Syria: Opposition leader visits Latakia, U.S. Senate panel suggests new aid strategy

A shop keeper in Syria’s Homs says the following on his personal experience in the war:

There’s sadness everywhere, a bad feeling, a sense of loss, because we used to see our neighbors in the morning, but now we don’t. It’s sad. We don’t know where they are. Our neighbors were like our brothers, and I miss them.

The Syrian city of Homs is still in the midst of fierce fighting. Government forces control most of the city, while the front line continues to fight on with rebels continuing their effort to move back in. Lindsey Hilsom of Independent Television News reports:

The lieutenant walked me through the neighborhood of Bab Sparr. He didn’t want to show his face. The last battle, he told me, will be very soon. They’re ready for it. The soldiers say that this is as far as we can come. The front line is just beyond those buildings, less than 50 yards away.

It’s quiet now during the daytime, but there’s still fighting every night. What the soldiers say is the United Nations has taken the civilians out. It’s only fighters in there, so they want to go in and finish the job. Today, the soldiers are relaxing. They seem pretty confident. Two years ago, government forces pummeled rebel-held suburbs in Homs with artillery. Then they starved them out.

Syria’s United Nations envoy Bashar Jaafari warns the organization’s Security Council, claiming that militants are currently planning to hit a Damascus suburb with chemical weapons and to blame it on the government.

On the ground

Opposition head of the Syria National Coalition Ahmed Jarba visited the rebel front line in Latakia Tuesday. The region on the Mediterranean coastline is under attack as it is a symbolic Assad home province and stronghold with new rebel gains reported.

Jarba toured the village of Kassab and hilltops, taken by the insurgency in their 12-day offensive, to publicize the success of “liberation” from the Assad regime. He was accompanied by provisional Defense Minister Assad Mustafa.

The visit highlighted the capture of Kassab, near the border post taken by insurgents — the last one the regime held on the Turkish frontier — and countered regime propaganda of a counter-attack which would drive out the “terrorists.”

It also was a mission to bolster Jarba’s authority and that of the Coalition, after recent tensions with insurgent factions and a month after a dispute over the removal of General Salim Idriss as head of the Supreme Military Council.

Rebels still hold the Turkish border town Kessab in Syria. Government forces reported yesterday that they took a key post by Kessab called Observatory 45, a claim that rebels dispute.

Three rockets were fired from Syria and onto Lebanese ground, hitting the northeast town of Labweh. The rockets killed a Syrian refugee worker and wounded a Lebanese man.

“Apocalyptic prophecies” are proving to be a strong recruitment strategy for both sides of the conflict to get new supporters. They make it seem as if the war is a “battle for the end of time.”

Through talks

The United States Senate Foreign Relations Committee has called for a new American policy in regards to Syria. They demand that the Obama administration review its strategy over humanitarian aid issues for the ongoing civil war in the next 90 days.

The non-binding resolution from Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., easily cleared the panel by unanimous voice vote, but a number of senators used the opportunity to express their frustration that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has been able to escape justice.

The Senate resolution, while denouncing the Syrian government’s “widespread human rights violations,” contrasts with the stronger political stance in the House counterpart sponsored by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce, R-Calif., and ranking member Eliot Engel, D-N.Y.

“The US is the largest provider of humanitarian aid to Syrian refugees in the world,” he said at the mark-up, “but virtually all of that aid is outside of Syria because of the difficulties of delivering aid inside.”

His resolution “calls on the president to develop and submit to the appropriate committees of Congress within 90 days from adoption of this resolution a strategy for United States engagement in addressing the Syrian humanitarian crisis, to include assistance and development, and protecting human rights inside Syria and in the region.”

A U.S. House resolution on the Council of Foreign Affairs focuses on the political and diplomatic issues regarding Syria, whereas the new Senate resolution touches on humanitarian issues.

Daily reminder

The death toll out of Syria’s ongoing deadly civil war has reached the 150,000 mark, the Syria Observatory for Human Rights states in a report.

Referring to an effort to record all the deaths from the war, the organization has found 150,344 people dead since the conflict started March 2011. They say “51,212 of them civilians, including nearly 7,985 children” are a part of the updated death toll.


Syrian boys become breadwinners for family as parents struggle in Turkey. Large refugee populations in Turkey border areas are bringing up economic and educational issues with Syrian child refugees.

Despite polio outbreaks, a United States senior aid official says the measles virus will be the next threat for Syrian children in the conflict.

A Palestinian woman who fled Syria’s Yarmouk refugee camp died by an alleged suicide in Lebanon’s Sidon, security sources told the Daily Star.

As Damascus churns on, residents are experiencing rapidly increasing transportation costs of getting around the city.


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