• UNSMIS head General Robert Mood discusses Syria at a press conference earlier this morning.

  • Pakistani ambassador at UN Security Council meeting calls suicide attack on Syrian leadership "condemnable," says Pakistan abstained from today's vote on resolution.
  • "We strongly condemn this mindless and cowardly act of terrorism," India ambassador to UNSC says on Wednesday's suicide attack.
  • Russian ambassador: UN Security Council resolution "stood no chance of being adopted."

    Rebels attacked the main police headquarters in Damascus on Thursday, a witness said, a day after the assassination of three of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's top lieutenants.

    "Gunfire has been intense for the past hour. It is now dying down but the streets around the police command remain empty," a resident of Qanawat, an old central district where the Damascus Province Police Headquarters is located, told Reuters by phone.

    (Reporting by Khaled Yacoub Oweis, Amman newsroom; Editing by Alison Williams)
  • Update: Syrian state television shows footage of President Bashar al-Assad swearing in new defense minister.
  • U.S. Ambassador Rice: Resolution would not have paved the way for foreign military intervention.
  • RT @MarkKornblau: @AmbassadorRice says blame does not lie with Annan, Ban, or UN Monitors. The fault lies squarely with the Assad regime ...
  • Not credible to argue that the mere continuation of an unarmed observer mission . . can change anything @AmbassadorRice #UNSC #Syria
  • U.S. Ambassador Rice: The Security Council has failed utterly in its most important task on the agenda this year.
  • South Africa now about to explain its abstention #UNSC #Syria
  • RT @marcellehopkins: US amb to UN Susan Rice says US “will intensify our work with a diverse range of partners outside the Security Coun ...
  • South Africa "There is more than one party to the conflict" #Syria #UNSC
  • South Africa says draft resolution was "unbalanced" #UNSC #Syria
  • South Africa also supports technical rollover of short-term UN observer mission #UNSC #Syria

    About 20,000 Syrians have travelled across the main border crossing into Lebanon over the past 24 hours, a Lebanese security source working at the border said, after heavy fighting tore through several districts of Damascus.

    The number of Syrians who travel through the official Masnaa border crossing usually hovers around 5,000 per day, the source said.
  • Update: White House calls Russia and China veto of Syria UN resolution regrettable and highly unfortunate. White House says those who voted against UN resolution are on the wrong side of the Syrian people and the wrong side of peace and stability in the region.

    British Foreign Secretary William Hague attacked the vetos of Russia and China of a United Nations Security Council resolution on Syria as "inexcusable" on Thursday.

    "The decision by Russia and China, in the view of the United Kingdom, to veto this resolution is inexcusable and indefensible," he told reporters in London. "When it came for the time to turn agreement that they have supported into action to end the violence they stood aside from that ... They have turned their back on the people of Syria in their darkest hour."
    Hague added: "I believe Russia and China will pay a serious price in the Middle East diplomatically and politcally for taking this position. Many observers will conclude that they have put national interest ahead of the lives and the rights of millions of Syrians."

    (Reporting by Stephen Addison Editing by Maria Golovnina)
  • White House: US has made it clear to the Syrian government that it will be held accountable if it uses chemical weapons against the opposition.
  • Update: Kofi Annan says in a statement he is disappointed at lack of U.N. Security Council unity on Syria "at this critical stage" and failed to take strong and certed action he hoped for.
  • Syrian rebels try to seize key Turkey border crossing

    By Suleiman Al-Khalidi

    CILVEGOZU, Turkey, July 19 (Reuters) - Rebel fighters raided a Syrian army outpost at a key border crossing with Turkey on Thursday in an attempt to seize control of the gate, but were forced to withdraw after coming under attack by military helicopters, a rebel spokesman said.
    The dawn attack was the third time in 10 days rebels have tried to seize the Bab al-Hawa gate, a vital commercial crossing in northwestern Syria, opposite the Turkish Cilvegozu gate in Hatay province.

    A Reuters reporter on the Turkish side of the border crossing said he could still hear intermittent gunfire on Thursday evening coming from the Syrian side and black smoke rising into the air 2-3 km (miles) from the border.
    Ahmad Zaidan, spokesman for an opposition group called the Higher Council of the Revolution's Leadership, said rebels were in charge of large areas around the border crossing and that they wanted to gain control of the gate itself.

