December 5, 2014 |
When Staffan de Mistura took over as special United Nations representative on the Syria crisis - with the task of ending the violence - he faced a mission impossible. Three years of brutal civil war have smashed the country to bits, with major cities reduced to rubble. About 200,000 Syrians have died, eight million (out of a population of 22 million) are internally displaced, and three million are refugees in neighboring countries. The chaos has spawned ISIS. De Mistura's two predecessors, both distinguished diplomats, gave up after failing to jump-start a broad peace process in Geneva.
January 24, 2014 |
On a trip last month to the Turkish-Syrian border, I met an impressive young Syrian opposition journalist named Adnan Hadad, who had just fled Aleppo because he was being targeted by both the regime and al-Qaeda militants. When talks finally began in Switzerland Wednesday between the Syrian regime and opposition, a testy exchange between Hadad and Syrian Information Minister Omran Zoubi caught my eye. At a press conference, Hadad asked Zoubi to comment on the deadly barrel bombs being dropped by government planes on civilian neighborhoods in Aleppo.
December 23, 2013 |
GAZIANTEP, Turkey - The three young Syrian women had managed to escape from the rebel-held section of Aleppo for a few days' rest across the border in Turkey. Asma, 26, a university graduate in English literature, has been volunteering for the past two years as a nurse in a field hospital, treating civilian victims of the war, which has divided Aleppo into conflict zones held by the rebels and the regime. Salam, 30, and Islam, 28, sisters who were teachers before the war, are volunteers in an orphanage that shelters 650 children who lost parents in the fighting.
November 22, 2013 |
Two Syrian rebel commanders whom I interviewed a year ago have been in the news this month, and their stories are important. Abdul Kader Saleh, one of the most charismatic Syrian rebel leaders, was killed by a regime air strike in northern Syria last weekend. Saleh commanded the al-Tawheed Brigade, the most important rebel force in the crucial Aleppo region, with 10,000 fighters. His death came amid a wave of rebel setbacks, as regime forces advance on Aleppo. Then there is Col. Abdul Jabbar Akaidi, another key Aleppo commander, and a defector from the Syrian army, through whom U.S. officials had distributed much of the limited, nonlethal aid they provided to Syrian rebels in the north.
August 5, 2013 |
As brutal images of children killed in Syria's civil war flashed on a screen inside a gym at the Foundation for Islamic Education in Villanova on Saturday, a woman in a brilliant blue head scarf sat in the audience of 100 men and women and quietly sobbed. Born in Damascus 39 years ago, she lives in Valley Forge now, but still has family in the war-torn country. For reasons of their security, she asked to be identified only by her first name, Rabab. "I am a mother," Rabab said, explaining her tears.
July 15, 2013 |
BEIRUT, Lebanon - Western-backed opposition fighters and a faction of al-Qaeda-linked rebels turned their guns against each other Saturday in Syria's largest city, battling for control of a key checkpoint in the latest eruption of infighting among the forces trying to topple President Bashar al-Assad's regime, activists said. The clashes between rebels affiliated with the Free Syrian Army and fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant underscored the growing phenomenon of rebel-on-rebel violence that has sapped strength from the broader anti-Assad movement.
July 9, 2013 |
BEIRUT - Shells smashed into a central prison in the embattled Syrian city of Aleppo, killing prisoners, a rights group said Sunday, part of a long battle for control of the ancient city. The explosions killed six prisoners, said the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which communicates with a network of activists on the ground. The explosives hit Friday night, the Observatory said. It was not clear who fired the shells. In fighting across Syria, the group reported, about 70 soldiers and fighters were killed Sunday, as well as 40 civilians.
June 24, 2013 |
DAMASCUS, Syria - Suicide bombers targeted security compounds in Damascus and a car bomb exploded in a pro-regime district there Sunday, killing at least eight people, the latest in a surge of civil war violence in the capital. In northern Syria, a car bomb killed 12 soldiers in Aleppo, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which relies on a network of activists in Syria for information. It had no other details, and the government did not comment. In neighboring Lebanon, meanwhile, fierce clashes erupted between the Lebanese military and supporters of a hard-line Sunni Muslim cleric, in the latest spillover from Syria.
June 16, 2013 |
UNITED NATIONS - Syria's government used the nerve agent sarin on two occasions in the embattled city of Aleppo in March and April, according to a letter from a top U.S. diplomat that the Associated Press obtained Friday. The letter from U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also cited two other incidents of possible chemical weapons use by the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. The White House announced Thursday that it had firm evidence of chemical weapons use by Assad's regime, and U.S. officials said President Obama has authorized military aid to Syria's rebels.
June 15, 2013 |
BEIRUT - Hezbollah's leader vowed Friday that his militants would keep fighting in Syria "wherever needed" after the United States agreed to arm the rebels in the civil war, setting up a proxy fight between Iran and the West that threatens to engulf more of the Middle East. President Obama has deepened U.S. involvement in the conflict, authorizing lethal aid to the rebels for the first time after Washington said it had conclusive evidence the Syrian regime had used chemical weapons. Syria accused Obama of lying about the evidence, saying he was resorting to fabrications to justify his decision to arm the rebels.