Syria exiled opposition to snub Moscow peace talks

Khaled Khoja, the head of the Syrian National Coalition, center, speaks during a press conference in Istanbul, Turkey

Syria’s exiled opposition announced Saturday that it had declined an invitation from Russia to attend peace talks in Moscow with representatives of President Bashar al-Assad’s government.

A Russian foreign ministry spokesman told AFP this week Syrian government and opposition representatives would meet for peace talks in Moscow on April 6.

But the exiled Syrian National Coalition said it had discussed the invitation during a meeting of its members in Istanbul and “decided not to take part in the Moscow 2” talks.

Despite this, a coalition source told AFP the invitation was in itself “a major development” because it indicated that key Assad ally Russia “recognizes the Coalition”.

“There is no reason to attend the meeting in Moscow, especially when we see attempts on the part of the regime’s allies, including Russia and Iran to place Assad center-stage again,” Anas al-Abdo told AFP, reiterating rejection of “any political transition that would include Assad”.

The National Coalition is the key political representative of Syria’s opposition and is officially recognized by much of the international community.

It has participated in several rounds of failed peace talks, including two in Geneva, and insists that Assad must step down.

In January, Russia hosted talks aimed at finding a solution to the four-year-old conflict in Syria that was not attended by the National Coalition.

A domestic opposition group tolerated by Assad’s government did take part, however, alongside an official Syrian delegation, but the discussions ended with no concrete results.

Earlier this month Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said members of the National Coalition were “considering coming to Moscow” for the next meeting.

But Abdo on Saturday expressed concern at what he saw as an attempt to override what was said in Geneva.

He said the Coalition had decided to boycott the Moscow talks because of “the lack of a clear agenda, the absence a clear point of reference for anything that might be decided and the Coalition’s refusal to engage in dialogue with the regime if this is not part of a transition process”.

More than 215,000 people have been killed since the conflict began, nearly a third of them civilians, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group.

(Source / 21.03.2015)

Syrian Coalition Decides Not to Go to Moscow II

The General Assembly’s 20th meeting continues for the second day in the headquarters of the General Secretariat in Istanbul. The upcoming Arab summit to be held in Egypt on March 28th, and the Moscow II conference topped the discussions of the meeting.

The General Assembly assigned the Presidential Body, in consultation with the Syrian Coalition’s office in Cairo, to follow-up on the participation of the Syrian Coalition in the upcoming Arab summit.

The General Assembly also reviewed the letter addressed to the Syrian Coalition by the Russian Foreign Ministry, and decided not to participate in the upcoming Moscow II meeting, scheduled to be held in early April. However, it praised Russian position for not using the veto during the vote on the UN Security Council Resolution 2209 which criminalizes the use of chemical weapons in Syria. Members of the General Assembly pointed to a development in the Russian position which showed more recognition of the Syrian Coalition than it showed prior to the Moscow I meeting.

The Syrian Coalition’s General Assembly began its 20th regular meeting in Istanbul yesterday, where they discussed the field situation in Syria, the implications of the regime’s latest chemical attack on Sarmin, and the new international initiatives put forward on Syria, including the upcoming Cairo and Moscow meetings scheduled to be held next month.

The conferees also reviewed reports submitted by the presidential body, the Interim Ministry of Defense and the FSA’s General Staff and the recommendations of the political committee. Among the topics that are going to be discussed during the next two days of the meeting are the presidential body’s recent foreign tours, the general situation in northeastern Syria and the challenges facing the revolution as it enters its fifth year.

President Khoja said that the Stafan de Mistura’s “freeze” plan has failed, and that now he is preparing a new plan to reignite the political process aimed at reaching a political solution to the conflict.

(Source: Syrian Coalition / 21.03.2015)

15 killed in Assad regime attack on mosque

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At least 15 people were killed when Syrian regime air forces targeted a mosque during Friday prayers in the northern province of Idlib, the Syrian Revolution General Commission said.

