Live Updates: Syria Crisis

May 7, 2013 2:30am

From Damascus to Moscow, London to Washington, ABC’s team reports on the Syria crisis as it unfolds. Join the conversation on Twitter #SyriaABC.

8:00pm EDT: As we sign off tonight, a country remains without internet and at least four Filipino peacekeepers remain in captivity in the Golan Heights. If you dropped by this space today, we welcome your feedback on Twitter or in the comment section below.

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Former foes find common ground in Moscow
6:30pm EDT Dana Hughes (@Dana_Hughes) in Moscow, Russia

After a very long day in Moscow, one issue both Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov and Secretary of State Kerry agreed on was the unacceptable threat of chemical weapons use.

Kerry tied the decision over whether to arm Syria’s rebels, which has some bipartisan support in Congress, with the outcome of the administration’s current investigation into allegations that the regime has used chemical weapons.

“President Obama has ordered an appropriate, careful analysis of that evidence and I think the Congress will look very carefully at the results of that analysis before they make any judgments going forward” he said. But Kerry also maintained President Obama continues to reserve the right to use force if the chemical weapons “red line” is crossed.

“One thing is clear, the president of the United States said that he hasn’t taken any options off the table yet pending the determination of the chemical weapons use,” said Kerry. “And he is serious about making certain that that prohibition is enforced.

Lavrov said that Russia also takes allegations of chemical weapons use seriously but stressed that evidence and facts need to be “double checked” before any action is taken.

To that end, he said that Washington and the Kremlin would be working more closely together and sharing information in regard’s to the potential use of chemical weapons in Syria.

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5:25pm EDT: Internet outage reported in Syria

According to multiple reports, the internet in Syria went down around 9:45pm local time, 2:45pm EDT.

Google’s transparency report below clearly shows a significant drop in Syrian internet traffic on Tuesday May 7, 2013.

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Courtesy Google Transparency Reports

Today’s incident was reported by Web security company, Umbrella Security Labs on their blog:

“At around 18:45 UTC OpenDNS resolvers saw a significant drop in traffic from Syria. On closer inspection it seems Syria has largely disappeared from the Internet.
The graph below shows DNS traffic from and to Syria. Although Twitter remains relatively silent, the drop in both inbound and outbound traffic from Syria is clearly visible. The small amount of outbound traffic depicted by the chart indicates our DNS servers trying to reach DNS servers in Syria.”

 

Internet monitoring services Akamai Technologies, Renesys and BGPmon.net also confirmed the outage:

 

 

This is not the first time Syrians have been virtually cut off during the last two years. Internet in Syria was shut down in June 2011, July 2012 and most recently in November 2012. In November, ABC News reported the internet was restored after nearly 72 hours.

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4:40pm EDT Assad: Syria “capable of facing Israel”

Standing alongside Iranian Foreign Minister Salehi in Damascus on Tuesday, President Bashar al-Assad said Syria is “capable of facing Israel’s ventures.”

According to state-run SANA news agency, Assad told reporters “the Syrian people and their brave army… are able to confront the Israeli risks which constitute one face of this terrorism which targets Syria daily.”

Assad did not specify Syria’s capabilities, but Salehi took a more threatening tone in response to Israel’s recent airstrikes in Syria. “It is time to deter the Israeli occupiers from carrying out these aggressions against the peoples of the region,” he said. Voicing confidence for Iran’s close regional ally, Salehi said Iran is “fully confident that Syria will emerge victorious from the crisis.”

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Kerry leaves door open for Assad?
4:03pm EDT Dana Hughes (@Dana_Hughes) in Moscow, Russia

Speaking during a joint press conference in Moscow with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov, Secretary of State Kerry told reporters it was impossible to envision how President Assad could govern a future Syria. “I’m not going to decide that tonight and I’m not going to decide that in the end,” Kerry said Syrians have to decide who makes up the transitional body to govern them.

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US Secretary of State John Kerry gestures in front of the St.Basil's cathedral during a walk at the Red Square in Moscow on May 7, 2013.

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3:57pm EDT Video: Kerry encourages Putin to dig in, find common ground


Courtesy YouTube/Statevideo

Secretary Kerry: “The United States believes that we share some very significant common interests with respect to Syria – stability in the region, not having extremists creating problems throughout the region and elsewhere – and I think we have both embraced in the Geneva communique a common approach. So it’s my hope that today we’ll be able to dig into that a little bit and see if we can find the common ground. And the President – President Obama particularly feels that cooperation between Russia and the United States with respect to economic issues is something that would be of enormous benefit to both, and Russia’s leadership is so key on so many of those issues. We look forward to working with you.”

