Instant Library - Jul-Sep 2013
Syria - Civil War
Story No.: G06343
Date: 10/02/2013 12:00 AM
US Secretary of State Kerry visits Zaatari refugee camp
Zaatari - 18 July 2013
1. US Secretary of State John Kerry walking towards helicopter
2. Aerial of Zaatari refugee camp
Thousands more Syrian refugees cross border into Iraq
Peshkhabour - 20 Aug 2013
3. Troops distributing water bottles to refugees
4. Wide of refugees walking with belongings
5. refugees crowded at supply distribution point
UN chemical weapons experts leave Syria, cross into Lebanon
Masnaa Crossing - 31 Aug 2013
6. Wide of United Nations convoy crossing the Masnaa border into Lebanon
7. Mid of UN convoy driving into Lebanon
Obama will seek authorisation for the use of force in Syria from Congress
Washington, DC - 31 Aug 2013
8. SOUNDBITE (English) Barack Obama, US President:
" Ten days ago, the world watched in horror as men, women and children were massacred in Syria in the worst chemical weapons attack of the 21st century. Yesterday, the United States presented a powerful case that the Syrian government was responsible for this attack on its own people.
Hundreds protest outside US embassy against proposed military strikes on Syria
Beirut - 7 Sept 2013
9. Wide of protesters marching towards the US embassy in Beirut chanting, UPSOUND (Arabic) "With our blood and soul we will sacrifice for you Syria"
10. Close up of banner reading (English): "US terrorism on Syria is also rejected"
Profile tracing Bashar Assad's rise to power and how he is dealing with the civil war
FILE: Tehran, Iran - 2 October 2013
++AP Television is adhering to Iranian law that stipulates all media are banned from providing BBC Persian, VOA Persian or MANOTO 1 any coverage from Iran, and under this law if any media violate this ban the Iranian authorities can immediately shut down that organisation in Tehran.++
11. Various of the former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad presenting Bashar Assad with Iran's national medal
Thousands demonstrate US plans to carry out military strikes against Syria
Karachi - 8 Sept 2013
12. Wide of anti-war march in Karachi, organised by the religious group Jamaat-e-Islami, to show solidarity with Egyptian and Syrian people
13. Top shot of march
Kerry and Lavrov say they have reached agreement on Syria weapons
Geneva - 14 Sep 2013
14. Pull out as Kerry and Lavrov shake hands
Close combat as rebels engage fire on Syrian positions just streets away
Aleppo - 19 Sep 2013
Saif al Dawla, Aleppo - 19 September 2013
15. Various of rebel fighters firing through holes in a wall toward Syrian government troop positions
16. View through the hole towards what is said to be Syrian government troop positions
Old City, Aleppo - 20 September 2013
17. More of rebels firing from behind sandbag barricade, then shouting "Allahu Akbar!"
Rebels launch attack on Syrian army in Hama province; daily struggle for IDP's
Kafer Naboodah, 20/21 Sept 2013
September 20 2013
18. Wide of mortar being fired
19. Mid of rebel placing a bomb in a large mortar
20. Wide of rebel pulling cord, releasing mortar bomb into the barrel, the mortar fires, UPSOUND (Arabic): "God is great."
September 21 2013
21. Pan from landscape to displaced family living in dilapidated building outside of Kafer Naboodah
Syrian rebels clash with government troops in effort to clear the area govt snipers
Telata, Idlib region - 29 Sept 2013
22. Destroyed building
On July 18th 2013 Syrian refugees confronted US Secretary of State John Kerry with demands for the United States and the international community to do more to help opponents of President Bashar Assad, venting frustration at perceived inaction on their behalf.
Visiting the sprawling Zaatari refugee camp in northern Jordan, near the Syrian border, Kerry met six representatives of its 115-thousand-strong population, all of whom appealed to him for the US and its allies to create no-fly zones and set up safe zones inside Syria to prevent the Syrian government from inflicting additional destruction.
According to the United Nations, the conflict has killed more than 93-thousand people and has become the world's worst humanitarian crisis since the 1994 Rwandan genocide.
