Syria

After four years of siege and bombardment, the evacuation is underway of civilians and rebels from embattled Daraya, southwest of Syria's capital Damascus.

Turkish troops crossed into Syria early Wednesday, carrying out airstrikes and launching artillery fire to clear ISIS militants from a border area in coordination with the U.S.-led coalition.

Turkish Rules Leave Syrian Refugee Children In Limbo

Aug 24, 2016

Aref al-Krez has the look of a young, laid-back guy with well-coiffed hair, stylish clothes and carefully cultivated stubble.

But the 24-year-old Syrian refugee and father of a young daughter has a world of worries about her future and his role in it.

Like so many Syrians now living in Turkey, Krez faces huge bureaucratic hurdles while trying to obtain the right government-issued documents that prove his daughter is actually his.

Like hundreds of thousands of Syrians fleeing the long war back home, 25-year-old Firas Awad endured a dangerous sea journey and a long trek through much of Europe to reach Germany, where he's staked his future.

He and his 18-year-old wife, Tamam Aldrawsha, who are both from the city of Homs, now live in what used to be a country inn and restaurant, in a tiny, forested village north of Berlin called Klosterheide, population 280.

Surrounded by shouting, he's completely silent.

The child is small, alone, covered in blood and dust, dropped in the back of an ambulance with his feet dangling off the edge of a too-big chair.

He doesn't cry or speak. His face is stunned and dazed, but not surprised. He wipes his hand over his wounded face, looks at the blood, wipes it off on the chair.

Khaled Omar Harrah, a volunteer rescuer who spent nearly three years rushing to the scenes of airstrikes and barrel bombs to save lives, has been killed in the embattled city of Aleppo.

For Alissa Berger and her family, it was the first visit to the Dar-ul-Islam Mosque in Elizabeth, New Jersey.

"We are from Temple Emanu-El," says Jenny Tananbaum, who came with the Bergers and refers to the nearby Jewish synagogue.

"We are here to adopt a Syrian family," says Berger. "We are going to work with a family for a year to help them." This is not a handout, she says, but practical help to upgrade inadequate housing, make sure the utilities work and help with employment and navigating American culture.

When 31 governors called for a ban on Syrian refugees coming into the U.S. after last November's terrorist attacks in Paris, it united faith-based communities across the country. They are challenging the wave of opposition to these refugees by taking a leading role in resettling them.

The water pumps in Aleppo, Syria, are no longer getting power, leaving 2 million people without running water — and at risk of coming under a full siege.

Russian and Syria have said they are opening humanitarian corridors out of besieged, rebel-held areas in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo. But NPR has reached civilians in the embattled city who turned back for fear of the ongoing shelling.

A Syrian man whose asylum request had been denied by German officials used an explosives-laden backpack to kill himself and wound 12 other people near a concert in southern Germany. Police are still trying to unravel the motives for the 27-year-old's action.

From Berlin, NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson reports:

Syria's main opposition group is calling for the U.S.-led coalition to suspend its airstrike campaign against ISIS after reports of dozens of civilian deaths close to the Turkish border.

As NPR's Alison Meuse told our Newscast unit, reports suggest the strike near the northern town of Manbij is the "largest civilian death toll since the intervention began." She added that "both the opposition and [Syrian President Bashar] Assad's regime put the death toll above 120 killed." Here's more from Alison:

Imagine you've been hungry for the past four years. When the bombing isn't too bad, you can grow a little spinach and beans, and sometimes some smuggled lentils or rice get past the Syrian army checkpoints. But there's no milk for babies and your children have never seen a piece of fruit.

This kind of siege warfare sounds medieval, but in Syria, it is reality for hundreds of thousands of people. Most live in opposition areas, surrounded by Syrian government forces. And one of the most desperate places is Daraya, just to the southwest of the capital Damascus.

More than 50 U.S. State Department officials have signed an internal memo calling for a change in the way the United States approaches Syria — specifically, advocating military pressure on Bashar Assad's regime to push him toward the negotiating table.

The diplomats expressed their opposition to the current U.S. policy through a cable on the State Department's dissent channel — which exists for just that reason.

But NPR's Michele Kelemen reports that it's unusual for so many officials to sign on to such a cable.

At least 12 people were killed and 55 injured in twin bombings near a revered shrine outside Syria's capital Damascus, Syrian state media reports.

The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for the attacks via its Aamaq news agency but says there were actually three suicide bombings, according to The Associated Press.