The commission also said that dozens were wounded in the attack on the village of Muntif.

Amnesty International had recently criticised the Assad regime for targeting civilians and said that attacks should be investigated as war crimes.

The Syrian civil war, which entered its fifth year this month, has claimed more than 220,000 lives so far, according to the UN.

(Source / 20.03.2015)

Rebels Capture 12 Pro-Regime Foreign Militants Near Aleppo

Rebels shelled regime positions on the outskirts of Idlib and in the Al-Mastuma army base, killing seven pro-Assad militants and wounding dozens more.

They also captured 12 pro-regime foreign militiamen, including an Iranian officer during clashes in northern Aleppo. Dozens of pro-Assad militiamen were killed or injured during the clashes, with reports of the death of a senior Hezbollah commander who was leading the regime’s military campaign on Aleppo.

(Source: Syrian Coalition + Smart News / 20.03.2015)

Del Ponte: President al-Assad is the only partner to have political solution in Syria

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Geneva, SANA-Former Swiss Chief Prosecutor  Carla Del Ponte affirmed that President Bashar al-Assad is the only partner to reach a political solution to the crisis in Syria and end what is going on here.

“Solution is impossible without President al-Assad,” Del Ponte, also a member in the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria, told Swiss RTS TV in an interview broadcast on Wednesday, pointing out to “the President’s popular powerfulness on the ground.”

Del Ponte added that she joins many voices which believe that the sole solution to the crisis in Syria will be through dialogue and negotiation with the Syrian leadership, affirming “this is possible only in the presence of President al-Assad.

“President al-Assad enjoys a great power, without him, negotiation is impossible,” Del Ponte said, referring to the improvement of the situation in Syria.

(Source / 19.03.2015)

Political Committee Discuss Repercussions of Chemical Attack on Sarmin

Members of the Political Committee of discussed the repercussions of chemical attack carried out by the Assad regime on the town of Sarmin in rural Idlib in a meeting held yesterday and today at the headquarters of the General Secretariat in Istanbul.

The Syrian Coalition sent a letter to the UN Security Council concerning the Assad regime’s latest chlorine gas attack on the town of Sarmin in rural Idlib on Monday. At least six people were killed, and scores injured, with toddlers, of about three years of age, causing a large number of the victims.

The letter calls upon the UN Security Council to take enforceable measures to ensure the implementation of the relevant UN Security Council resolutions to stop the Assad regime from committing more crimes against the Syrian people, stressing the need for taking measures under Chapter VII of the UN Charter to ensure compliance by the Assad regime that has shown utter disregard for all international laws and norms.

The meeting also discussed the outcome of the Cairo and Moscow meetings, while Spokesman for the Syrian Coalition, Salem al-Meslet, stressed that the Syrian Coalition did not attend the Cairo meeting nor did it take part in the preparatory committee that emerged from the meeting, and that the participation of members of the Syrian Coalition in the meeting was not in their capacity as representatives of the Syrian Coalition, but attended personally.

(Source: Syrian Coalition / 19.03.2015)

Islamic State: Syria accused of bombing civilians in Raqqa

People inspect a mosque in Raqqa after it was hit in what activists said was a Syrian government air strike on 25 November 2014

A mosque was among buildings hit in air strikes in Raqqa in November

There is evidence the Syrian government has bombed civilians in the city of Raqqa, stronghold of Islamic State jihadists, Amnesty International says.

The group says that some of the attacks may amount to war crimes.

The Damascus government says it is attacking IS, but Amnesty said government aircraft had targeted areas densely populated with civilians.

Targets have included a mosque, a school and a market, with Amnesty noting a spike in November last year.

The government, it said, appeared “indifferent” to the carnage caused.

Last year was the deadliest in four years of conflict across Syria leaving more than 70,000 killed – most of whom were civilians.

Islamic State militants in Raqqa. File photo

Raqqa is the de facto capital of the self-proclaimed Islamic State caliphate

Government attacks and barrel bombs continue to cause the highest number of causalities in the country.