Kerry listened grimly to the complaints for 40 minutes and promised to relay the refugees' concerns to Washington and other capitals.
But, he also noted serious complications in meeting the demands and reminded them that the US is their largest single benefactor.
The US has provided nearly 815 (m) million US Dollars in humanitarian aid to Syrians through the United Nations.
Of that, 147 (m) million US Dollars have been directed to relief agencies working in Jordan, which is home to about 600-thousand displaced Syrians.
His words, however, did not appear to satisfy the six representatives - four women and a man from Daara, the Syrian city closest to the Zaatari camp, as well as one from Homs, which has been under increasing siege by Assad's military and Iranian-backed fighters for weeks.
Kerry had been warned of a possible hostile reception at the camp, where refugees frustrated at their living conditions and deteriorating conditions in their homeland have in the past attacked UN staff and other aid workers, but he chose to go anyway to see the situation first-hand, according to US officials.
Kerry spent his time in Zaatari at the camp's administrative base, which is separated by a fence from the tens of thousands of prefabricated aluminium trailers in which the refugees live. He did not tour the dusty living quarters.
After the meeting, Kerry told reporters he understood the refugees' concerns.
"I think they are frustrated and angry at the world for not stepping in and helping," he said.
"If I were in their shoes, I'd be looking for help wherever I could find it."
The Zaatari camp was set up last July (2012) and was at one point in April receiving an average of 1,500 new arrivals each day.
Tens of thousands of Syrian Kurds have crossed into neighbouring Iraq's northern self-ruled Kurdish region over the past few days in one of the biggest waves of refugees since the rebellion against Syrian President Bashar Assad began, UN officials have said.
Around 30-thousand Syrians, the vast majority of them Kurds, have fled north-eastern Syria over a five-day stretch and crossed the border to the self-ruled Iraqi Kurdistan, the UN refugee agency said on Tuesday.
The new arrivals join some 1.9 (m) million Syrians who already have found refuge abroad from the country's relentless carnage.
The massive exodus has put a severe strain on Iraqi Kurdistan's regional government and aid agencies ability to accommodate them all.
"The number of Syrian refugees has today reached to more than 30-thousand after only the past four days. And we have already 120-thousand Syrian refugees," said Dohuk Deputy Governor Bahzad Ali, who is in charge of the coping with the influx of refugees to the area.
At a recently constructed pontoon bridge at Peshkhabour, in northern Iraq's Duhok province, tens of thousand Syrians have crossed the Tigris River since Thursday - with the influx expected to continue over the coming days.
The numbers have created desperate conditions.
Kurds are Syria's largest ethnic minority, making up more than 10 percent of the country's 23 (m) million people.
They are centered in the poor northeastern regions of Hassakeh and Qamishli, wedged between the borders of Turkey and Iraq.
There are also several predominantly Kurdish neighbourhoods in the capital, Damascus, and Syria's largest city, Aleppo.
Long oppressed by Assad's regime, Syria's Kurds now find themselves enjoying near autonomy in the northeast after Assad's overstretched forces pulled back from the region last year, ceding de facto control to Kurdish fighters.
Some Kurds openly call for an officially autonomous region in Syria similar to that of northern Iraq.
On August 31st United Nations chemical weapons experts left Syria and crossed into neighbouring Lebanon.
An Associated Press crew saw the UN personnel cross into Lebanon from Syria through the country's Masnaa border crossing early on the morning of August 31st.
The team carried out a fourth and final day of inspection on Friday as they sought to determine precisely what happened in the alleged chemical weapons attack near Damascus on August 21st.
The team took samples from victims for examination in laboratories in Europe.
President Barack Obama says he has decided that the United States should take military action against Syria in response to a deadly chemical weapons attack.
But he says he will seek congressional authorisation for the use of force.
He says congressional leadership plans to hold a debate and a vote as soon as Congress comes back in September.
Obama says he has the authority to act on his own, but believes it is important for the country to have a debate.
Military action would be in response to a chemical weapons attack the U.S. says Syrian President Bashar Assad's government carried out against civilians.