Read the full transcript here.
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Photo: Iranian FM Salehi visits President Assad
3:46pm EDT Nasser Atta (@NasserAtta5)

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Syrian President Assad and Iranian Foreign Minister Salehi meet in Damascus on May 7, 3013/ Al-Alam TV

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Syrian President Assad, right, and Iranian Foreign Minister Salehi, left, meet in Damascus on May 7, 2013/SANA

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Gen. Odierno: Budget cuts could make Syria intervention too risky
2:44pm EDT Luis Martinez (@LMartinezABC) at the Pentagon

Gen. Raymond Odierno, the Army Chief of Staff, told a group of reporters today that sequestration cuts could impact Army training efforts that could make the Army less prepared for a ground intervention in Syria should the Obama administration decide on that course of action.

According to Foreign Policy’s E-Ring Blog Gen. Odierno told reporters at the Defense Writers Group breakfast that sequestration cuts could affect the Army’s readiness by the end of the summer.

“Readiness is OK right now, but it’s degrading significantly because our training is reducing. So, the next three, four months, we probably have the capability to do it,” Odierno is quoted as saying of a potential U.S. Army intervention in Syria. “Next year, it becomes a little bit more risky.”

“If you ask me today, we have forces that can go. I think it will change over time because the longer we go cancelling training and reducing our training, the readiness levels go down” said Odierno. He explained that “It’s a matter of us having the dollars to make sure they are ready and trained to meet such a contingency in Syria.”

Odierno thinks the Assad regime will collapse at some point in the future. “I kind of believe it’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when,” said Odierno.

He added “I think from what I’ve seen is they have made some significant gains. I think they are controlling the territory. It makes you think that, you know, it’s going to be difficult for the regime over time to survive.”

And he’s concerned about the long-range implications of what happens in Syria. “If we don’t get this right, what happens the day after … could change the whole face of the Middle East, or it could go smoothly,” he speculated. “How do we from an international coalition try to make this happen in such a way where we don’t create incredible instability once Syria falls. That’s what I worry about.”

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Lavrov, Kerry stress cooperation in Moscow
2:27pm EDT Dana Hughes (@Dana_Hughes) in Moscow, Russia

 

 

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2:12pm EDT: Iran’s Foreign Minister Salehi meets with President Assad

 


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Obama: U.S. needs concrete evidence of chemical weapons use
2:07pm EDT
Mary Bruce (@MaryKBruce) at the White House

Updated 5:48pm EDT: Defending his cautious approach to Syria, President Obama today said the U.S. has both a “moral obligation and a national security interest” in ending the bloodshed, but cautioned that he will not make any decisions about U.S. involvement based on the “perceived” use of chemical weapons.

 

 

 

 

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After Baniyas, “the fear is divided”
2:00pm EDT Alison Meuse (@AliTahmizian) and @SyriaDeeply

Rama al-Darwish, 30, living in Damascus tells @SyriaDeeply‘s Alison Meuse that “the events in Baniyas may be a sectarian turning point. But this was not the first time something like this has happened. The alignment in Syria has become clear.” Al-Darwish continues, “a large part of the revolutionaries and rebels are from the Sunni community. We are in a situation of bloodshed within a family. The fear is sectarianism. The fear is a divided Syria.”

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Erdogan says airstrikes covered up “genocide in Baniyas”
2:00pm EDT: Following Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s first response to Israeli airstrikes in Syria earlier today, Al Jazeera reports Erdogan said these attacks were “offered on a golden tray to Assad and to the illegitimate Syrian regime. Using the Israel attack as an excuse, he is trying to cover up the genocide in Baniyas.”

Last week, graphic video emerged showing mutilated, dead bodies in the coastal town of Baniyas. Activists tell ABC News at least 77 people were killed, while the government blamed the deaths on “terrorist groups.” The incident in Baniyas, came a day after at least 72 people were killed in nearby al-Bayda.