Both IS and the Syrian government have committed crimes against civilians in Syria, according to the report.

Amnesty International said a referral of the situation to the International Criminal Court could send a strong message to warring parties that they need to be brought to justice.

(Source / 18.03.2015)

Army establishes full control over Handarat in Aleppo, continues crackdown against terrorists in other areas

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Damascus, SANA-Units of the army and the armed forces on Wednesday launched successful military operations against the terrorist organizations in different areas, establishing full control over Handarat in Aleppo.

Aleppo

An army and armed forces unit established full control over Handarat area in the countryside of Aleppo province, after killing last remnants of terrorists in it, a military source told SANA.

Other units of the army and armed forces killed a number of terrorists in Hayyan, west of al-Nairab Airport area, surroundings of al-Mallah farms, Tal al-Madafeh and in Kafer Hamra village in the countryside of Aleppo province.

Earlier Tuesday, an army unit targeted terrorist organizations’ dens and movements in Handarat Camp in northeastern Aleppo, leaving many terrorists dead and their hideouts, weapons and ammunition destroyed, while another unit killed during a special operation many of terrorist organizations’ members and destroyed their ammo and weaponry in Bza’a city, 35 km northeast of Aleppo.

The army also killed many terrorists and destroyed their vehicles in Handarat camp, Rasm al-Aboud and al-Castillo in Aleppo countryside.

Idleb

The army targeted a den for terrorists from so-called “Ahrar al-Sham” organization, killing 16 of them in the surrounding of Binish in Idleb countryside.

The majority of the killed terrorists were of foreign nationalities. Yousef Kabala was identified among the dead terrorists.

The army also destroyed dens for terrorists and their vehicles in Binish, Samin and Sarakeb in Idleb countryside.

Units of the army and armed forces kill many terrorists in Ayn al-Barda, Jidar Bkafloun and Abu al-Duhour area in the countryside of the northern Idleb province.

Daraa

A unit of the army and armed forces carried out military operations against terrorists on Daraa-Khrab al-Shahm road, killing many terrorists and destroying 3 vehicles loaded with weapons and ammunition.

Another army unit killed scores of terrorists of the so-called “Liwa Shuhadaa al-Yarmouk” terrorist group and destroyed their weapons and ammunition in Sida village, about 10 km to the east of Daraa city.

Another army unit destroyed a gathering of terrorists, killing and wounding many of them, to the east of the
bridge of al-Ghariyeh al-Gharbiyeh village, which is located near the international highway in the northeastern countryside of Daraa.

Meanwhile, an army unit continued pursuing terrorists operating in Kafer Nasej village, killing a number of members from Jabhat al-Nusra and other terrorist organizations and destroying their weapons, ammunition and vehicles.

Other army units carried out a military operation to the south of Bilal al-Habashi Mosque and around al-Khalil Mosque in Daraa al-Balad in the city of Daraa. The operation resulted in the destruction of a number of the terrorists’ vehicles, while terrorists affiliated to Jabhat al-Nusra and the so-called “Liwa Tawhid al-Janoub”, “Mujahidi Horan Battalions” and “Madfaiyet Sijeel Battalion” were left dead and wounded.

“A concentrated operation targeted dens of terrorists in Khurbet al-Hajajieh to the north of Nawa city, killed and injured a number of “al-Nusra Front” terrorists and destroyed their arms and ammunitions”, a military source told SANA.

The source added that military operations resulted in killing a number of takfiri terrorists in strategic Tal Hamad area linking Nawa and al-Shaikh Miskeen cities.

“After pursuing terrorists’ movements, a unit of army and the armed forces destroyed gatherings of terrorists and killed a number of them between al-Gharia al-Gharbia and al-Gharia al-Sharqia to the north west of Daraa” the source noted.