Protesters staged a rally outside the US embassy in Beirut on September 7th, denouncing a proposed US-led strikes against the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
About 300 people gathered for the second day near the embassy compound north of Beirut, chanting "With our blood and soul we will sacrifice for you Syria".
Amal Hijazi a protester said that they were not protesting for or against the government in Syria, "We are here to defend the Syrian people."
Dozens of riot police in full gear stood on guard outside the heavily fortified embassy in the suburb of Awkar, but there were no reports of any clashes.
Meanwhile, the US State Department on September 6th ordered nonessential American diplomats and the families of staffers at the embassy in Beirut to leave Lebanon immediately due to security concerns as the Obama administration and Congress debate military strikes on neighbouring Syria.
The US blames Assad's regime for a recent chemical attack and, citing intelligence reports, says sarin gas was used.
The US says 1,429 people died, including 426 children.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which collects information from a network of anti-regime activists, says it has only been able to confirm 502 dead.
He doesn't quite fit the image of the brutal dictator who kills with chemical weapons: He is a soft-spoken, lisping doctor who enjoys Western rock music and electronic gadgets, an accidental heir to power who seems somewhat out of place.
Even now, as he mercilessly battles an insurgency and faces accusations he ordered a deadly chemical weapons attack near Damascus, Bashar Assad's personality defies straight analysis.
Those who have met Assad before he became president remember him as a humble, timid man who was uncomfortable being the son of a president and never wanted to lead the country himself.
He told friends that being an eye doctor was much more satisfying, and preferred photography and computers to politics.
He has always blamed "terrorists" or the rebels for the uprising, claiming they were trying to destabilise the country.
"We have difficulty imagining how this can be possible but whenever he says he is fighting against terrorists, I am more than sure that he is convinced of that," said Assad's biographer, Jean-Marie Quemener, whose book "Doctor Bashar, Mister Assad," was published in France in 2011.
Assad came to power by a twist of fate.
His father had been cultivating his older brother Bassel to succeed him, but in 1994 Bassel was killed in a speeding car crash in Damascus.
Bashar was summoned home from his ophthalmology practice in London, put through military training and elevated to the rank of colonel to establish his credentials so he could one day rule.
"When his father called him to say he will take over (...) I don't know exactly what they said to each other, but what we are sure about is that he (Bashar) wasn't ready to take over," Quemener noted.
"He even proposed that it should be his little brother (Maher Assad) - the "great slaughterer" - to take his place."
When Hafez Assad died in 2000, parliament quickly lowered the presidential age requirement from 40 to 34.
Bashar's elevation was sealed by a nationwide referendum, in which he was the only candidate.
The Syria that Hafez, a lifelong military man, left his son was moulded by 30 years of strict rule.
In contrast, Bashar seemed like a breath of fresh air to the Syrian population.
His first months as president ushered in hopes he would loosen his father's iron grip and open up the country.
He freed many political prisoners and allowed more open discourse.
That was until 2011 when he faced an uprising against his rule, following the Arab Spring which started in Tunisia.
Nearly three years into the uprising, Assad has remained firmly in control, defying every prediction that his end was near.
Rami Khouri, the Director of the Issam Fares Institute of Public Policy and International Affairs at The American University of Beirut and a political analyst, believes the Syrian civil war has continued for so long due to the Syrian regime's strong links with Iran, Hezbollah in Lebanon and Russia.
Assad, who turns 48 on Wednesday, was not always an international pariah in the eyes of Western powers.
Even some of his strongest critics in the current war at one point believed he could be a positive factor in the Middle East.
US Secretary of State John Kerry visited him numerously, sharing an intimate dinner with him and his wife at a restaurant in Old Damascus in 2009.
Even after his forces fired on protesters at the beginning of the uprising, Hillary Clinton suggested he was different than his father, a "reformer" who should be given a chance.
So how did the gentle mannered former ophthalmologist become the embodiment of evil, drawing comparisons with Adolf Hitler by John Kerry who now accuses him of "gassing his own people?"
