ALEPPO, Syria (Reuters) – A 13th century mosque is shuttered, its tottering minaret struck at the base by a shell. Snipers fire from nests atop the immense stone walls of the citadel, where ancient Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Arab and Turkish warriors once perched.
Until a few months ago, Old Aleppo was both a living museum and a breathing city, where souk shoppers haggled over spices, books and olive-oil soap beneath wrought-iron filigree balconies and wooden lattice screens.
AZAZ, Syria (Reuters) – Standing in the wreckage of his home, destroyed in an air strike two hours before, Abu Badri surveyed the damage as relatives scoured the rubble for any valuables they could retrieve.
“We’ll have to find a tent to stay in near the border with Turkey. What else can we do?” said the 38-year-old man, walking on a pile of broken concrete under a collapsed roof.
MOSCOW/AZAZ, Syria, Dec 29 (Reuters) – The international
mediator touting a peace plan for Syria warned on Saturday of
“hell” if the warring sides shun talks, and Moscow accused
enemies of President Bashar al-Assad of blocking negotiations.
U.N.-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi said in Moscow that
responsible people inside and outside Syria should “help the
Syrians stop their descent into more and more bloodshed, into
more and more chaos and perhaps a failed state”.
ALEPPO PROVINCE, Syria/BEIRUT (Reuters) – Syria’s opposition leader has rejected an invitation from Russia for peace talks, dealing another blow to international hopes that diplomacy can be resurrected to end a 21-month civil war.
Russia, President Bashar al-Assad’s main international protector, said on Friday it had sent an invitation for a visit to Moaz Alkhatib, whose six-week-old National Coalition opposition group has been recognized by most Western and Arab states as the legitimate voice of the Syrian people.
ALEPPO PROVINCE, Syria/MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia invited the leader of Syria’s opposition on Friday to visit for the first time, but the opposition swiftly dismissed a renewed call by Moscow for talks with President Bashar al-Assad’s government to end the 21-month civil war.
With the rebels advancing over the second half of 2012, diplomats have been searching for months for signs that Assad’s main international backer, Moscow, will withdraw its protection.
ALEPPO PROVINCE, Syria, Dec 27 (Reuters) – After months of
air raids and artillery shelling, some inhabitants of northern
Syria are returning to their stricken homes to clear the rubble
and rebuild, despite fear that President Bashar al-Assad’s
forces will strike again.
One town visited by a Reuters correspondent near the Turkish
border was largely abandoned two months ago after relentless
bombardment reduced buildings to piles of masonry. A local
activist said around 200 people were killed there.
AZAZ, Syria (Reuters) – After losing three sons and two grandsons, 70-year-old Abdelhalim Haj Omar has no doubt about the fate he wants for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
“I hope Bashar, God willing, doesn’t die until they slaughter his whole family in front of him and they bring him here so that all of Syria can get their revenge from him,” he says in the Syrian town of Azaz, on the border with Turkey.
BAB AL-SALAMEH, Syria (Reuters) – Huddled inside thin plastic tents in a makeshift camp after fleeing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s bombs thousands of refugees say they face a new enemy. “The cold is killing us,” many of them say.
Having survived a conflict in which more than 40,000 people are estimated to have been killed, refugees at the Bab al-Salameh camp on the Syrian-Turkish border say the winter is now a bigger threat to them than the violence engulfing their country.
ALEPPO COUNTRYSIDE, Syria (Reuters) – Syrian rebels are surrounding bases and military airports loyal to President Bashar al-Assad across the northern province of Aleppo, a commander said, but are struggling to counter attacks from jet fighters which can fly even from besieged airfields.
Colonel Abdel-Jabbar Oqaidi, who heads the rebels’ military council in the province, also told Reuters that his forces are fighting without any help from the Western and Arab governments which want Assad removed from power.
HAWA, Syria (Reuters) – Syrian rebels have seized a military base in the country’s north, capturing weapons they hope will repel air raids by President Bashar al-Assad’s forces, rebels said on Sunday.
Under cover of rain and fog, Col. Anas Ibrahim Abu Zeid led 200 fighters in a four-hour operation to take over the 135 Infantry Brigade base in the village of Hawa, a mostly Kurdish area in northern Aleppo province, on Saturday, they said, as they showed the base to journalists.