    He said the raid was also meant to provide an opportunity for opposition sympathisers among the government soldiers to defect. Most defections, he said, were pre-planned whereby sympathisers would know of an impending rebel attack.

    "We withdrew because we didn't have enough anti-aircraft missiles, and to preserve the lives of those sympathetic soldiers who weren't able to defect," Zaidan told Reuters by telephone from Hatay.

    The rebels attacked the army garrison made up of some 200 troops but had to pull back when government helicopters were called in. The rebels had planned for 80 soldiers to defect but only 14 managed to escape, Zaidan said.

    The border crossing, which is still under the control of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces, has been closed since the attack and around 40 Syrian and Saudi trucks lined up on the Turkish side were unable to cross.
    While cross-border trade and traffic has been greatly reduced as violence inside Syria has increased, border gates along the 910 km (560 mile) Turkey-Syria border have largely remained open and vehicles are free to cross.

    The border raid came as rebels clashed with troops loyal to Assad in Damascus and a day after a bomb attack on a security meeting in the Syrian capital killed three of the president's closest allies. (Full Story)
    Turkey, which has called on Assad to step down, is giving sanctuary to opposition members and fighters on its soil and is providing shelter to more than 40,000 Syrian refugees fleeing violence at home.

    (Writing by Jonathon Burch; Editing by Alison Williams)
  • Britain proposes 30 days extension to UN Syria mission-diplomats

    UNITED NATIONS, July 19 (Reuters) - Britain has drafted a new resolution to extend a U.N. mission in Syria "for a final period of 30 days" and it could be voted on later on Thursday, diplomats said.

    The four-paragraph resolution would simply roll over the mission of 300 unarmed military observers and some 100 civilian staff, the diplomats, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said.

    (Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Jackie Frank)
  • The White House says they do not support extending the UN mission in Syria after today's failure by the security council to pass a resolution.
    by Matthew Keys edited by anthony.derosa 7/19/2012 4:24:13 PM

    GENEVA, July 19 (Reuters) - International mediator Kofi Annan voiced disappointment on Thursday at the failure of world powers to reach a common position on Syria after China and Russia vetoed a Western resolution threatening Syrian authorities with sanctions.

    "The Joint Special Envoy for Syria, Kofi Annan, is disappointed that at this critical stage the UN Security Council could not unite and take the strong and concerted action he had urged and hoped for. He believes that the voice of the Council is much more powerful when its Members act as one," his spokesman Ahmad Fawzi said in a statement issued in Geneva.

    (Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay and Tom Miles)
  • Syrian President Bashar al-Assad meets General Fahad Jassim al-Freij, after he was sworn as Defense Minister (R) in Damascus, in this handout photo distributed by Syrian News Agency (SANA) July 19, 2012. Syria's state TV said on Thursday new Defence Minister General al-Freij took his oath of office in front of President Bashar al-Assad,who has not appeared in public since a bomb attack killed three of his top security officials. REUTERS/SANA/Handout

  • Update: Syrian rebels have control of the entire border between Iraq and Syria, AFP reports sourcing the deputy interior minister in Baghdad.
  • Syrian army shells mosque, killing 7 - activists

    AMMAN, July 19 (Reuters) - At least seven civilians were killed on Thursday when the Syrian army shelled a mosque packed with worshippers in the city of Deir al-Zor, scene of heavy fighting between troops and rebels, activists said.

    "Shells hit the Fardos mosque in al-Jubeileh neighbourhood at evening prayers, the last before Ramadan. The mosque was packed. Around 20 people were pulled from the rubble with missing limbs and bad wounds.
    The number of dead will likely rise," Abu al-Tayeb al-Deiri, one of the activists, told Reuters from the desert city 430 km (270 miles) northeast of Damascus.

    Syrian authorities have banned most independent media from the country, making independent verification of events on the ground difficult.

    (Reporting by Khaled Yacoub Oweis, Amman newsroom; editing by Andrew Roche)

    BEIRUT, July 19 (Reuters) - Syrian rebels took control of the main Abu Kamal border gate with Iraq on Thursday, opposition activists said, on the same day opponents to President Bashar al-Assad overran a border crossing with Turkey.

