MERCY Corps is helping the thousands who have fled civil war to a makeshift desert city.
Making his way across the desolate land, a sea of small white dots slowly starts to become visible.
Leena and her young son
For the last few miles, Andras Beszterczey has been confronted with nothing but flat, open desert as far as the eye can see.
As he moves closer to Za’atari – the large Syrian refugee camp in Jordan, near the city of Mafraq – he realises that the tiny white dots he spotted in the distance were in fact endless rows of tents, which have been erected in preparation for the thousands of distraught Syrian families whose lives have been turned upside down by the country’s civil war.
“It’s completely desolate in one way because all you have are these tents, which at the time had been there for a week or even less but were already falling down and looked like they had been there for a year,” said the 25-year-old Middle East programme officer with Mercy Corps, as he recalls his first trip to the camp with the Edinburgh-based charity earlier this year. Continue reading →
Syrian activists say a string of government airstrikes on rebel areas in the country’s north has killed at least 20 people, leveled buildings and forced residents to dig through mounds of rubble in search of survivors.
The activists say the strikes happened late Wednesday and early today and hit a total of four towns in Idlib and Aleppo provinces.
They say residents are searching through the rubble in some of the towns, while in others the dead were buried before being identified.
Videos of the strikes posted online show leveled buildings and survivors pulling bodies from the debris.
Activist claims and videos could not be independently verified.
President Bashar Assad’s forces have increasingly relied on air power as the rebels have improved their fighting capabilities on the ground.
DAMASCUS, Syria — International peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, who is trying to secure a truce in Syria for the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, will arrive in Damascus on Saturday, the foreign ministry said.
Men gather amid heavy shelling damage in Aleppo (AFP, Fabio Bucciarelli)
“Brahimi will meet with Foreign Minister Walid Muallem on Saturday morning,” ministry spokesman Jihad Maqdisi told AFP.
Brahimi called on Monday for a temporary ceasefire in Syria during the four-day Eid al-Adha holiday starting on October 26.
The veteran diplomat’s visit to Damascus will be his last stop on a tour of countries that play influential roles in the crisis.
Amateur video posted from Syria’s largest city showed what anti-Assad activists claim was the aftermath of an airstrike in Aleppo’s Sha’ar district. They also claim that as the residents searched for survivors another blast struck nearby. (Oct. 17)
Human rights groups working inside Syria estimate that between 28,000 to 80,000 Syrians have been forcibly disappeared by the Assad regime over the past 19 months. This comes as Avaaz today releases testimony from family members who have had husbands, sons and daughters forcibly disappeared by the regime.
This practice continues. Here are three recent cases reported to Avaaz by family members of those disappeared:
Roula*, a woman from Homs, was snatched by security forces while out buying groceries in September 2012.
Mohammad Abdulrahman*, a peaceful Homs activist, was dragged out of his home in front of his wife and young children in September 2012.
Abu Yaser*, a farmer, was taken at a military checkpoint in August 2012 on his way to buy heating fuel.
Alice Jay, Campaign Director at Avaaz, said: “Syrians are being plucked off the street by Syrian security forces and paramilitaries and being ‘disappeared’ into torture cells. Whether it is women buying groceries or farmers going for fuel, nobody is safe. This is a deliberate strategy to terrorise families and communities — the panic of not knowing whether your husband or child is alive breeds such fear that it silences dissent. The fate of each and every one of these people must be investigated and the perpetrators punished.”
Renowned human rights lawyers and research groups in Syria have given a range of estimates on the total number of forced disappearances since the uprising began in March 2011. Continue reading →
Syrian forces on Wednesday bombarded opposition belts in the country’s battle-scarred north, as both sides indicated they are ready to explore a truce proposal floated by peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi.
Warplanes targeted a rebel blockade of a highway in Idlib province which has halted the regime’s efforts to get reinforcements to Aleppo, theatre of intense fighting for the past three months, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
The early morning air raids also targeted the Idlib town of Maaret al-Numan and nearby villages, which fell to the rebels a week ago as they pushed their quest to create a northern “buffer zone” abutting Turkey, the watchdog said.
The fighting raged even as Brahimi, who arrived in Beirut on Wednesday on the latest leg of his regional tour aimed at ending the conflict in Syria, appeared to have won tentative support from both sides for a ceasefire during the four-day Eid al-Adha Muslim holiday starting on October 26. Continue reading →
Left on its current course, America’s sensibly cautious policy toward Syria is unfortunately going to come to an unhappy end: The jihadist wing of the opposition will just get stronger and gain more power to shape Syria’s future.
But what’s the right alternative? How can the United States help the Syrian opposition while avoiding another costly military intervention in the Muslim world?
I’ve been puzzling over this dilemma since traveling into Syria two weeks ago with the Free Syrian Army. “Be careful” still seems like the right watchword for U.S. policy in an unstable, revolutionary situation where order could collapse like a Levantine version of “pick-up sticks.” But caution doesn’t mean inaction, and some modest changes in U.S. policy could make a big difference in outcome.
The bedrock of U.S. interests in Syria is preventing any use or spread of its chemical weapons. President Bashar al-Assad is said to have relocated some of the weapons, and it won’t be easy monitoring them — or keeping them out of the hands of al-Qaeda terrorists, who would love to grab some free weapons of mass destruction if Assad should fall. Continue reading →
Malaysia has called on Turkey and Syria to resolve their differences peacefully without resorting to any military action, a statement by the Malaysia’s Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday.
The statement noted that Malaysia’s permanent representative to the United Nations, Hussein Haniff, joined the international community in urging restraint between the countries after shelling along the Turkish-Syrian border intensified.
“We believe that resorting to military action would worsen the situation,” the Malaysian diplomat said, adding that “Malaysia believes that a solution to the conflict in Syria itself should be a Syrian-led process in order for it to be sustainable in the long run.”
Relations between Turkey and Syrian became strained after Oct. 3, when cross-border fighting with Syria intensified in the border town of Akçakale. Mortar shells from Syrian soil striking the Turkish town Syrian forces left five people dead and several injured. Turkey subsequently closed its airspace to Syrian flights. Before that two aircraft — one flying from Moscow and the other from Yerevan to Syria – were forced to land in Turkey.