Syria

Warplanes were pounding rebel-held areas of Aleppo hours after Syria's government launched a new offensive amid the collapse of a cease-fire earlier this week — and internationally renowned rescue volunteers say their centers are being targeted by the airstrikes.

The regime announced the offensive on state media Thursday. "A Syrian military official said airstrikes and shelling in Aleppo might continue for an extended period and the operation will expand into a ground invasion of rebel-held districts," The Associated Press reported, quoting Syrian state media.

At least five emergency medical workers were said to have been killed in airstrikes near the northern city of Aleppo on Tuesday, following the collapse of a fragile cease-fire in Syria.

On a bright spring afternoon this May, Tom Charles drove to Newark International Airport to pick up a family of Syrian refugees. Charles is an attorney and a bank consultant, devoted to data and details, but he had scant information on the family that would become part of his life for the next year.

He was also sure the Syrian family knew nothing about his team from Nassau Presbyterian Church, who would drive them from the airport to a donated house in Princeton, N.J.

Four days after Secretary of State John Kerry announced — with many notes of caution — a new U.S.-Russia deal on a cease-fire in Syria, he tells NPR's Steve Inskeep that it is the best option, and one to which the U.S. remains committed.

"What's the alternative?" he asks. Without the deal, he suggests, there would be even more deaths in a conflict that already has killed nearly 500,000 people.

A Syrian cease-fire went into effect at sundown on Monday, at approximately 11:45 a.m. EDT.

Just hours before the start of the planned cease-fire, Syrian President Bashar Assad announced on state media that he plans to "reclaim every area from the terrorists," The Associated Press reports. Assad's government had earlier indicated it would abide by the negotiated truce.

At a news conference in Geneva late Friday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announced the beginnings of a peace plan for Syria, reports NPR's Alice Fordham.

Kerry was joined in the cease-fire announcement by Sergey Lavrov, Russia's foreign minister.

"The United States is going the extra mile here because we believe that Russia, and my colleague, have the capability to press the [Bashar] Assad regime to stop this conflict and come to the table and make peace," Kerry said.

The deal will be implemented at sundown on Monday, Lavrov said.

Libertarian presidential nominee Gary Johnson asked a television interviewer today, "What is Aleppo?" betraying a lack of interest or even superficial knowledge of the civil war in Syria that's been raging for more than five years.

The question came during an interview on MSNBC's "Morning Joe." Panelist Mike Barnicle asked the two-time libertarian nominee and former governor of New Mexico, "What would you do if you were elected, about Aleppo?"

Syria's government is once again facing accusations of using chemical weapons against civilians, with reports of a chlorine gas attack Tuesday in the divided city of Aleppo.

"Activists and doctors say the chlorine was dropped in an airstrike on a rebel-held part of Aleppo, affecting about 100 people," NPR's Alice Fordham reports on Morning Edition.

The aerial footage shows bright beach umbrella, palm trees, swimming families, jet skis. The sun is shining. The music is upbeat.

The message? "Syria: Always Beautiful."

Over the last few weeks, the Syrian government's Ministry of Tourism has released more than a dozen videos on Youtube, each promoting the charms of Syria as a travel destination.

One video spotlights ancient ruins — with no acknowledgment that many cities in Syria are new ruins, destroyed by the brutal civil war raging there.

President Obama met with his Russian counterpart on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in China, negotiating over a proposal to cooperate in the war in Syria.

But the diplomatic efforts were unsuccessful, Obama said at a press conference on Monday.

"Given the gaps of trust that exist, that's a tough negotiation, and we haven't yet closed the gaps in a way where we think it would actually work," he said.

After four years of siege and bombardment, the evacuation is underway of civilians and rebels from embattled Daraya, southwest of Syria's capital Damascus.

Turkish troops crossed into Syria early Wednesday, carrying out airstrikes and launching artillery fire to clear ISIS militants from a border area in coordination with the U.S.-led coalition.

Turkish Rules Leave Syrian Refugee Children In Limbo

Aug 24, 2016

Aref al-Krez has the look of a young, laid-back guy with well-coiffed hair, stylish clothes and carefully cultivated stubble.

But the 24-year-old Syrian refugee and father of a young daughter has a world of worries about her future and his role in it.

Like so many Syrians now living in Turkey, Krez faces huge bureaucratic hurdles while trying to obtain the right government-issued documents that prove his daughter is actually his.

Like hundreds of thousands of Syrians fleeing the long war back home, 25-year-old Firas Awad endured a dangerous sea journey and a long trek through much of Europe to reach Germany, where he's staked his future.

He and his 18-year-old wife, Tamam Aldrawsha, who are both from the city of Homs, now live in what used to be a country inn and restaurant, in a tiny, forested village north of Berlin called Klosterheide, population 280.