Syrian President Bashar Assad is sounding rather confident these days. In his first major address in the past two months, he promised that his troops will reclaim "every inch" of Syrian territory.

"We have no other choice but to be victorious," Assad told Syria's parliament on Tuesday. He also lashed out at rebels, blaming them for the failure of peace talks backed by the United Nations.

Khaldiya Jibawi dreams of being a documentary filmmaker.

And she's off to a great start.

The 18-year-old Syrian refugee made her first film in a refugee camp in Jordan, and it's been shown at Sundance, SXSW and the Cannes Film Festival, to name a few. This weekend, her documentary shows at the Los Angeles Film Festival.

A convoy carrying much-needed aid, including medicine and baby milk, has reached the besieged suburb of Daraya in Syria's capital. Less than a month ago, a convoy was turned away by government forces.

The International Committee of the Red Cross, the United Nations and the Red Crescent — an aid organization active in the Muslim world — coordinated the effort to get supplies to the Damascus suburb.

It's the first delivery of its kind to the town since 2012.

The Red Cross announced the convoy's arrival on Twitter:

More than 2 million Syrians have fled to Turkey, driven out by the fighting that erupted in their homeland in 2011. But none can claim an odyssey quite like that of Mohammed Faris.

As Syria's first and only cosmonaut, Mohammed Faris rocketed into orbit with two Soviet colleagues in 1987. He conducted experiments and photographed his country from space. By the time he returned to Syria, most everyone in the country knew his name.

A long-anticipated international convoy carrying desperately needed aid to Daraya, a besieged suburb of Damascus, was refused entry by Syrian government forces.

The International Committee of the Red Cross and the United Nations said in a joint statement that the convoy was refused entry "at the last government checkpoint, despite having obtained prior clearance by all parties that it could proceed."

In her suburban London row house, Margit Goodman, 94, sits wrapped in blankets in her favorite recliner.

She was a girl of 17 when she first came to Britain, escaping from her native Prague just before the Germans invaded. She remembers the exact date: June 5, 1939.

"When I left, [Czechoslovakia] was still a free country," she recalls. "But we soon became occupied by the Germans."

Raed Al Saleh has seen the city of Aleppo in dire straits before. As the head of the Syrian Civil Defense, he leads missions to find survivors after air raids and missile strikes.

But this week even he was shocked by the intensity of the attacks. The past few days in Aleppo are the worst the city has seen since the Syrian uprisings began five years ago, he says.

Airstrikes in Syria's largest city killed more than a dozen people at a well-known hospital, says aid group Doctors Without Borders, adding that the violence claimed one of the last pediatricians working in Aleppo.

"We are outraged at the destruction of Al Quds hospital," the group said in a tweet Thursday, saying that the facility included an intensive care unit and an emergency room.

A friend of the pediatrician who died told NPR's Alice Fordham via Skype that Mohammed Wassim Moaz was "very kind" and that the children in Aleppo "love him very much."

As the Two-Way reported on Sunday, the Syrian government says its forces have retaken the desert city of Palmyra, in the center of Syria.

The self-declared Islamic State seized the city in May of last year — and soon unleashed a wave of destruction on its defenders, inhabitants and archaeological treasures.

Syrian kids who passed through Milan's Central Station last year did something very Italian: create artwork. While they waited for trains to take them to northern Europe, Save the Children offered them a chance to draw. They could depict whatever they wanted, says psychologist Vittoria Ardino, president of the Italian Society for the Study of Traumatic Stress, who analyzed 500 of these images.

Basketball As A Way Out Of Syria's War

Mar 16, 2016

Editor's Note: Hozaifa Almaleh made his name as a basketball player in Syria. The sport also provided an avenue out of the country as it suffers through a devastating civil war. As the country marks five years since the start of the uprising, the 6-foot-5 Almaleh reflects on the game — and the war — that has led him to Chicago.

Russian President Vladimir Putin just made another shrewd and decisive move with his surprising decision to start withdrawing forces from Syria. Or, the Russian leader was overextended abroad and short of cash at home and was looking for a quick exit.

Putin wants everyone to believe the former, claiming the Russian airstrikes and the Syrian government army have achieved a "fundamental turnaround in the fight against international terrorism."

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Monday he has ordered the withdrawal of the majority of Russian troops from Syria. The pullout, which he said was coordinated with Syrian President Bashar Assad, is slated to begin Tuesday.

Speaking in a meeting with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, Putin said the objective of Russia's intervention — disrupting ISIS and other terror groups — had "been fulfilled," and had laid the groundwork for more intense peace talks.

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