AMMAN (Reuters) – Exiled opposition figure Moaz Alkhatib visited Syria on Sunday for the first time since fleeing last year, as rebels said President Bashar al-Assad’s forces embarked on counter-offensives in various parts of the country.
In the central city of Homs, heavy fighting broke out between loyalist forces and opposition brigades dug in preparation for an onslaught, opposition sources said.
AMMAN (Reuters) – Opposition leader Moaz Alkhatib visited rebel-held towns in north Syria for the first time on Sunday as rebel fighters seized an army outpost from President Bashar al-Assad’s forces outside the contested northern city of Aleppo, activists said.
The capture of the police academy at Khan al-Asal, used by Assad’s forces as an artillery base to support troops still holding around 40 percent of the northern city, came after days of fighting in which rebels killed 150 soldiers, while sustaining heavy casualties, they said.
ROME (Reuters) – The United States will send non-lethal aid directly to Syrian rebels for the first time, Secretary of State John Kerry said on Thursday, disappointing opponents of President Bashar al-Assad who are demanding Western weapons.
More than 70,000 Syrians have been killed in a devastating conflict that began with peaceful anti-Assad protests nearly two years ago. Some 860,000 have fled abroad and several million are displaced within the country or need humanitarian assistance.
ROME (Reuters) – The United States may provide medical supplies and food directly to Syrian rebels for the first time, and a European diplomat held out the prospect of possible Western military support.
The diplomat, speaking on the margins of a meeting in Rome between the Syria’s main civilian opposition and its Western and Arab backers, said the two sides would meet in Istanbul to discuss military and humanitarian support to the rebels.
ROME (Reuters) – The United States plans to provide medical supplies and food to Syrian fighters, a policy shift to directly help those battling President Bashar al-Assad’s forces on the ground, sources familiar with the matter said.
The sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the United States continues to oppose providing lethal assistance and said it also will not provide such items as bullet-proof vests, armored-personnel vehicles and military training for now.
AMMAN (Reuters) – Syrian rebels have captured the site of a suspected nuclear reactor near the Euphrates river which Israeli warplanes destroyed six years ago, opposition sources in eastern Syria said on Sunday.
Al-Kubar site, around 60 km (35 miles) west of the city of Deir al-Zor, became a focus of international attention when Israel raided it in 2007. The United States said the complex was a North Korean-designed nuclear reactor geared to making weapons-grade plutonium.
CAIRO (Reuters) – Syrian opposition leaders will meet in Istanbul on March 2 to choose a prime minister to head a provisional government that would operate in rebel-controlled areas of Syria, coalition officials said on Friday.
The move was aimed at halting a slide into chaos in regions captured by insurgent brigades and estimated to comprise over half of the country, although exiled coalition leaders exert little control or influence over rebels in Syria.
CAIRO (Reuters) – The opposition Syrian National Coalition is willing to negotiate a peace deal under U.S. and Russian auspices to end the country’s civil war but President Bashar al-Assad cannot be a party to any settlement, a communique drafted for an opposition meeting says.
The meeting of the 70-member Western, Arab and Turkish-backed coalition is taking place before Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem is due for talks in Moscow, one of Assad’s last foreign allies, and as U.N. mediator Lakhdar Brahimi renews efforts for a deal.
AMMAN (Reuters) – A Syrian missile killed at least 20 people in a rebel-held district of Aleppo on Tuesday, opposition activists said, as the army turns to longer-range weapons after losing bases in the country’s second-largest city.
The use of what opposition activists said was a large missile of the same type as Russian-made Scuds against an Aleppo residential district came after rebels overran army bases over the past two months from which troops had fired artillery.
AMMAN/BEIRUT (Reuters) – At least two Hezbollah guerrillas and five Syrian rebels have been killed in fighting in Syria on the border with Lebanon, Lebanese residents and Syrian opposition sources said on Sunday.
The clash between Lebanese Shi’ite Hezbollah and Sunni Muslim rebels, in a religiously-mixed area southwest of the city of Homs, shows a growing role for Hezbollah in Syria’s war, which is deepening the Middle East’s sectarian divide.