Surrounded by shouting, he's completely silent.

The child is small, alone, covered in blood and dust, dropped in the back of an ambulance with his feet dangling off the edge of a too-big chair.

He doesn't cry or speak. His face is stunned and dazed, but not surprised. He wipes his hand over his wounded face, looks at the blood, wipes it off on the chair.

Khaled Omar Harrah, a volunteer rescuer who spent nearly three years rushing to the scenes of airstrikes and barrel bombs to save lives, has been killed in the embattled city of Aleppo.

For Alissa Berger and her family, it was the first visit to the Dar-ul-Islam Mosque in Elizabeth, New Jersey.

"We are from Temple Emanu-El," says Jenny Tananbaum, who came with the Bergers and refers to the nearby Jewish synagogue.

"We are here to adopt a Syrian family," says Berger. "We are going to work with a family for a year to help them." This is not a handout, she says, but practical help to upgrade inadequate housing, make sure the utilities work and help with employment and navigating American culture.

When 31 governors called for a ban on Syrian refugees coming into the U.S. after last November's terrorist attacks in Paris, it united faith-based communities across the country. They are challenging the wave of opposition to these refugees by taking a leading role in resettling them.

The water pumps in Aleppo, Syria, are no longer getting power, leaving 2 million people without running water — and at risk of coming under a full siege.

Russian and Syria have said they are opening humanitarian corridors out of besieged, rebel-held areas in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo. But NPR has reached civilians in the embattled city who turned back for fear of the ongoing shelling.

A Syrian man whose asylum request had been denied by German officials used an explosives-laden backpack to kill himself and wound 12 other people near a concert in southern Germany. Police are still trying to unravel the motives for the 27-year-old's action.

From Berlin, NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson reports:

Syria's main opposition group is calling for the U.S.-led coalition to suspend its airstrike campaign against ISIS after reports of dozens of civilian deaths close to the Turkish border.

As NPR's Alison Meuse told our Newscast unit, reports suggest the strike near the northern town of Manbij is the "largest civilian death toll since the intervention began." She added that "both the opposition and [Syrian President Bashar] Assad's regime put the death toll above 120 killed." Here's more from Alison:

Imagine you've been hungry for the past four years. When the bombing isn't too bad, you can grow a little spinach and beans, and sometimes some smuggled lentils or rice get past the Syrian army checkpoints. But there's no milk for babies and your children have never seen a piece of fruit.

This kind of siege warfare sounds medieval, but in Syria, it is reality for hundreds of thousands of people. Most live in opposition areas, surrounded by Syrian government forces. And one of the most desperate places is Daraya, just to the southwest of the capital Damascus.

More than 50 U.S. State Department officials have signed an internal memo calling for a change in the way the United States approaches Syria — specifically, advocating military pressure on Bashar Assad's regime to push him toward the negotiating table.

The diplomats expressed their opposition to the current U.S. policy through a cable on the State Department's dissent channel — which exists for just that reason.

But NPR's Michele Kelemen reports that it's unusual for so many officials to sign on to such a cable.

At least 12 people were killed and 55 injured in twin bombings near a revered shrine outside Syria's capital Damascus, Syrian state media reports.

The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for the attacks via its Aamaq news agency but says there were actually three suicide bombings, according to The Associated Press.

Syrian President Bashar Assad is sounding rather confident these days. In his first major address in the past two months, he promised that his troops will reclaim "every inch" of Syrian territory.

"We have no other choice but to be victorious," Assad told Syria's parliament on Tuesday. He also lashed out at rebels, blaming them for the failure of peace talks backed by the United Nations.

Khaldiya Jibawi dreams of being a documentary filmmaker.

And she's off to a great start.

The 18-year-old Syrian refugee made her first film in a refugee camp in Jordan, and it's been shown at Sundance, SXSW and the Cannes Film Festival, to name a few. This weekend, her documentary shows at the Los Angeles Film Festival.

A convoy carrying much-needed aid, including medicine and baby milk, has reached the besieged suburb of Daraya in Syria's capital. Less than a month ago, a convoy was turned away by government forces.

The International Committee of the Red Cross, the United Nations and the Red Crescent — an aid organization active in the Muslim world — coordinated the effort to get supplies to the Damascus suburb.

It's the first delivery of its kind to the town since 2012.

The Red Cross announced the convoy's arrival on Twitter:

More than 2 million Syrians have fled to Turkey, driven out by the fighting that erupted in their homeland in 2011. But none can claim an odyssey quite like that of Mohammed Faris.

As Syria's first and only cosmonaut, Mohammed Faris rocketed into orbit with two Soviet colleagues in 1987. He conducted experiments and photographed his country from space. By the time he returned to Syria, most everyone in the country knew his name.

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