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Wasting No Time, Putin Strikes Syria

But no one's sure if he's targeting ISIS

(Newser) - Russian lawmakers gave Vladimir Putin the thumbs-up to conduct airstrikes in Syria on Wednesday, and the president didn't waste any time. Giving the US Embassy in Baghdad just an hour's notice, Russian military aircraft started the strikes near the city of Homs in western Syria, a senior US... More »

Symbolic Assad Win: Rebels Flee Revolution's 'Capital'

Evacuations take place under new ceasefire

(Newser) - The central city of Homs was once known as the "capital of the revolution" against Syria's Bashar al-Assad, notes the BBC . No more: Buses began evacuating fighters and anti-government civilians from some of their last strongholds today, a move that marks "a de-facto end of the rebellion... More »

Priest Who Dug in With Homs 'Flock' Killed

He refused to leave rebel-held area

(Newser) - An elderly Dutch priest who refused to leave the embattled city of Homs while Christians remained has become yet another victim of the country's civil war. Frans Van der Lugt, who was in his 70s, was shot dead by unknown gunmen at his home in a rebel-held district of... More »

UN Rescue Operation Shot At in Homs

Accusations fly over attack as new ceasefire negotiated

(Newser) - A UN convoy seeking to bring aid to, and evacuate civilians from the rebel-held "Old City" section of Homs came under mortar and sniper fire yesterday, in violation of a negotiated ceasefire. At least four civilians awaiting evacuation were killed in the attack, but the convoy ultimately managed to... More »

Syria Rebel Filmed Biting Into Soldier's Heart

Human Rights Watch calls it a war crime

(Newser) - A Syrian rebel has been caught on video apparently cutting a dead soldier's heart from his body then taking a bite from it. "I swear to God we will eat your hearts and your livers, you soldiers of Bashar the dog," says the rebel, identified by Human... More »

Syrian Rebels Seize Key Provincial City

Fighters smash statue of President Assad's father

(Newser) - Syrian rebels today captured most of the key north-central city of Raqqa, possibly dashing President Bashar al-Assad's hope of ever reclaiming northern and eastern Syria, the New York Times reports. The rebels posted a video of them destroying a statue of al-Assad's father—former President Hafez al-Assad—in... More »

106 Dead in New Syria Massacre

Burned bodies point to pro-Assad militia

(Newser) - Forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad appear to have carried out another massacre, killing 106 people in Homs this week, reports Reuters . While it is unclear whether the killings were done by the Syrian military or a militia loyal to Assad, activists pointed out Homs has been the center... More »

Report: US Suspects Syria Used Chemical Weapons

State Department cable makes the case, says 'Foreign Policy'

(Newser) - Did Bashar al-Assad already use chemical weapons on his own people? A secret State Department cable obtained by Foreign Policy makes the case that a Syrian tank fired a shell loaded with a poison gas known as Agent 15 during fighting in Homs on Dec. 23. Doctors say five people... More »

Assad Willing to Use Chemical Weapons

Indeed, defector Nawaf Fares thinks he may have already

(Newser) - Bashar al-Assad is a "wounded wolf and cornered," and hence is ready, and probably willing, to use his stash of chemical weapons , according to Nawaf Fares, Syria's ex-ambassador to Iraq and its highest-level official to defect so far. "There is information, unconfirmed information of course, that... More »

Dozens Defect Syrian Army as Rebels Cry Genocide

Europe calls for measured response to downed Turkish plane

(Newser) - The Syrian military has been hit with a raft of new defections: Six officers and 33 soldiers today quit the country for Turkey. Reports suggest they brought their families along, bringing the total number to 224 people. Accounts differ as to whether the defectors included an army general. They add... More »

11 Dead as Syria Shells Homs

'Clear escalation' since UN pullout, say activists

(Newser) - A day after the UN abandoned its mission in Syria , Bashar al-Assad's troops are turning up the heat in Homs, riddling the city with shelling that activists say has killed at least 11 so far. "Around 85% of Homs is now under shelling or bombardment with mortar rounds... More »

Syria Used Human Shields to Raid City: Activists

Damascus suburb of Douma reportedly site of 'raid-and-arrest spree'

(Newser) - Things are reportedly getting worse in Homs—and the towns of Al-Haffa and Rastan and the Damascus suburb of Douma aren't being spared, either, according to activists. A rundown of the latest from Syria:
  • The opposition reports that "civilians are being used as human shields to complete the
... More »

UN Enters Alleged Syria Massacre Site

Reporter calls scene 'ghastly' but says no bodies have been spotted

(Newser) - Things just keep getting worse in Syria: Activists say the government is shelling Homs again, possibly in preparation for a large troop surge. But UN monitors have finally made it to the site of the alleged massacre in Qubair, after being waylaid and shot at yesterday, reports Sky News . "... More »

Fulbright Scholar Killed Filming Syria Violence

Activist returned to homeland to document uprising

(Newser) - Syracuse University is mourning a graduate film student who returned to his homeland of Syria to document the country's uprising. Bassel Al Shahade, 28, was killed while filming attacks by government forces in the embattled city of Homs, reports the Post-Standard . Associates say Shahade, a Fulbright scholar, was a... More »

UN Confirms: 90 Civilians Killed in Syria Massacre

Reports say about 25 children are among the dead

(Newser) - Six weeks after a supposed cease-fire, the UN has confirmed that pro-government forces killed at least 90 civilians yesterday, including more than two dozen children, reports the BBC . The violence took place in and around the town of Houla, near Homs, after an anti-government protest. About a dozen people were... More »

Syrian Ceasefire Blows Up

Regime uses helicopters and tanks, but says it's responding to opposition

(Newser) - Syria's tattered ceasefire appears to have basically collapsed, with activists accusing the regime of rampant and brazen violations yesterday, including sending helicopters to fire on rebels holed up in mountain villages, and shelling at least two cities, the New York Times reports. They reported death tolls as high as... More »

UN Monitors Arrive as Syria Shells Homs

'Ceasefire,' Syria style

(Newser) - The first UN monitors have arrived in Syria just as the promised ceasefire appears to be going up in smoke with the government's shelling of Homs. Some 25 were killed in attacks yesterday, reports the BBC . Six UN observers have arrived in Damascus. The remaining 25 are expected to... More »

On Day 3 of Ceasefire, Shelling Hits Syrian City

Activists report attacks as UN prepares to vote

(Newser) - Syrian troops and rebel gunmen carried out attacks across Syria today, killing at least nine people in a surge of violence that threatened a UN-brokered ceasefire. The bloodshed came as the Security Council considered whether to send the first wave of military observers to monitor the fragile truce. The heaviest... More »

Syria Changes Ceasefire, Shells Towns

Regime concocts new condition, demands monitoring mission

(Newser) - Today was supposed to be the ceasefire deadline in Syria, but Bashar al-Assad's regime has done anything but cease its fire. Instead, it suddenly laid out new conditions, demanding that the ceasefire coincide with a deployment of a new international monitoring mission, the Wall Street Journal reports. Syrian forces... More »

Turkey Closes Syria Embassy

And agrees with the US to provide 'nonlethal' aid

(Newser) - Turkey shut down its embassy in Syria today, and plans to join with the US to provide “nonlethal” aid to Syria's rebels. White House officials tell the New York Times that the two nations will provide things like communication equipment and medical supplies directly to opposition groups, and... More »

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