August 14.
"The court has decided to sentence to death 529 defendants, and 16 were acquitted," defence lawyer Ahmed al-Sharif told Reuters.

Rebels capture town near Turkish border





BEIRUT (AP) -- Al qaida related Hard-line Islamic rebels captured a small town in northwestern Syria near the Turkish border as part of their offensive in the rugged coastal region that is a bastion of support for President Bashar Assad, activists said Monday.
Fighters from an array of armed opposition groups seized the predominantly Armenian Christian town of Kassab on Sunday. The rebels, including militant from the al-Qaida-affiliated Nusra Front, have also wrested control of a nearby border crossing to Turkey.
The advances, while minor in terms of territory, provided a welcome boost to a beleaguered rebellion that has suffered a string of battlefield losses in recent weeks. Forces loyal to Assad have captured several towns near Syria's border with Lebanon as part of a government offensive aimed severing rebel supply lines across the porous frontier and securing the border.

Least of key events in Syria's uprising


(AP) Here's a look Back at some of the key events in the Syrian uprising as the conflict marks its third anniversary:
- March 2011: Protests erupt in Daraa, Syria, over security forces' detention of a group of boys accused of painting anti-government graffiti on the walls of their school. On March 18, security forces open fire on a protest in the southern city, killing four people in what activists regard as the first deaths of the uprising. Demonstrations spread, as does the crackdown by President Bashar Assad's forces.
- June 2011: Police and soldiers in Jisr al-Shughour in northeastern Syria join forces with the protesters they were ordered to shoot, and the uprising claims control of a town for the first time. Elite government troops, tanks and helicopters retake the town within days.
- August 2011: U.S. President Barack Obama calls on Assad to resign and orders Syrian government assets frozen.
- July 2012: A bombing at the Syrian national security building in Damascus during a high-level government crisis meeting kills four top officials, including Assad's brother-in-law and the defense minister.
- Summer 2012: Fighting spreads to Aleppo, Syria's largest city and its former commercial capital. Over time, rebels seize control of about half of the city, but the battle there rages to this day, leaving much of Aleppo in ruins.

An era missing out on school in wartime Syria





MAJDAL ANJAR, Lebanon (AP) -- Along with some 20 other Syrian children, 13-year-old Anas braves rain, mud and cold to attend class in a tent pitched along Lebanon's border with Syria, the home of a Syrian refugee family that serves as a classroom for four hours each day.
There are no benches and no blackboard. There are no textbooks and no notebooks. Just sheets of paper and some pencils and crayons that two young refugee women use to teach children like Anas how to read and write, count and draw, sing songs and recite poems.
But even Anas might be considered one of the luckier ones of Syria's long conflict, which reached its third anniversary Saturday. Nearly half of Syria's school-age children - 2.8 million and counting - cannot get an education because of the devastation and violence, UNICEF recently reported. The numbers might even be greater, a tragedy for a country where once nearly all school-age children completed primary school.
"They come every day, these sad parents, begging me to take their children to school," said Etaf Seif Abdel Samad, the principal of a public grade school in Beirut, where Syrian children learn with the Lebanese side by side.

Turkey down Syrian plane it says violated air space


(Reuters) - Turkish armed forces shot down a Syrian plane on Sunday that Ankara said had crossed into its air space in an area where Syrian rebels have been battling President Bashar al-Assad's forces for control of a border crossing.
"A Syrian plane violated our airspace," Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan told an election rally in northwest Turkey. "Our F-16s took off and hit this plane. Why? Because if you violate my airspace, our slap after this will be hard."
Syria condemned what it called a "blatant aggression" and said the jet was pursuing rebel fighters inside Syria. It said the pilot had managed to eject before the plane crashed.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Syrian al Qaeda group gives rival Islamists ultimatum


(Reuters) - The head of al Qaeda's wing in Syria has given rival Islamist militants five days to accept mediation to end their infighting or face a war which "will terminate them", according to an audio recording posted on Tuesday.
Abu Mohammed al-Golani, leader of the Nusra Front, called on the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group to agree to arbitration by religious scholars to end more than a year of feuding which has turned violent in some areas in Syria.

Activists say Syrian security forces abduct prominent dissident

Residents inspect a site of an explosion in Atmeh February 23, 2014. REUTERS/Stringer
Residents inspect a site of an explosion in Atmeh February 23, 2014.
Credit: Reuters/Stringer

(Reuters) - Akram al-Bunni, a prominent leftist writer and former political prisoner, was abducted by Syrian intelligence agents as he left a wedding reception at a Damascus hotel on Saturday, opposition activists said.
They said Bunni, who had previously spent two decades as a political prisoner, was snatched by agents from an intelligence division run by Hafez Makhlouf, a cousin of President Bashar al-Assad.
His brother Anwar al-Bunni, a human rights lawyer who was also a political prisoner for five years, said Akram had riled the authorities by publicly supporting a democratic alternative to the four-decade rule of the Assad family.

Syrian rebel, friend of al Qaeda leader, killed by rival Islamists


(Reuters) By Mariam Karouny - A Syrian rebel commander who fought alongside al Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden and was close to its current chief, Ayman al-Zawahiri, was killed by a suicide attack on Sunday, intensifying infighting between rival Islamist fighters.
The Observatory for Human Rights in Syria said Abu Khaled al-Soury, also known as Abu Omair al-Shamy, a commander of the Salafi group Ahrar al-Sham was killed along with six comrades by al Qaeda splinter group the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). It said al-Soury had fought in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Al-Soury's death will fuel the infighting among jihadis fighting President Bashar al-Assad, a violent rivalry that has killed hundreds of fighters in recent months, rebels said.

Air raids in central Syria kill 26: activists

Damaged buildings are pictured in the besieged area of Homs February 22, 2014. REUTERS/Thaer Al Khalidiya
Damaged buildings are pictured in the besieged area of Homs February 22, 2014.
Credit: Reuters/Thaer Al Khalidiya

(Reuters) - Air raids on rebel-held towns across Syria killed 26 people on Monday, activists said, two days after the U.N. Security Council passed a resolution demanding an end to indiscriminate shelling and aerial attacks.
Syria's almost three-year-old conflict has raged on despite peace talks that began in Geneva last month and the passage of the U.N. resolution, a rare moment of unity between the West and Russia, President Bashar al-Assad's strongest backer.
Two women and 10 children were among the dead in government air raids on the town of al-Neshabieh, in the eastern outskirts of Damascus, near a railway marking the frontline between Islamist fighters and Assad's forces backed by Lebanese Hezbollah militants, and in the province of Homs to the north.
"Two simultaneous raids hit Neshabieh first. People were pulling the bodies of a women and her two children from one house when the planes came back and hit the crowed, killing another nine," activist Abu Sakr told Reuters from the area.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Brahimi: Syria peace talks slow but 'still at it'


AP Photo 
GENEVA (AP) -- Syrian government anger over a U.S. decision to resume aid to the opposition prompted the U.N. mediator to cut short Tuesday's peace talks, but he said no one was to blame for the impasse and that the negotiations would continue.
A deal to allow humanitarian aid into Homs remained stalled, with the Syrian delegation demanding assurances the U.S. aid will not go to "armed and terrorist groups" in the besieged city.
U.N.-Arab League mediator Lakhdar Brahimi said he was relieved that the government and opposition said they will remain in the daily talks through Friday, as planned.
"Nobody's walking out. Nobody's running away," he told reporters. "We have not actually made a breakthrough, but we are still at it, and this is enough as far as I'm concerned."
Tuesday's talks were the fifth day of negotiations regarding the civil war, focusing on opposition calls for the formation of a transition government in Syria and help for Homs.