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U.S. officials: Israel’s airstrikes targeted Iranian Fateh-110 missiles
12:10pm EDT Luis Martinez (@LMartinezABC) at the Pentagon

U.S. officials say that the target of Israel’s weekend air strikes in Syria were up to a dozen Iranian Fateh-110 missiles that may have been headed to Hezbollah in Lebanon. A U.S. official says up to a dozen of the mobile launched missiles were targeted and destroyed in the two attacks conducted by Israeli warplanes on Thursday and Saturday nights. Saturday night’s attacks targeted three locations that housed the mobile missiles which it is believed were intended for Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Iran and Hezbollah have both backed President Bashar al-Assad in Syria’s civil war. It is believed Iran is shipping the advanced Fateh-100 missiles to Hezbollah in case Assad loses power and the loss of Iran’s arms pipeline to Hezbollah. Israel wants to prevent Hezbollah from gaining these weapons which have a range that could reach Tel Aviv from southern Lebanon.

U.S. officials said Israel had not provided advance warning to the United States of both the attacks carried out this week.

In late January, Israel conducted a similar airstrike outside Damascus targeting a convoy of antiaircraft missiles believed headed to Hezbollah.

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Photo: Four UN peacekeepers held in Syria
10:55am EDT Alexander Marquardt (@MarquardtA)

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Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade

Four Filipino United Nations peacekeepers posted in the Syrian Golan Heights have been held in Syria by the rebel “Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade.” The peacekeepers were taken near the town of Jablah and are being held, the group says, for their own safety amid heavy fighting with Syrian regime forces.

The rebels posted a photo of the peacekeepers on their Facebook page and said they would work to get the peacekeepers back.

The same rebel group took 21 Filipino peacekeepers in March in the same area. At first, the rebels said they wouldn’t release the peacekeepers until forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad withdrew from around Jamlah. They then claimed to be holding the men for their own safety. Eventually the peacekeepers were returned unharmed.

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President Putin is three hours late to meet with Secretary Kerry
10:47am EDT: Kirit Radia (@KiritRadia_ABC) in Moscow, Russia

Putin is known for keeping people waiting. He kept President Obama waiting for hours at Los Cabos last year. To give you an idea what Putin’s been up to today aside from his meeting with Secretary Kerry: it’s the one year anniversary of his inauguration and he marked the occasion by publicly berating the Cabinet for not doing enough.

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10:43am EDT: And Kerry is still waiting for Putin.

As we noted earlier, Secretary Kerry had to cool his heels Tuesday morning at the airport for about 30 minutes because a rehearsal for an upcoming military parade was blocking his route downtown. The U.S. Secretary of State’s motorcade often halts traffic when he travels abroad, but today it proved no match for columns of Russian tanks, ICBMs and armored personnel carriers.
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Secretary Kerry takes a walk while waiting for Putin
10:33am EDT: Dana Hughes (@Dana_Hughes) in Moscow, Russia

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Meet Manhal Barish, 33, Idlib
10:30am EDT Alison Meuse (@Alitahmizian) and @SyriaDeeply

“This is an attack on the sovereignty of Syrian national territory, regardless of whether it targeted a regime headquarters,” said 33 year-old Manhal Barish in response to Israeli airstrikes over the weekend. “I refuse to accept Israeli intervention in Syrian affairs.”

“This is an attack and abuse against the Syrian revolution. Now the regime is linking the raids to the rebels and accusing the rebels and opposition of collaborating with Israel.”

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Meet Sham, 30, Damascus
10:25am EDT Alison Meuse (@Alitahmizian) and @SyriaDeeply

“Israel may be practicing military exercises because it knows there will be no response from Syria or its allies in this time of chaos,” says 30 year-old Rama al-Darwish from Damascus. “Others say they were targeting an arms shipment to Hezbollah or chemical weapons. The possibilities are open.”

“A lot of things have also been happening in the Golan Heights. In recent months there has been gunfire and mortar shelling. But this time Israel’s intervention was stronger, because it was in the capital. Yet, I don’t foresee Israeli involvement anytime soon because American hasn’t changed its position on dealing with the events in Syria.”

“The Israeli raids embarrassed the regime – now the opposition can say that there is coordination between the regime and Israel. But the raids are not only negative for the regime, but also the opposition, since both sides will point the finger at one another. The raids are only in the interest of Israel.”

