BEIRUT (Reuters) – President Bashar al-Assad vowed on Friday to purge Syria of “extremist forces” he accused of assassinating a leading Sunni Muslim cleric who backed his two-year battle against rebels and protesters.
Assad made the pledge in a message of condolence over the death of Mohammed al-Buti, who was killed along with dozens of worshippers by an explosion in a Damascus mosque on Thursday.
BEIRUT (Reuters) – Syria’s government and rebels accused each other of firing a rocket loaded with chemical agents outside the northern city of Aleppo on Tuesday, an attack which a cabinet minister said killed 16 people and wounded 86.
President Bashar al-Assad, battling a two-year uprising against his rule, is widely believed to have a chemical arsenal.
BEIRUT/AMMAN (Reuters) – On a cold winter’s night in early 2011, some Syrian schoolboys drew a few slogans on a wall in a town the world had barely heard of. Two years on, more than 70,000 people have died in the bitter conflict that ensued, and calls for the West to give more help to the Syrian rebels are rising.
It was in the southern town of Deraa that 16-year-old Mohammad and five friends gathered to scrawl graffiti demanding the overthrow of President Bashar al-Assad, whose family had ruled the country for 40 years. They chose to vent their anger at the pervasive fear and repression in the country at their school in the Hay al-Arbeen district.
BEIRUT (Reuters) – U.N. peacekeepers monitoring the ceasefire line between Syria and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights have scaled back patrols after rebels detained 21 Filipino observers for three days last week, diplomats said on Thursday.
The seizure of the unarmed observers highlighted the vulnerability of the 1,000-strong U.N. Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF), whose mission began in 1974, to the growing violence in Syria.
BEIRUT (Reuters) – A group of 21 U.N. peacekeepers captured by Syrian rebels three days ago has been taken to the border with Jordan and was being handed over to Jordanian authorities, a rebel source and a violence monitoring group said on Saturday.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the Filipino monitors, who had been held in the village of Jamla since being captured by the rebel Martyrs of Yarmouk brigade on Wednesday, were taken to the border area by the insurgents. A Syrian rebel confirmed the peacekeepers had reached the frontier.
BEIRUT (Reuters) – A U.N. convoy sent to retrieve 21 Filipino peacekeepers captured by rebels in a southern Syrian village three days ago has been held up after one of its vehicles broke down, a Syrian rebel source said on Saturday.
But he said a ceasefire around the village of Jamla appeared to be holding and the convoy of seven U.N. vehicles, held up about 6 km (4 miles) northeast of Jamla, would still be able to collect the peacekeepers once it was mobile again.
BEIRUT (Reuters) – Intense Syrian army bombardment prevented a convoy of United Nations vehicles on Friday from reaching and retrieving 21 U.N. peacekeepers seized by rebels near the Golan Heights two days ago, a rebel spokesman said.
Abu Essam Taseel said the convoy had reached the village of Nafea, about a kilometer (half a mile) east of Jamla where the Filipino peacekeepers were held on Wednesday, but was unable to venture further because of the bombardment.
BEIRUT (Reuters) – Rebels holding 21 U.N. peacekeepers near the Golan Heights in southern Syria say government forces must leave the area before they free their “guests”, an activist in touch with the fighters said on Thursday.
Rami Abdelrahman of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights quoted a spokesman for the “Martyrs of Yarmouk” rebel brigade as saying the peacekeepers were being held as “guests” in the village of Jamla, about a mile from a ceasefire line with the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.
BEIRUT (Reuters) – Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces seized a village southeast of the city of Aleppo on Friday, reopening a supply line to the country’s biggest city where they have been battling rebels for eight months, a monitoring group said.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the capture of Tel Shghaib marked the last step to creating a land supply route north into Aleppo from Hama province, crucial for Assad’s forces who have lost control of part of the main north-south highway.
BEIRUT (Reuters) – A car bomb killed more than 50 people and wounded 200 in central Damascus on Thursday when it blew up on a busy highway close to ruling Baath Party offices and the Russian Embassy, state media and activists said.
Syrian television showed charred and bloodied bodies strewn across the street after the blast, which it described as a suicide bombing by “terrorists” battling President Bashar al-Assad. It said 53 people were killed.