    Rami Abdelrahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said rebel fighters told him they had clashed with government troops on Thursday morning before seizing the border gate on the eastern frontier, along the Euphrates river.

    BEIRUT, July 19 (Reuters)- More than 250 people were killed in Syria on Thursday, an opposition monitoring group said, the highest death toll in a single day since the revolt against President Bashar al-Assad erupted 16 months ago.

    The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human rights said 155 civilians, including 44 people in Damascus where pitched battles have raged for five days, and 93 security forces personnel were killed.

    It said it was still gathering information on the number of rebel fighters who had been killed from sources on the ground and expected the overage death toll to rise significantly.

    BAGHDAD, July 19 (Reuters) - Iraq has closed its main border post with Syria and sent troops to the frontier after Syrian rebels took control of the Abu Kamal crossing, a local mayor said on Thursday.

    "Qaim post, opposite Abu Kamal, is closed and now under the control of the Iraqi army," the mayor of Qaim, Fahan Fitaihan, said. Iraqi troops had also taken over another nearby post from Iraqi customs officials, he said.
    He said the Syrian Free Army had raised its flag on the other side of the border.

    (Reporting by Raheem Salman; Writing by Sylvia Westall; Editing by Alison Williams)
  • U.N. Security Council approves 30-day extension for Syria monitors

    Russia, which with China vetoed an earlier resolution which would have opened the door to sanctions on the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, dropped its objections to the British proposal after it was broadened to require both government forces and rebel fighters to take steps to halt the violence.

    The new resolution states that the council would only consider further extensions to the mission "in the event that the Secretary-General reports and the Security Council confirms the cessation of the use of heavy weapons and a reduction in the level of violence sufficient by all sides" to allow the UNSMIS monitors to implement their mandate.
    Both the United States and Britain described the new resolution as a last chance for the observers.

    "If over the next 30 days there is a change in that dynamic and those conditions are met then of course the Security Council, on a recommendation by the Secretary-General, will look again at the future of UNSMIS," Britain's U.N. Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant told reporters.
    "But if the situation does not change then obviously UNSMIS will be withdrawn after 30 days," he said.


    The U.N. Syria mission has up to 300 unarmed military observers whose role has been to monitor a failed April 12 ceasefire in Syria. Most of their monitoring activity was suspended on June 16 due to increased risk from rising violence.

    There are also some 100 civilian staff working toward a political solution and monitoring issues like human rights.

    The U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, told reporters that Washington had reluctantly acceded to the new resolution, but described it simply as an exit plan for the monitoring teams.

    "Today's vote to extend UNSMIS for a final period of 30 days was not the resolution the United States had hoped to adopt in the first instance. Our strong preference was to adopt the resolution that was regrettably vetoed yesterday," Rice said.

    Rice said the extension would "allow (UNSMIS) to withdraw safely and in an orderly fashion."

    Rice said she was skeptical that the Syrian authorities would stop using heavy weapons and the violence would subside enough for the council to consider a renewal of the mission beyond the 30-day extension.
    The Security Council vote ended several hectic days of U.N. diplomacy where the United States and its allies faced off against Russia and China over the way forward on Syria as violence in the country escalated.
    Syrian government forces fought to recapture border posts and parts of Damascus from rebels on Friday, seeking to take back the initiative following a bomb attack this week which killed four of Assad's top security aides.

    U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon has recommended shifting the emphasis of the work of UNSMIS from monitoring the nonexistent ceasefire to pursuing a political solution to the crisis.

    Diplomats said only half of the 300 unarmed observers would be needed for Ban's suggested shift in focus. The others would return to their home countries, but be ready to redeploy again at short notice.

    (Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Writing by Andrew Quinn; Editing by Jackie Frank)
  • I think it is a total disgrace what is happening in Syria just now ,they have to come to a deal of sorts as this is not the right way to solve this issue ,America especially should keep their big noses out of it and so should the UK ,who do we think we are ,over 10 years in Afghanistan how many life's ,people will pay for the world carnage that is going on in this region of the middle east ,from the perpetrators of 9/11 and 7/7 and we really do not have to mention names on this they are proud of what they are doing and love the power ,it will a come out soon and these people will be held in contempt,for they shall be punished just like the nuringberg trial ,but if i was going to the Olympics would be very wary as they have 2000,000cask liner which are just coffins but it fit a family of 4 ,what the hell in the world is going on in this once great island ,you can blame the Scots for wanting to leave the union and they will, the nation is gearing up right now for independence but it only business with these people ,it's nothing personal ,aye right you are pal ,and isreal i haven't started with you yet ,arrg they are crazy because they are about to be wiped of the map shortly
  • A funeral ceremony was held on Friday for three of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's senior security officials who were killed in a bomb attack, but the Syrian leader stayed away from the sombre procession.