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Meet Abu Kinan, 29, Damascus
10:20am EDT: Alison Meuse (@Alitahmizian) and @SyriaDeeply

“Israel is only afraid for itself,” says 29 year-old Abu Kinan from Damascus, responding to the Israeli airstrikes over the weekend. “The raid is nothing but fear of a weapons transfer to Hezbollah or that weapons will fall into the hands of the rebels. I firmly believe Bashar al-Assad is servile to Israel. These raids show that the regime is only strong when it comes to massacres and ethnic cleansing. The media is overly focused on these raids. Frankly, the pictures of the children, the death and carnage in Banias, should be at the center of peoples’ attention.”

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Meet Salwah Mekrsh, 18, Aleppo
10:16am EDT Lama Hasan (@LamaHasan)


Courtesy Médecins Sans Frontières

For 18 year-old Salwah Mekrsh from Aleppo, life is just beginning to get easier. Injured by a sniper, Mekrsh describes her harrowing ordeal in a video posted by Doctors Without Borders (MSF) called “Healing in the Shade of a Lemon Tree.” Sitting in her wheel chair, Mekrsh offers a snapshot of what it’s like living in the midst of a bloody civil war, a war tearing her home country apart. Mekrsh says she was walking home on November 25th, 2012 but the road she usually takes was closed, forcing her to take another route. That detour cost the 18 year-old the ability to walk.

After shuttling between Syrian hospitals, she has since moved to Kilis, Turkey to receive better care. Mekrsh lives with her mother and three sisters, while her husband and daughter live in a neighboring town on the Turkish-Syrian border. Mekrsh says her husband won’t let her see their daughter in her current condition but nearly six months later, she’s making steady progress. “Psychologically I feel better now,” says Mekrsh.

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9:37am EDT: The view from Damascus

 

 

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9:20am EDT: Palestinian newspaper editor: “cusp of regional war”
“If Israel’s rocket attacks on Syria are a not a declaration of war, and a violation of the sovereignty of a state riven by civil strife, then, what is war?” asks the Editor in Chief of the London-based Al-Quds Al-Arabi newspaper, Abdel al-Bari Atwan. Atwan warns “we are on the cusp of regional war, and if this war breaks out, Israel and her international allies and Arab supports would bear the full responsibility.”

 

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9:10am EDT: Iran’s Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi makes surprise visit to Damascus

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8:35am EDT: Iran’s FM against foreign intervention in Syria
During a rare visit to Amman, Jordan, Iran’s Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi reiterated his support for a domestic Syrian solution:

“We refuse any solution forced from outside. We are against any foreign intervention in Syria. We have seen what has happened in some countries, which I will not name, after they faced foreign intervention. We don’t want history to repeat itself in Syria.

We haven’t hidden our position in supporting the Syrian people as well as the Syrian government. This is no secret, however, as we said in the past two years, we are in contact with the opposition, and we have spoken frankly to the Syrian government, urging it to have talks and negotiations with the opposition groups… Israel would not dare to attack Iran, you can be sure of that. However we are ready for any worse case scenarios, but at the same time, we are sure that Israel would not undertake such an operation.”

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8:13am EDT Reports: Peacekeepers detained in Syria

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Syrian National Coalition holds chemical weapons symposium
8:00am EDT Alexander Marquardt (@MarquardtA)

The opposition Syrian National Coalition is hosting a symposium on chemical weapons in Istanbul on Tuesday, according to Al Jazeera.

The meeting follows comments by a United Nations investigator that there are “strong, concrete suspicions but not yet incontrovertible proof” that rebels in Syria have used the nerve agent Sarin. The investigator, Carla del Ponte said her assessment was made based on witness testimony.

The UN Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria, for which del Ponte works, swiftly put out a statement walking back her comments, saying, ” it has not reached conclusive findings as to the use of chemical weapons in Syria by any parties to the conflict.”

The military wing of the opposition denied del Ponte’s claims and White House spokesman Jay Carney said there was no evidence the rebels have the ability or intent to use Sarin.

The U.S. and Israel have accused the regime of President Bashar al-Assad of using chemical weapons and say they have seen traces of Sarin. But President Barack Obama has urged caution and said further investigating is needed to determine the source of the deadly nerve agent.

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Mortar shell lands in Golan Heights
7:35am EDT Bruno Nota (@brunonota)

Another mortar shell lobbed over the Israeli-Syrian border exploded this morning in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. An Israeli military spokesperson told ABC News that unlike in past instances, the IDF has not responded. It is, the spokesman says, the understanding that the mortar was fired mistakenly as part of the military clashes inside Syria between rebel fighters and government forces that made the IDF decide to refrain from firing back. This is the second incident of its kind in the last 24 hours.