Likening his deteriorating reputation to a Greek tragedy, biographer Quemener says that at every moment of his existence, Assad either took the wrong decision or the rug was pulled from under his feet.
His reaction to the beginning of Syrian conflict amid a wave of "Arab Spring" uprisings was, in retrospect, a turning point in the country's future.
Hoping to nip the protests in the bud, Assad turned to the brutal tactics of his father to crush them.
Security forces were ordered to open fire on protesters, resulting in outrage that ensured instead there would be a snowball effect.
He quickly dashed expectations that he would respond with sweeping reforms, instead blaming popular fury on a foreign conspiracy and fabrications in the media.
As the uprising haemorrhaged into an outright civil war, Assad unleashed his military to blast opposition-held cities, as well as the pro-regime gunmen known as "shabiha" alleged to have carried out mass slayings.
In 2005 his stylish British-born wife Asma had spoken of her husband as a kind man who wanted to "push Syria forward."
But the regime's ferocious crackdown on the uprising quickly shattered their image as a glamorous, reform-minded couple who could help bring progressive values to the country.
As Syria's bloodshed deepened, the charming first lady became an object of contempt herself, allegedly splurging on luxury goods as violence swept her country.
Back in 2012, the wives of the British and German ambassadors to the United Nations released a video urging Asma to stop being a bystander and speak out against the ongoing violence, in order to stop her husband.
Asma, who was once the subject of flattering profiles in Vogue and other fashion magazines, has remained silent throughout the two and half year civil war.
Quemener said only two people can reason with him at this point: His mother and his wife.
"His wife, who knows how things work inside that couple, what's sure is that she is going to try to protect him and he'll try to protect her. At the end he can only rely on his wife and his children. It was the same for Hafez Assad," he added.
Throughout the uprising, Assad has appeared unmoved by international criticism, insisting the revolt was the work of foreign-backed extremists _ not reformers seeking change.
Earlier this year he told supporters that "regional and Western states involved (in the conflict) should stop funding, arming and sheltering rebels who should also stop all acts of terrorism."
In an interview with CBS recorded in Damascus and aired in the US on Monday, Assad warned of retaliation if the US launches a strike in response to a chemical weapons attack in his country.
He said the current incident brings to mind memories of the arguments for intervention that President George W. Bush's administration made over a decade ago in connection with President Saddam Hussein's Iraq.
President Barack Obama is seeking authorisation from Congress to launch what the administration says would be a limited-scope attack against Syria in response to Assad's purported use of chemical weapons.
Assad has denied it, and he argued in the interview broadcast on Monday that Washington has presented no evidence to back up its allegations.
Thousands of supporters of the religious Jamaat-e-Islami party rallied in Karachi on September 8th, to protest against US plans for a military strike against the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Protesters chanted in support of the Syrian people and Egypt's ousted president Mohammed Morsi.
They carried photos of Morsi and placards featuring the four-fingered salute of the Muslim Brotherhood supporters, the symbol commemorating a sit-in at the Rabaah el-Adawiya mosque in Cairo that security forces violently broke up last month.
The attack sparked several days of violence that killed more than 1,000 people, most of them Morsi supporters.
Organisers of the rally said that any intervention in the Syrian civil war should be conducted through the UN Security Council and the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC).
"They (protesters) are chanting slogans against all those powers who want to attack Syria, who want to bomb Syria, who want to kill the peoples (sic) of Syria," said Meraj ul Huda, head of Jamaat-e-Islami in Karachi.
"This is an anti-war rally. And they (protesters) are saying...hands off from Syria," he added.
Meanwhile, the Obama administration has begun distributing videos showing an alleged chemical weapons attack in Syria to help convince Americans and Congress that a military intervention against the Syrian government is necessary.
US Secretary of State John Kerry said the videos make clear that the attack is not something Americans can ignore.
The United States has accused Assad's government of using chemical weapons in an August 21 assault, and cited intelligence reports as saying it killed at least 1,429 people, including more than 400 children.
