Pope Francis Condemns Fatal Bomb Attack In Syria

Pope Francis Condemns Fatal Bomb Attack In SyriaPope Francis has condemned Saturday’s deadly bomb attack on a bus convoy in Syria.

In his Easter message delivered to thousands of pilgrims who gathered in St. Peters Square at the Vatican, he said the bombing which killed more than 100 people near the city of Aleppo, was “the latest vile attack on fleeing refugees”.

The pope, who also spoke against terrorism and corruption, expressed hope that God would send succor to the people of Syria.

“May God in a particular way, sustain the efforts of those who are actively working to bring healing and comfort to the civilian population of Syria, the beloved and martyred Syria, who are victims of a war that does not cease to sow horror and death,” he said.

At an earlier vigil, he spoke of migrants’ pain, and criticised “paralysing and barren bureaucracies that stand in the way of change”.

Meanwhile, Coptic churches in Egypt also marked Easter after last week’s attack claimed by Islamic State militants, left 45 people dead.

Late Andrei Karlov’s Body Returns To Russia

Andrei Karlov, RussiaThe body of late Andrei Karlov, the Russian ambassador assassinated by a Turkish policeman in Ankara has been flown to his home country.

Karlov was shot nine times by 22-year-old Mevlut Mert Altintas, while he was giving a speech on Monday.

While police later “neutralised” the gunman, the Russian was rushed to hospital before his death was later confirmed by the Russian foreign ministry.

On Tuesday afternoon, his coffin was carried across Esenboga airport’s tarmac, draped in a Russian flag.

The dead was accompanied to a waiting plane, sent by Moscow, by an honour guard of six Turkish soldiers.

BBC had reported that the attack came a day after protests in Turkey over Russia’s military intervention in Syria.

It says the attack was apparently made in protest at Russia’s involvement in the Syrian conflict.

US state department spokesman, John Kirby, said US officials were aware of reports about the attack on the ambassador.

“We condemn this act of violence, whatever its source,” he said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with him and his family.”

Russian Ambassador To Turkey Andrei Karlov Shot Dead In Ankara

andrei-karlov-russias-ambassador-to-turkeyA gunman has shot dead Russia’s ambassador to Turkey, Andrei Karlov, with several other people injured.

The BBC reports that the attack came a day after protests in Turkey over Russia’s military intervention in Syria. It says the attack was apparently made in protest at Russia’s involvement in the Syrian conflict.

According to Russian TV, the ambassador had been attending an exhibition called “Russia as seen by Turks”.

Police later “neutralised” the gunman, reports say, without giving details.

Mr Karlov was rushed to hospital, reports said, but his death was later confirmed by the Russian foreign ministry.

“Terrorism will not pass! We will fight it resolutely,” said ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova.

“The memory of this outstanding Russian diplomat, a man who did so much to counter terrorism… will remain in our hearts forever,” she said.

US state department spokesman, John Kirby, said US officials were aware of reports about the attack on the ambassador.

“We condemn this act of violence, whatever its source,” he said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with him and his family.”

Video of the event shows Mr Karlov making a speech when gunshots ring out.

The camera pulls back to show a smartly dressed gunman, wearing a suit and tie, waving a pistol and shouting.

He can be heard yelling: “Don’t forget about Aleppo, don’t forget about Syria” and uses the Arabic phrase “Allahu Akbar” (God is great).

Russia Tells Rebels To Leave Syria’s Aleppo By Friday Evening

russiaRussia on Wednesday told anti-government rebels holed up in Syria’s Aleppo to leave by Friday evening, signaling it would extend a moratorium on air strikes against targets inside the city.

The Russian Defence Ministry, which is helping forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad try to retake full control of Aleppo, said rebels would be allowed to exit the city unharmed and with their weapons between 0900 and 1900 local time on Nov. 4 via two special corridors.

Civilians and the sick and wounded would be allowed to leave via six other corridors, it said.

President Vladimir Putin had ordered the pause in fighting “to avoid senseless victims,” the Defence Ministry said, saying that Syrian authorities would ensure that Syrian troops pulled back from the two corridors designated for rebels.

Russia and its Syrian allies say they halted air attacks on Aleppo on Oct 18. Western governments had alleged that the strikes had been killing civilians in large numbers, an allegation Moscow denied.

Humanitarian pauses designed to allow both rebels and civilians to exit the city have been organized by Moscow and Damascus before, but have largely failed amid continued violence with both sides accusing the other of stopping people from leaving.

A Kremlin spokesman said on Tuesday that the moratorium on air strikes was still in force, but could not be extended if rebels in the city did not halt their attacks.