The IDF is showing restraint for the moment and is closely watching the border. Although Israel did not officially confirm that its air force carried out two devastating bombing missions deep inside Syrian territory on Friday and Sunday, it seems that the lack of the IDF’s response to the mortar fire is aimed at not exacerbating the already heightened tension between the two countries. Israeli residents of the Golan Heights have expressed an increased concern that the internal Syrian conflict could spill over the border.

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Erdogan calls Israeli airstrikes on Syria “unacceptable”
7:35am EDT Alexander Marquardt (@MarquardtA)

Turkey’s Prime Minister has called last week’s Israeli airstrikes on Syria “unacceptable.” “No excuse can justify this operation,” Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told ruling party members of Parliament, Agence France-Presse reports.

Turkish-Israeli relations fell apart following Israel’s May 2010 raid on the Turkish Mavi Marmara aid ship sailing for the Gaza strip. Nine Turkish activists were killed, the ambassadors for both countries were recalled.

At the end of President Barack Obama’s trip to Jerusalem and the West Bank in March, he coordinated a call between Erdogan and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to get relations back on track. Reconciliation talks took place in Jerusalem on Monday which included discussions over compensation for the victims’ families. Netanyahu’s office said a draft agreement had been formulated, according to Haaretz, “but a number of clarifications are needed on a few issues.”

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Netanyahu: “We can defend ourselves”
7:30am EDT Alexander Marquardt (@MarquardtA)

Israel has yet to comment publicly on the air strikes that Syria accuses Israel of carrying on over the past few days, but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday reiterated Israel’s ability to defend itself.

“Today the Jewish People has a state and army of its own and no longer needs to plead to be rescued,” Netanyahu said on the second day of his trip to China, “we can defend ourselves.”

Many saw Netanyahu’s departure on his planned trip to China that Israel does not intend to carry out more strikes on Syria and that Israel doesn’t expect immediate retaliation.

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Filkins: Inside the White House Syria debate
7:30am EDT Nasser Atta (@NasserAtta5), Alexander Marquardt (@MarquardtA)

The New Yorker’s Dexter Filkins dives into President Barack Obama’s reluctance to get involved in the Syrian civil war, and the mounting frustrations:

“The President’s reluctance has prompted harsh criticism, and even accusations that he has acquiesced in a mass atrocity. McCain told me, “Everything bad that they said would happen if we intervened has now happened—because we didn’t intervene.”

In the Washington Post, Anne-Marie Slaughter, a Princeton professor and former State Department official under Obama, wrote, “Standing by while Assad gasses his people will guarantee that, whatever else Obama may achieve, he will be remembered as a President who proclaimed a new beginning with the Muslim world but presided over a deadly chapter in the same old story.” If he did not intervene, she added, “The world would see Syrian civilians rolling on the ground, foaming at the mouth, dying by the thousands while the United States stands by.”

The President’s critics find his passivity especially galling in light of the epochal—and popular—change sweeping the Arab world. “In foreign affairs, he seems risk averse, in using force and even diplomacy,” Rubin said. “There are no big diplomatic initiatives. There is little peace effort in the Middle East. There is no peace effort between Azerbaijan and Armenia—there are no big peace efforts anywhere. We used to have a whole part of our foreign policy we called America as Peacemaker. We don’t do that anymore.”

Filkins also chronicles the rise of the extremist rebels:

“In barely a year, Al Nusra has grown into the strongest rebel group, with several thousand fighters carrying out operations in every region of the country, marking their territory with a black banner, like the one used by Al Qaeda in Iraq, that reads, “There is no God but Allah, and Mohammed is his prophet.” Intelligence officers say that Al Nusra’s leaders have learned from the mistakes they made in Iraq, where Al Qaeda’s bloodlust so alienated Iraqis that they turned to the Americans, splitting the insurgency. According to the Senate aide, Al Nusra’s leaders have not tried to kill or intimidate tribal leaders in Syria’s rural areas, as they did in Iraq, but instead are paying them off, while keeping their extreme beliefs to themselves. “They are coming in and making common cause with the Sunni tribes in the eastern part of Syria,” he said. “They got smoked in Iraq, and they have learned a lot.” The group has become popular enough to support itself mostly through private donations. Its growth is a result of its success, the Senate aide said. Al Nusra’s fighters are brave and committed, and the group has a sophisticated media arm that broadcasts videos of their exploits, which have included suicide bombings and executions of Syrian prisoners. In Aleppo, the group has replaced failed civil institutions: its members run the police force, the power station, and a Sharia court, which has sentenced people to lashings. At one point, it announced its own no-fly zone over the city.”