A military source said Army and Armed Forces’ units killed many terrorists and destroyed mortar emplacements and motorcycles in Daraa al-Balad, Ataman, al-Nu’ima, Tafas and Dael in Daraa countryside.

Lattakia

The army destroyed a den for leaders of a terrorist group in Salma, Lattakia countryside.

Homs

The army killed a number of terrorists and destroyed a warehouse for weapons in Um Sahrij town in Homs countryside.

Earlier, Units of the army and armed forces destroyed terrorists’ hideouts and gatherings in al- Rastan and killed many terrorists from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in Jbab Hamad and Rahoum in the eastern countryside of the central province of Homs.

Hama

The army destroyed dens for terrorists in Akerbat, al-Qastal al-Wastani, al-Latamneh and Atshan in Hama countryside, killing many terrorists.

(Source / 18.03.2015)

Syrian Coalition Calls for Punishing Assad under Chapter VII of UN Charter

The Syrian Coalition sent a letter to the UN Security Council concerning the Assad regime’s latest chlorine gas attack on the town of Sarmin in rural Idlib on Monday. At least six people were killed, and scores injured, with toddlers, of about three years of age, making a large number of the victims.

The letter calls upon the UN Security Council to take enforceable measures to ensure the implementation of the relevant UN Security Council resolutions to stop the Assad regime from committing more crimes against the Syrian people, stressing the need for taking measures under Chapter VII of the UN Charter to ensure compliance by the Assad regime that has shown utter disregard for all international laws and norms.

The Syrian Coalition also calls for the imposition of a no-fly zone in northern and southern Syria to protect civilians from constant bombardment, and for providing humanitarian aid and the return of refugees to Syria, stressing the need to create the suitable conditions to fight the Assad regime and ISIS.
(Source: Syrian Coalition / 18.03.2015)

Syria air defense shoots down US drone

A US MQ-1 predator drone (file photo)

A US MQ-1 predator drone

A US drone has been shot down by Syria’s military over the coastal province of Latakia near a stronghold of President Bashar al-Assad, Syrian state media say.

“Syrian air defenses brought down a hostile US surveillance aircraft over north Latakia,” AFP quoted the official SANA news agency as saying on Tuesday.

Turkish military sources told the website of the Hürriyet newspaper that the aircraft was an unarmed American Predator drone, which had took off from the US Incirlik air base in Turkey’s southern province of Adana.

The Syrian state-run television has also broadcast footage of what it referred to as the drone’s wreckage, which was being loaded onto the back of a truck by soldiers.

The US military has confirmed that communication with an unarmed predator drone over northwest Syria was lost on Tuesday and that it is investigating claims that its unmanned aircraft was downed.

“We can confirm that at approximately 1:40 p.m. EDT today, U.S. military controllers lost contact with an U.S. MQ-1 Predator unarmed remotely piloted aircraft operating over northwest Syria… At this time, we have no information to corroborate press reports that the aircraft was shot down. We are looking into the incident and will provide more details when available,” a US official said.

If confirmed, the incident would be the first time Damascus has engaged a US aircraft over its airspace since the US-led military coalition began its so-called battle against the ISIL Takfiri terrorists in the Syrian territory in September 2014.

The coalition, which claims to have been targeting ISIL positions, has also attacked the provinces where the ISIL militants are not active and even hit Syrian infrastructure.

The US-led coalition’s airstrikes have failed to dislodge the terrorists.

Syria has been grappling with a deadly crisis since March 2011. The violence fueled by Takfiri groups has so far claimed the lives of over 215,000 people, according to reports. New figures show that over 76,000 people, including thousands of children, lost their lives in Syria last year.

Over 7.2 million Syrians have reportedly become internally displaced due to the ongoing crisis.

The Takfiri terrorist groups, with members from several Western countries, control swathes of land in Syria and Iraq, and have been carrying out horrific acts of violence such as public decapitations and crucifixions against all communities such as Shias, Sunnis, Kurds, and Christians.

(Source / 18.03.2015)