The Russian Defence Ministry said on Wednesday that rebels inside Aleppo had taken heavy losses during fighting and were effectively trapped.

Syria Conflict: Russian President, Putin Cancels Visit To France

Vladimir Putin, Russia, France, Syria CrisisRussia’s President, Vladimir Putin, has halted his scheduled visit to France amid a row over the conflict in Syria.

Mr Putin was due to meet French President, Francois Hollande as well as commission a new Orthodox church later in October.

The cancelled visit was a fall out of President Hollande’s statement that talks at his meeting with Mr Putin would be confined to Syria.

The French President had proposed that Russia could face war crimes charges over its bombardment of Syria’s city of Aleppo.

He told French TV prosecutions over Syria could take place in the International Criminal Court (ICC).

“These are people who today are the victims of war crimes.

“Those that commit these acts will have to face up to their responsibility, including in the ICC,” Hollande said.

Syria Presses Toward Aleppo, Tells Rebels To Leave

Syria, Allepo, UN, Boris JohnsonSyrian government and allied forces are pushing toward Aleppo, pursuing their week-old offensive to take the rebel-held part of the city after dozens of overnight air strikes.

The Syrian army told the insurgents to leave their positions, offering safe passage and aid supplies.

Syrian forces supported by Iranian-backed militias and Russian air power began their push to take the whole of the divided city after a ceasefire collapsed last month.

An air campaign by the Syrian government and its allies has been reinforced by a ground offensive against the besieged eastern half of Aleppo, where insurgents have been holding out. Hospitals have been badly hit in the assault, medics say.

Reuters reports that while Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry, spoke by phone to discuss normalisation of the situation, Britain said the bombing of hospitals by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al Assad made it impossible to talk about peace.

“It is the continuing savagery of the Assad regime against the people of Aleppo and the complicity of the Russians in committing what are patently war crimes – bombing hospitals, when they know they are hospitals and nothing but hospitals – that is making it impossible for peace negotiations to resume,” British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the Syrian military said on Sunday that the army and its allies had advanced south from the Handarat refugee camp north of the city, taking the Kindi hospital and parts of the Shuqaif industrial area.

Zakaria Malahifji, of the Aleppo-based rebel group Fastaqim, told Reuters there were clashes in this area on Sunday.

The Observatory said air strikes and shelling continued on Sunday and there was fierce fighting all along the front line which cuts the city in two.

The Syrian army said that rebel fighters should vacate east Aleppo in return for safe passage and aid supplies.
“The army high command calls on all armed fighters in the eastern neighborhood of Aleppo to leave these neighborhoods and let civilian residents live their normal lives,” a statement carried by state news agency SANA said.

East Aleppo came under siege in early July after its main supply route, the Castello Road, fell under government control.

International attempts to establish ceasefires to allow in United Nations humanitarian aid have failed, although other aid groups have brought in limited supplies.

Air Strikes Leave Aleppo ‘Without Water’ In Syria

Syria, Aleppo, UNThe United Nations says nearly two million people are in desperate need of water in the besieged Syrian city of Aleppo.

UNICEF said violent air strikes launched on the city on Friday prevented repairs to a damaged pumping station supplying rebel-held districts of the city.

The agency added that in retaliation, a nearby station pumping water to the rest of Aleppo has been switched off.

Fresh strikes were also reported in the city on Saturday, as the Syrian Army pressed on with its push to retake rebel areas.

The latest offensive was launched after a ceasefire collapsed on Monday.

Fighting Further Buries Hopes For Syria Truce

syria2Syrian rebels and pro-government forces battled each other on major frontlines near Aleppo and Hama, and air strikes reportedly killed a dozen people, including four medical workers, as a ceasefire appeared to have completely unraveled.

The renewed battles demonstrated the thin prospects for reviving a truce that collapsed into fresh fighting and bombardments on Monday, including an attack on an aid convoy which U.S. officials believe was carried out by Russian jets. Moscow denies involvement.

The U.N. Security Council was due to hold a high-level meeting on Syria later on Wednesday.

Despite accusing Moscow of being behind the bombing of the aid convoy, the United States says the ceasefire agreement it sponsored jointly with Russia is “not dead”.

But the deal, probably the final hope of reaching a settlement on Syria before the administration of President Barack Obama leaves office, is following the path of all previous peace efforts in Syria: still being touted by diplomats long after the warring parties appeared to have abandoned it.

Overnight fighting was focused in areas that control access to Aleppo city, where the rebel-held east has been encircled by government forces, aided by Russian air power and Iran-backed militias, for all but a few weeks since July.

