BEIRUT/ARBIL (Reuters) – With a string of military gains across northeastern Syria, a Kurdish militia is solidifying a geographic and political presence in the war-torn country, posing a dilemma for regional powers.
Long oppressed under Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his father before him, Kurds view the civil war as an opportunity to gain the kind of autonomy enjoyed by their ethnic kin in neighboring Iraq.
BEIRUT (Reuters) – Syria’s armed forces said on Friday they had captured a strategic northern town at the eastern gates of Aleppo, the former commercial hub long the scene of fierce fighting between government and rebel fighters.
The town of Safira lies on a road the army said would be used to send in medicine and supplies to government-controlled areas of Aleppo, mired in a bloody stalemate for over a year. It is also the site of a chemical weapons installation under government control and cleared of equipment.
BEIRUT (Reuters) – The United Nations envoy to Syria said on Friday there would be no preconditions for long-delayed peace talks, an assertion likely to anger an opposition movement that says it will only attend if the goal is to remove President Bashar al-Assad.
Lakhdar Brahimi said he hoped the conference – known as Geneva 2 – could still be held in the next few weeks despite obstacles that have held it up for months.
BEIRUT (Reuters) – International envoy Lakhdar Brahimi held talks in Damascus on Monday at the end of a Middle East tour to promote a Syrian peace conference, but regional tensions have cast a pall over his mission.
Brahimi visited capitals across the Middle East to discuss plans for the “Geneva 2″ meeting, tentatively set for November 23, to try to halt more than 2-1/2 years of bloodshed in Syria.
BEIRUT (Reuters) – Lebanon, which hosts more than 700,000 Syrian refugees, said on Friday it would vaccinate all children under five against polio after suspected cases of the crippling viral disease were found in neighboring Syria.
The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Thursday at least 22 people had acute flaccid paralysis, a symptom of diseases including polio, in Syria’s eastern Deir al-Zor province, which borders Iraq, most of them children.
BEIRUT (Reuters) – Syria’s army has sealed the few remaining smuggling routes into the besieged eastern suburbs of Damascus, activists and aid workers said on Wednesday, tightening a chokehold on rebel-held areas near the capital.
Activists inside the Eastern Ghouta region, a semicircle of rural towns outside Damascus, said no food or supplies had entered the region in days. They said the army began intensifying its blockade over a week ago.
BEIRUT (Reuters) – Syrian rebels blew up an army checkpoint outside Damascus on Saturday and more than 30 combatants from both sides died in the blast and ensuing clashes, a monitoring group said.
The pro-opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 15 rebels and at least 16 soldiers were killed.
BEIRUT (Reuters) – Powerful Syrian insurgent units have rejected the authority of the opposition Syrian National Coalition (SNC), badly damaging efforts by Western-backed political exiles to forge a moderate rebel military force on the ground.
Thirteen groups, including at least three previously considered part of the coalition’s military wing, the Free Syrian Army (FSA), signed a statement calling for the opposition to President Bashar al-Assad to be reorganised under an Islamic framework and to be run only by groups fighting inside Syria.
BEIRUT (Reuters) – Hunger is a growing threat to Syrians living in regions hit by the civil war and children are now dying of malnutrition, according to aid groups and activists.
Cases of malnutrition in Syria are still rare but they were unheard before the revolt against President Bashar al-Assad broke out in March 2011.
BEIRUT (Reuters) – Syrian refugees in Lebanon are becoming increasingly reliant on child labor to earn money for families now desperate to maintain basic necessities, the director of the United Nations children’s agency said.
Unlike other host countries, Lebanon has no formal camps to offer a safety net for Syrian refugees. Many are working to provide their own food, clean water and shelter, and children risk being pulled out of school and into the workforce.