June 21, 2013 |
BEIRUT - Syria's rebels have received shipments of more powerful weapons from Persian Gulf allies in recent weeks, particularly antitank and antiaircraft missiles, that have already helped stall aggressive new advances by regime forces. But those same shipments have sparked feuding and squabbling among rebel factions, illustrating the complications the United States will face as it starts directly arming the rebels, a major policy shift by the Obama administration. Every shipment enters a tangle of complex rebel politics, with dozens of brigades and battalions operating on the ground, riven by jealousies, rivalries and competition, with radical Islamist fighters dominant.
March 7, 2013 |
GAZIANTEP, Turkey - Syrian rebels abducted 21 U.N. observers from the Golan Heights on Wednesday and threatened to hold them until the Syrian government withdraws its troops from the area, marking the most serious escalation of the conflict yet along Syria's southern border with Israel. The abductions came amid word of another grim milestone in Syria's humanitarian crisis: The number of U.N.-registered refugees now exceeds one million - half of them children - described by an aid worker as a "human river" of thousands spilling out of the war-ravaged country every day. Nearly four million of Syria's 22 million people have been driven from their homes by war. Of the displaced, two million have sought cover in camps and makeshift shelters across Syria, one million have registered as refugees in Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, and Egypt, and several hundred thousand fled the country but have not signed up with the U.N. refugee agency.
March 26, 2013 |
BEIRUT - A rebel military leader who was among the first to call openly for armed insurrection against President Bashar al-Assad was wounded by a bomb planted in his car in eastern Syria, rebels and activists said Monday. Col. Riad al-Asaad, leader of a now-sidelined rebel umbrella group known as the Free Syrian Army, had his right foot amputated after the blast late on Sunday, according to an activist in the town of Mayadeen where the attack took place. Louay Almokdad, a rebel spokesman, confirmed the attack to the Associated Press by phone and said the extent of the injury meant that amputation was likely, though he had not received confirmation it had been carried out. He said the colonel was in stable condition in Turkey.
December 10, 2012 |
Now that the U.S. elections are over, the Obama administration is applying a full-court press for a political solution in Syria. Finally. But U.S. officials still refuse to openly engage with, or give military aid to, Syrian rebel commanders, who will exercise major influence after the fall of Bashar al-Assad. Instead, the Obama team has been outsourcing the role of aiding military rebels to Saudi Arabia and the tiny Gulf emirate of Qatar, with the Saudis now taking the lead. At a meeting last week in Antalya, Turkey, more than 300 commanders from the rebel Free Syrian Army agreed under pressure from Saudi Arabia and Qatar to form a unified command structure, in return for promises they would get more advanced weapons.
February 2, 2013 |
BEIRUT - Syrian opposition leaders and rebels on Friday slammed President Bashar al-Assad for not responding to a rare Israeli air strike near Damascus, calling it proof of his weakness and acquiescence to Israel. The opposition's sharp reaction underlines how those seeking to topple the Syrian leader might be more prepared to tangle with Israel if they came to power. Wednesday's air strike that U.S. officials say hit a convoy of antiaircraft weapons bound for the militant Lebanese Hezbollah group also has fueled rage among many Syrians who say they now must fear warplanes from both Assad's forces and Israel.
September 10, 2012 |
AMMAN, Jordan - A car bomb ripped through Syria's largest city of Aleppo on Sunday, killing at least 17 people and wounding 40 in one of the main battlegrounds of the country's civil war, state-run media said. State-run TV aired footage of fire trucks trying to extinguish the blaze and rescue workers digging through mounds of rubble. Aleppo's governor, Mohammed Wahid Akkad, was quoted by Syria's official news agency, SANA, as saying the 17 dead were civilians. The fight for Aleppo, a city of three million that was once a bastion of support for President Bashar al-Assad, is critical for both the regime and the opposition.
March 10, 2013 |
UNITED NATIONS - All 21 U.N. peacekeepers being held by Syrian rebels for three days were set free Saturday before safely crossing the border into Jordan, according to senior U.N. officials and rebel commanders. The development marked the end of one of the most dramatic U.N. hostage crises in years, and it followed days of negotiations to secure the release of the Filipino blue helmets against a backdrop of fighting between Syrian forces and rebel fighters. "The armed group that had detained the 21 peacekeepers transported them to the Jordanian border, where they were met by Jordanian officials," said Josephine Guerrero, a spokeswoman for the U.N. Department of Peacekeeping.
July 11, 2013 |
BEIRUT - A bomb detonated in a supermarket parking lot in the mostly Shiite southern suburbs of Beirut on Tuesday, injuring at least 18 people and stirring fears that sectarian tensions unleashed by the conflict in neighboring Syria are reaching Lebanon's capital. The Bir al-Abed area, where the explosion occurred, is a stronghold for the Shiite Hezbollah group, Lebanon's most powerful political and military force. The attack came after weeks of rising tensions spurred by the group's deepening entanglement in the Syrian war. Live footage from the scene showed blazing fires, a huge cloud of smoke and a six-foot-wide crater in the ground.
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.
November 5, 2012 |
BAB AL-SALAMEH, Syria - Walking from Turkey into Syria at the Bab al-Salameh gate takes you down a long, desolate road flanked by high walls and barbed wire. Just beyond the barbed wire sits the Kilis refugee camp, holding thousands of desperate families who fled the bombs and shelling in towns just beyond the border. I crossed with staff from the Syrian Support Group, a Syrian American organization working to help officers of the Free Syrian Army set up a more coherent structure.