Syrian state media and a TV station controlled by its Lebanese ally Hezbollah said the army had recaptured a fertilizer factory in the Ramousah area to the southwest of the city. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a monitoring body, confirmed the advance and said government forces had pressed forward near an apartment complex nearby.

A rebel fighter in the Aleppo area said warplanes had been bombing all night in preparation for an attack. But “the regime’s attempts to advance failed,” said the rebel, speaking to Reuters from the Aleppo area via the internet.

A Syrian military source said insurgent groups were mobilizing to the south and west of Aleppo, and in the northern Hama area. “We will certainly target all these gatherings and mobilizations they are conducting.”

The army reported carrying out air strikes on seven areas near Aleppo. The Observatory said an air strike killed four medical workers and at least nine rebel fighters in the insurgent-held town of Khan Touman south of Aleppo, saying the rebels were part of the Islamist alliance Jaish al-Fatah.

The medical staff killed were working for the Union of Medical Care and Relief Organisations (UOSSM), it said. UOSSM confirmed in a statement that at least four of its staff had been killed.

Syrian government forces also launched a major advance in Hama province in the West of the country.

“It is a very intense attack, for which Russian jets paved the way, but it was repelled by the brothers, praise God,” Abu al-Baraa al-Hamawi, a rebel commander fighting as part of the Islamist Jaish al-Fatah alliance, told Reuters.

He said rebels had destroyed four tanks and inflicted heavy losses on government troops. Syrian state TV said government forces had killed a number of insurgents and destroyed their vehicles.

Rebel sources also reported an attempt by pro-government forces to advance in the Handarat area to the north of Aleppo, saying this too had been repelled. Pro-government media made no mention of that attack.

The Observatory reported that a Syrian jet had crashed near Damascus, saying the cause of the crash and fate of the pilot were unknown. Islamic State said it had been shot down.

Syria Ceasefire ‘Holding’ As It Enters First Full Day

Syria CeasefireReports from Syria say the cessation of hostilities that came into effect on Monday appears to be holding.

The deal, brokered by Russia and the US, has been described by the US Secretary of State, John Kerry, as possibly the “last chance to save a united Syria”.

Residents in the troubled northern city of Aleppo said there had been calm in the city.

A monitoring group based in the United Kingdom, Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has also confirmed that it appeared to be “quiet” on nearly all fronts.

However, there were reports of sporadic attacks carried out by both government forces and rebels after the ceasefire had come into effect.

The Syrian Army said the truce would be applied throughout Syria for seven days, but that it reserved the right to respond decisively to any violation by armed groups.

Syrian, Russian Aircraft Step Up Bombing Of Aleppo city

aleppoNearly 50 strikes hit rebel-held areas in and around the Syrian city of Aleppo on Sunday in some of the heaviest raids recently by Russian and Syrian government aircraft, residents and a monitor said.

For their part, rebels also hit government-held areas of Aleppo in what Syrian media said was an escalation in mortar attacks on the western districts of what was the country’s largest city before the war.

State media said missiles fired on Hamadaniyah, Midan and other neighborhoods by insurgents left at least twenty dead, mostly civilians, in the second day of intense shelling of government-held areas, which had left at least 24 dead on Saturday.

In the rebel-held eastern sector of the city, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said dozens of barrel bombs – oil drums or cylinders packed with explosives and shrapnel- were dropped by military helicopters on several densely populated districts.

A civil defense worker said at least 32 people were killed in the rebel-held parts of the city, with eighteen bodies alone pulled out of the rubble of flattened buildings in the Qatrji neighborhood, the worst hit.

“This week-long campaign of bombing is very intense and day by day it’s getting worse .. it is the worst we have seen in a while,” said Bebars Mishal, a civil defense official in rebel-held Aleppo.

The aerial raids on Sunday came in the wake of Friday’s strikes on civilian areas that residents said were the most intense in over a month.

The city, which has been divided for years between rebel and government-held zones, has seen many deadly bombardments that have all but destroyed a February ceasefire agreement.

Full control of Aleppo city would be a huge prize for President Bashar al-Assad. Russia’s military intervention in September has helped to bolster Assad’s government.

The monitor also said the Syrian government raids had targeted the main Castello road that leads into rebel-held Aleppo as part of a campaign to cut the main rebel route in and complete the encirclement of the city’s insurgent-held areas.

A Russian defense ministry statement on Sunday accused militant Syrian Islamist groups of firing mortars on the mainly Kurdish-populated Sheikh Maqsood neighborhood in Aleppo that overlooks the Castello road.

