BEIRUT (Reuters) – Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces have taken control of a highway connecting Damascus to the coast that is needed to extract hundreds of tons of toxic chemicals for destruction, state television said on Monday.
Nevertheless, Ahmet Uzumcu, head of the global chemical weapons watchdog, said it would be hard to remove all of Syria’s deadliest chemical arms from the country by a December 31 deadline.
TRIPOLI, Lebanon (Reuters) – Clashes resumed on Tuesday between Lebanese militias who back opposing sides of Syria’s war and 21 fighters were arrested by the army as it pursued a six-month-long mandate to end bloodshed battering the city of Tripoli.
The conflict between the majority Sunni Muslim Bab al-Tabbaneh district and the adjacent Alawite neighborhood of Jebel Mohsen in Tripoli has killed over 100 people this year. But residents, fighters and a local politician told Reuters on Tuesday it was unlikely to end soon despite army efforts.
ARSAL, Lebanon (Reuters) – White tents with “The U.N. Refugee Agency” written on them flap in the wind outside the Lebanese mountain town of Arsal. Children run past latrines and water points. In all respects, it is a refugee camp, but you must not call it that, say officials.
The site is home to about 350 people who have fled the civil war in neighboring Syria – the first officially U.N.-run plot set up for displaced Syrians in Lebanon, complete with running water, toilets and other services.
BEIRUT (Reuters) – Syrian forces went on the offensive on Saturday against rebels positioned along a major highway linking the capital with the coast, rebels said, a strategic road that is likely to be used to extract chemical weapons from the country.
The road passes through the mountainous area of Qalamoun, roughly 50 km (30 miles) north of Damascus, a region that stretches along the Lebanese border and is one of Syria’s most heavily militarized districts.
BEIRUT (Reuters) – Some Syrians say outrage over the sentencing of a teenage girl was a spark that started the country’s two-and-a-half year revolt.
A month before protests started in March 2011, Tal al-Mallohi – a 19-year-old who blogged about wanting to shape her country’s future – was sentenced to five years in jail on charges of spying.
BEIRUT (Reuters) – An estimated $1.3 million worth of art from more than 130 artists, mostly from Syria and Lebanon, is being auctioned at below-gallery prices in Beirut to raise money for Syrian refugee children.
“This is first time that you have so many artists from the Middle East mobilize for a cause,” said Noura Jumblatt, president of the Lebanese Beiteddine festival and wife of Druze leader Walid Jumblatt.
BEIRUT (Reuters) – Residents of a Syrian town besieged by President Bashar al-Assad’s forces appealed to the world to “save us from death” in an open letter describing desperate conditions and suffering.
Hundreds of men, women and children in Mouadamiya had died and thousands had been wounded, they said.
BEIRUT (Reuters) – Nine Lebanese citizens held by rebels in northern Syria since May 2012 have been released, caretaker Lebanese Interior Minister Marwan Charbel told Reuters on Friday.
Eleven Lebanese Shi’ites were seized last year by the Northern Storm brigade while on their way home from a pilgrimage to Shi’ite religious sites in Iran, their families said. Two were later released.
BEIRUT/GENEVA (Reuters) – Four of seven aid workers abducted in Syria have been freed, the Red Cross said on Monday, but there was no word on the fate of the other three whose kidnapping highlights the risk to continuing humanitarian work in a country fragmented by war.
Robert Mardini, head of ICRC operations for the Near and Middle East, said in a tweet the four were “safe and sound” after their abduction on Sunday.
BEIRUT (Reuters) – Syrian rebels killed at least 190 civilians and took more than 200 hostage during an offensive in Latakia province in August, Human Rights Watch said on Friday, in what it calls the first evidence of crimes against humanity by opposition forces.
HRW said many of the dead had been executed by militant groups, some linked to al Qaeda, who overran army positions at dawn on August 4 and then moved into 10 villages nearby where members of President Bashar al-Assad’s Alawite sect lived.