    Assad was represented by Vice President Farouq al-Shara at the ceremony, shown on state television news.
  • Rebel fighter Ismail watches approvingly as local villagers loot beer and whisky from the burnt-out duty free shop at Bab al-Hawa, the border post between Syria and Turkey seized from President Bashar al-Assad's forces on Thursday.

    "This is the people's money; they are taking it back," he said. "Whoever wants to should take it. There is no shame or wrongdoing."

    Syria's duty-free shops are owned by businessman Rami Makhlouf, a cousin of the Syrian president, making them a potent symbol for the poor Sunni villagers and rebels who form the backbone of an uprising motivated by a deep sense of injustice and anger at the Assad family wealth.
  • Israel is preparing for a possible military intervention in Syria in case the Syrian government hands missiles or chemical weapons to the Lebanese Islamist movement Hezbollah, Defence Minister Ehud Barak said on Friday.

    "I have instructed the military to increase its intelligence preparations and prepare what is needed so that ... (if necessary) ... we will be able to consider carrying out an operation," Barak said in an interview on Channel 10 television.

    "We are following ... the possible transfer of advanced munitions systems, mainly anti-aircraft missiles or heavy

    ground-to-ground missiles, but there could also be a possibility of the transfer of chemical means (weapons) from Syria to Lebanon," he added.
  • As darkness descended over Damascus last Saturday, few of its 1.7 million residents could have had any inkling that a decisive battle to wrest the city from the grasp of President Bashar al-Assad was about to begin.

    Insurgents gave the operation a name that reflected their hopes of a successful surprise attack on a city long regarded as an impregnable fortress for the Assad family: "Damascus Volcano and Syrian Earthquake".

    "There is no going back," Colonel Qassem Saadeddine, a spokesman for the joint command of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), told Reuters after the fighting had broken out. "We have started the operation to liberate Damascus."

    The operation, still under way, has come closer to toppling Assad than anything else in the 16-month uprising against his rule. By nightfall on Friday, six days after it began, rebels had seized control of border crossings and were battling loyalist troops on the streets of Damascus.
  • Syrian army helicopters pounded Damascus with rockets and heavy machine guns overnight, and tanks bombarded the capital from the ring road, to try to reverse relentless gains by rebels since much of President Bashar al-Assad's entourage was assassinated.

    The unprecedented rebel momentum of the past few days has fighters boasting that Assad's grip is being pried from the country his family has ruled since his father seized power in a coup 42 years ago. But he remains a fearsome foe.

    "The regime has been rudderless for last three days. But the aerial and ground bombardment on Damascus and its suburbs shows that it has not lost the striking force and that it is re-grouping," opposition activist Moaz al-Jahhar said by telephone from Damascus.
  • As the sharp escalation of violence in the Syrian capital of Damascus forces increasing numbers of Syrians to flee into neighboring Jordan and Lebanon, International Medical Corps is scaling up its operations in those countries to provide emergency assistance. UNHCR is reporting that 18,000 Syrians have crossed into Lebanon in just the last 48 hours.

    International Medical Corps, which has been working in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria since 2007 to support Iraqi refugees and host populations, has been providing health care and psychosocial services for Syrian refugees through static and mobile clinics in Lebanon (Bekaa and Akkar) and Jordan (Ramtha and Mafraq).
  • An orphan who lost his parents in a bombing sits on a step outside their family home in Homs July 20, 2012. REUTERS/Yazen Homsy

  • A family with no electricity tries to find relief from the heat of summer by dipping themselves in a pool of water leaking from blasted water pipes in Homs July 20, 2012. REUTERS/Yazen Homsy

  • Members of the Free Syrian Army patrol in Sukari, Aleppo province, July 20, 2012. REUTERS/Shaam News Network/Handout

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