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Watch: “God, Syria, Bashar and nothing else”
7:00am EDT Nasser Atta (@NasserAtta5), Alexander Marquardt (@MarquardtA)

In this clip posted online, Palestinian Christians chant their support for Syrian president Bashar al-Assad in Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre. “God, Syria, Bashar and nothing else,” they chant, a refrain popular in Syria among Assad supporters. It was filmed last Saturday on Orthodox Easter. Syria’s Christians – which make up around 10% of the population – have fled Syria in droves as their communities are caught in the fighting between the Sunni-led insurgency and the regime forces. Christian communities have been targeted by Sunni extremist groups fighting the Assad regime, churches destroyed. Like other minority groups – Druze, Kurds, Shias – Christians felt protected by the regime which is dominated by the Alawite minority, making most Christians either pro-Assad or neutral in this conflict.

On April 23, two of the most senior Christian clerics in Syria were kidnapped by rebel gunmen, reportedly Chechens. Archbishop Boulos Yaziji of Aleppo’s Greek Orthodox church Archbishop Yuhanna Ibrahim, head of the Syrian Orthodox church there were taken by men who were reportedly Chechen and haven’t been heard from since. The Maronite archbishop of Damascus, Samir Nassar, told the Guardian that Christians in Syria now faced a choice between “two bitter chalices: to die or leave.”

Palestinians, who are overwhelmingly Sunni – like the rebels in Syria – are divided over the Syrian conflict. Syria has taken in some 500,000 Palestinian refugees since 1948.

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Khamenei condemns destruction of Shiite shrine
7:00am EDT Alexander Marquardt (@MarquardtA)

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Al Nusra Fighters

Iran’s leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has spoken out against the reported desecration of a Shiite shrine by Sunni extremist rebels in Syria, the New York Times reports from Tehran. The shrine was the burial site of Hujr bin Uday al-Kindi, one of Prophet Mohammad’s companions:

“Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who considers himself a binding figure between Sunnis and Shiites, called the event “bitter and sad,” and blamed foreign intelligence agencies for the destruction of the shrine.

Iranian and Syrian students protested Monday in Tehran, shouting “death to America” and “death to Israel,” while pro-government speakers blamed Britain as a former colonizer for “sowing the seeds of discord between Sunnis and Shiites.”

The students shouted back, “Stop, stop the exhuming of graves.”

The Qaeda-inspired Al Nusra Front claimed responsibility for the abduction of the remains of Mr. Oday. The group’s attack was followed by a stern warning from Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite militia, who on April 30 told Sunni rebels not to target the largest Shiite sanctuary in Syria, the golden-domed shrine of Sayida Zeinab, Muhammad’s granddaughter.

Nasrallah warned of “very serious repercussions” if Syrian rebels attacked the shrine, long a main pilgrimage destination for Shiites worldwide.”

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UN: 6.8 million Syrians require humanitarian assistance
7:00am EDT Alexander Marquardt (@MarquardtA)

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian affairs said in a report Monday that an estimated 6.8 million Syrians, or almost one-third of the entire population, require urgent humanitarian assistance. Around 3.1 million children require assistance and over the past months, the number of internally displaced people in Syria has more than doubled, from an estimated 2 million to 4.25 million people.

Updated 8:47am ET:

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Palestinian militant group says Syria OKs attack on Israel
7:00am EDT: The Associated Press reports that a spokesman for a Palestinian militant group in Syria says it has received a nod from President Bashar al-Assad’s regime to attack Israel following the back-to-back Israeli airstrikes over the weekend. Anwar Raja of the Damascus-based Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command says the regime has given “a green light” for the group “to attack Israeli targets” from the Syrian-controlled part of Golan Heights. Raja did not elaborate on how the alleged approval was conveyed to PFLP-GC fighters but he stressed that there was no official government note.

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Kerry wheels down in Moscow
2:30am EDT Dana Hughes (@Dana_Hughes) and Kirit Radia (@KiritRadia) report from Moscow, Russia

Secretary of State Kerry has arrived in Moscow for talks on Syria. He’s expected to press President Vladimir Putin to take a tougher stance on President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

Welcome to Syria Live May 7, 2013.

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