The humanitarian group Doctors Without Borders says it has not been able to update its initial August 24 estimate of 355 killed because communication with those on the ground around Damascus is difficult.
The videos show the victims exhibiting what appear to be symptoms of nerve gas poisoning.
On Wednesday, the Democratic-led Senate is expected to hold the first showdown vote over a resolution that would authorise the "limited and specified use" of US armed forces against Syria for no more than 90 days and barring American ground troops from combat.
A final vote is expected at the end of the week, which is likely to be before the UN weapons inspectors' report is released.
US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov reached agreement September 14th on a framework for Syria to destroy all of its chemical weapons, and said they would seek a UN Security Council resolution that could authorise sanctions - short of military action - if Syrian President Bashar Assad's government fails to comply.
The deal announced by the diplomats on the third day of intense negotiations in Geneva includes what Kerry called "a shared assessment" of Syria's weapons stockpile, and a timetable and measures for Assad's government to comply.
"The United States and Russia are committed to the elimination of Syrian chemical weapons in the soonest and safest manner. We agreed that Syria must submit within a week - not in 30 days but in one week - a comprehensive listing," Kerry told a packed news conference in the Intercontinental Hotel in Geneva, where he has been staying and the negotiations were conducted since Thursday night.
The deal calls for international inspectors to be on the ground in Syria by November and to complete their initial work by the end of that month.
All of Syria's chemical weapons stocks, material and equipment would have to be destroyed or removed by mid-2014.
Administration officials had said that President Barack Obama was open to a Security Council resolution that did not include military force as a punishment if Assad doesn't follow through on promises regarding the weapons.
While Russia would be all but certain to veto any measure with such a penalty, Obama's willingness to concede the point - after threatening a US-led military strike with or without approval by the US Congress - provided a step forward.
"The world will now expect the Assad regime to live up to its public commitments. And as I said at the outset of these negotiations, there can be no games, no room for avoidance, or anything less than full compliance by the Assad regime," Kerry said.
But the stakes have been especially high in Geneva, because the negotiations between the United States and Russia on securing Syria's chemical weapons also are considered key to breaking the international stalemate that has so far blocked a resumption of peace talks to end the Syrian civil war, now in its third year.
"If we can join together and make this framework a success, and eliminate Syria's chemical weapons, we would not only save lives but we would reduce the threat to the region and reinforce an international standard, an international norm. We could also lay the groundwork for further cooperation that is essential to end the bloodshed that has consumed Syria for more than 2 years," said Kerry.
Rebel fighters fire through holes they have made in the walls of a deserted building in the residential area of Saif al Dawla in the northern city of Aleppo.
They are firing towards what they say are positions occupied by Syrian government troops only metres away.
They belong to the Tawheed brigade, one of the groups of rebel fighters who largely control the once thriving neighbourhood.
Aleppo, Syria's largest city, has been the scene of some of the heaviest fighting of the civil war, pitting forces loyal to President Bashar Assad against rebels demanding that he steps down.
The city is carved up into rebel and government-held neighbourhoods separated by checkpoints.
Rebel fighters say they are on a constant look-out for the movements of the forces loyal to Assad.
Snipers also pose a risk, they say.
In the eastern part of Aleppo's old city, another group of rebel fighters move from building to building through holes they have punched in the walls.
They lob homemade grenades and fire their weapons over protective sandbag barricades, as they seek to maintain control over their areas.
They have created a network of blocks they control where they eat, sleep and pray.
Aleppo has been the focus of a violent struggle for control since rebel forces pushed in and began fighting with government troops there last summer.
Rebels quickly seized several neighbourhoods in the offensive in July last year, but the government still controls several districts.
The fighting has devastated large areas of the city of 3 (m) million, Syria's former business capital, forcing thousands of residents to leave.
Syrian Deputy Prime Minister Qadri Jamil said in an interview with the Guardian published late Thursday on its website that neither side in Syria was strong enough to win the conflict.
Jamil said the government will call for a cease-fire at a planned peace conference in Geneva, though dates for the talks have not been set and the main Syrian opposition group says it won't take part if the military has the upper hand on the ground.