The monitor said 13 people, including six children, were killed on Saturday in the Kurdish-run area by insurgent mortars.

Rebels accuse the powerful Kurdish YPG of working hand in hand with the Syrian army to cut the main artery by intensifying their ground attacks on the highway and targeting civilians who use it while Syrian jets pound the route from the air.

The Russians had on Saturday accused militants from radical Islamic groups of bringing at least 1,000 fighters into an area in the southern Aleppo countryside.

The militants have consolidated gains since Friday in the area around the strategic town of Khan Touman rebels say.

The Nusra Front spearheaded an attack on Khan Touman last month, delivering one of the biggest battlefield setbacks yet to a coalition of foreign Shi’ite fighters, including Iranians and the Lebanese Hezbollah fighting in support of Syrian government forces..

Rebels say Russian jets on Sunday pounded insurgent positions in the area to prevent them from advancing toward the nearby town of Hader, which rebels say is a stronghold of Iranian-backed militias.

Air strikes Pound Syria’s Aleppo, ‘Calm’ In Farther Southwest

Syria AleppoNearly 30 air strikes hit rebel-held areas of Syria’s northern city of Aleppo on Saturday, killing more people in a ninth straight day of bombardments by warring sides, and a temporary “calm” declared by Syrian military took hold around Damascus and in the northwest.

The violence in Aleppo, which has borne the brunt of an escalation in fighting that has all but destroyed a ceasefire deal brokered in February by Washington and Moscow, has killed nearly 250 people since April 22, a monitoring group said.

It has also contributed to the break up of peace talks in Geneva, which the main opposition walked out of last week.

A temporary “regime of calm”, or lull in fighting, announced by the Syrian army late on Friday, which Damascus said was designed to salvage the wider ceasefire deal, appeared to hold in the capital and areas in its suburbs, as well as parts of northwest coastal province Latakia. Aleppo had not been included in the plan for a lull.

At least five people were killed in Aleppo early on Saturday in the latest round of air strikes, which were believed to have been carried out by Syrian government warplanes, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The British-based monitoring group put the civilian death toll in government and rebel bombardments of neighbourhoods in Aleppo since April 22 at nearly 250.

This figure included around 140 people killed by government-aligned forces in air strikes and shellings of rebel-held areas, including 19 children, it said.

Insurgent shelling of government-held areas killed 96 people, including 21 children.

Aleppo, Syria’s largest city before the war, has been divided for years between rebel and government zones. Full control would be the most important prize for President Bashar al-Assad, who has been fighting to keep hold of his country throughout a five-year civil war.

Syrian Government Strikes On Two Rebel-Held Areas Kill 23-Monitor

damscusSyrian warplanes bombed the rebel-held town of Douma near Damascus and parts of Aleppo in the north on Saturday, killing 23 people, with the death toll likely to rise, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Mediators have struggled to get combatants in Syria’s five-year-old war to honour a Feb. 27 cessation of hostilities deal to enable peace talks in Geneva to proceed. Each side accuses the other of violating the truce.

Fighting has escalated around Aleppo, Idlib, Latakia, Damascus and other areas over the past week and the main opposition group walked out of Geneva peace talks this week in protest at government attacks.

The Geneva talks aim to end a war that has killed more than 250,000 people, created the world’s worst refugee crisis, allowed for the rise of the Islamic State group and drawn in regional and major powers. Russia’s intervention in the conflict beginning late last year has swayed the war in President Bashar al-Assad’s favour.

The Britain-based Observatory, which monitors the Syrian war through a network of contacts, said the death toll in Douma, northeast of the capital, was expected to rise from 13 because more than 22 others were injured, some critically.

In a government-controlled camp near Douma, shelling killed a woman and child, and injured others, the Observatory said.

There was also fighting near Bala in the southeast of Damascus between rebel groups and government forces with deaths occurring on both sides.

In Aleppo, at least ten people were killed, including a child, by bombs dropped from planes in an insurgent-controlled eastern neighbourhood of what was Syria’s commercial hub before the civil war began in 2011.

This is the second day of heavy bombardment on Aleppo. Nineteen people were killed on Friday in similar air attacks.

In a government-held area of northwest Aleppo, Syrian state television said six people were injured in rebel shelling.

On Friday a Syrian warplane crashed southeast of Damascus. The Syrian military said it crashed because of a technical fault, but Islamic State said it shot the plane down and had taken its pilot captive.

In a statement on Saturday the hardline militant group said this was the third Syrian warplane it had shot down in two weeks, in addition to a Russian drone.

On Friday, the U.N. special envoy for Syria vowed to take the talks into next week despite the opposition suspending their involvement.