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Syria Direct: News Update 2-11-2014

* The Syrian government and opposition delegations sat down Tuesday […]

11 February 2014

* The Syrian government and opposition delegations sat down Tuesday morning for the first face-to-face meeting of the second round of the Geneva II peace conference, which began the day before. The opposition Syrian National Coalition stated Tuesday morning that its delegation had  reinforced the need to stop “savage regime violence” in negotiations Monday, presenting documentation of an uptick in government-instigated destruction since Geneva II began last month. Meanwhile, Syrian state media reported that the government delegation had given UN Envoy Lakhdar Brahimi  “a statement condemning the massacre in Ma’an in Outer Hama,” referring to an incident Sunday in which pro-Assad sources allege rebel fighters entered the majority Alawite town, killing dozens of women and children.

* Fighting appeared to intensify Tuesday in the town of Karam al-Turab, near the Aleppo International Airport and six kilometers southeast of the city, with pro-opposition media sources reporting that two were killed and 25 injured in regime barrel bombing. The opposition’s account coincides with government claims that the Syrian army had taken full control of the town and killed numerous “terrorists,” as it continues its push to control areas in southern and eastern Aleppo province. Meanwhile, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that the Syrian government continued its barrel bombings of areas elsewhere in Aleppo, in a campaign that has now entered its third week.

* The Syrian government announced Tuesday that it had transported a third shipment of its chemical stockpiles to Syria’s Mediterranean port city of Latakia, where they were loaded onto a Norwegian ship under the supervision of United Nations representatives. The first and second shipments were transported in January. The announcement comes after mounting criticism from Western leaders, who have accused Damascus of stalling in the process of surrendering its chemical arsenal.

* The tenuous truce in the besieged Old City of Homs was extended for 72 hours on Monday in order to allow the continued evacuation of roughly 3,000 civilians who have been trapped in the Old City’s 13 neighborhoods for nearly a year and a half. Some 450 civilians were evacuated on Monday, bringing the total to roughly 1,200 since the ceasefire went into effect on Friday. The extension comes despite repeated attacks on the convoy over the weekend, which state media blamed on “terrorists” and which opposition activists blamed on the pro-regime National Defense Forces.

Fleeing_Homs.jpgHoms residents carried their possessions to a UN evacuation site. Photo courtesy of @HadiAlabdallah.

* A group of Iranian activists on Monday announced the official launch of a Facebook page monitoring Iran’s role in Syria. The project, which is called Naame Shaam—Persian for “Letters from Syria”—includes English and Persian postings regarding Iran’s engagement in Syria’s civil war, with the stated goal of “informing the Iranian public about their government’s policies and direct involvement in Syria.” The group announced that a website would soon be launched in addition to the Facebook page, which was formed January 31. 

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