The United Nations estimates 7 (m) million people - about a third of Syria's pre-war population - have been forced to leave their homes while more than a 100-thousand people are thought to have died in the conflict.
Kafer Naboodah is one of many villages across Hama province in Syria suffering from the ongoing battle between rebels and forces loyal to President Bashar Assad.
While the township has been mostly abandoned by its civilian population, a rebel group which claims to be associated with the Free Syrian Army have remained there.
The Islamic rebel group named "Kataib Houmat al Souna," or Protectors of the Sunnis, say they have been locked in battle with government soldiers positioned only a kilometre (0.6 miles) away.
"This is Tal Othman," said Sheikh Ahmed, the commander of the rebel group, pointing out a village on the horizon.
"You see the the hill, the Assad forces are positioned at around one kilometre (0.6 miles) from us," said Ahmed.
"The rebels are all around the area, with the combatants. The army is next to the mosque, in a village called Mogheir," he said, indicating various positions as he looked out from an abandoned building.
Assad's military are fighting Sunni rebels in the Hama area in an attempt to keep them from gaining on villages inhabited by Syria's Alawite minority and Shiites.
The Kataib Houmat al Souna say they are one of a number of rebel brigades and factions associated with the Free Syrian Army.
They fight Assad's forces with a collection of home made weaponry.
"That's a home made missile launcher, mortar shells, missiles, and home made missiles," said Sheik Ahmed, showing an array of weapons kept on the back of a pickup truck.
"They are all home made weapons. This is our arsenal."
Little of the arsenal is conventional or reliable.
One rocket launched from a platform misfired, launching into a loop above the platform before flying off into the distance.
The group launched a series of mortar attacks at targets barely visible in the distance, cheering "God is great" after the mortar was fired.
Meanwhile, one internally displaced family has set up a camp beside a dilapidated building on the outskirts of the village.
They are part of an estimated 4 to 5 million internally displaced Syrians.
When asked whether she would return to the village the mother questioned where she could go because she had "nothing to go back to."
They struggle to survive and cannot find milk for their one month and four month old babies.
They are dependent on whatever the rebels can set aside for them.
"Here we have no electricity, no water or anything and we're not getting any help," she said.
Syrian rebels and government troops loyal to President Bashar Assad clashed on September 29th in the village of Talat in the Syrian northern province of Idlib.
A rebel commander said his fighters fought back Syrian government troops and thwarted their attempt to regain control of the village that lies on the outskirts of the town of Ariha.
Talat is located on the front line in the mountainous region known as Forty Mountains and has been under the control of rebel fighters for a year.
A narrow strip of no-man's land separates the warring sides, in some places measuring less than 150 metres.
Rebels said government snipers pose a constant risk.
On Sunday, a group of rebel fighters shielded by large rocks took shots at Syrian government positions that they said were less than 150 metres away.
Another group of rebels moved closer towards the government-held positions, preparing to fend off any new attempts by Syrian troops to take control of the village.
Faez Tyfour, the rebel commander in charge of the Sokur al Sham brigade that operates under the Free Syrian Army general command, said the Syrian government forces had inflicted heavy damage on the region.
"When they took this place and went on to Talata suburb of Ariha, they burned houses there," Tyfour said.
"They tried to take control of it again, but we pushed them back like dogs and rats."
Tyfour pointed to a pair of army boots on the ground, saying they belonged to a Syrian army soldier.
A burned-out truck, also said to belong to the government forces, was seen outside a destroyed building.
Large swaths of residential areas bore signs of fighting, with many houses heavily damaged or completely flattened.
Rebel fighters said the village of Talat and the town of Ariha were bombed from the air and ground by the Syrian government forces.
Many residents were forced to flee homes that now lie in ruins.
The rebel group said that the government bombardment had also destroyed a telecoms building and antenna in the village.
Some two million people have fled Syria since the uprising against Assad erupted in March 2011, according to the United Nations.
Over that time, more than four million Syrians have also been internally displaced within the country.
The United Nations says that more than a hundred thousand people have died in the violence.