Syria

The push by Syrian government forces and their allies has put around 300,000 civilians in the northern city of Aleppo at risk of being placed under siege and cut off from food and humanitarian supplies, according to the U.N.

Since the start of last week, the offensive has displaced some 51,000 civilians from what was Syria's biggest city before the start of the war, the United Nations says.

At a one-day donor meeting in London, leaders and diplomats from 20 countries around the world have gathered to pledge funds to help victims of the ongoing crisis in Syria.

They hoped to raise $9 billion; they pledged a total of nearly $11 billion.

You can see some of the pledges, and hear about the conference from NPR's Greg Myre, over at Here & Now.

Among the noteworthy pledges: The U.S. has committed about $900 million, and Britain has offered $1.75 billion between now and 2020.

Emad, a Damascus native, says he is starting to feel at home in the northwestern Dutch city of Haarlem. The 25-year-old comes on foot to meet me at the city's train station, where I traveled from Paris to meet him in November.

"It's fascinating, it reminds me a lot of Damascus," he says. "Because it has the old city, then it goes modern and it goes to old buildings [again]. So it gives me a warm feeling to be here."

Five-year-old Batoul has large cheeks and saucer-sized eyes that dart from side to side while she and the other Syrian children perform songs in Arabic and English.

She's learning from caregivers while living in an orphanage known as Bayti ("home" in Arabic) in the Turkish border town of Reyhanli, where the Syrian refugee population has topped tens of thousands in the past few years.

Bringing Syrian refugees to the U.S. has become an especially contentious issue. In Canada, however, they're being welcomed with open arms.

Roughly 600 Syrians from refugee camps in Jordan and Lebanon will arrive by plane in Canada this evening. They're the first of 25,000 Syrians the new Canadian government wants to resettle by the end of February.

On Friday, lawmakers in Germany voted in favor of Chancellor Angela Merkel's plan to join the coalition of nations that are fighting ISIS in Syria.

Reporting for NPR, Esme Nicholson says Germany will send six Tornado jets, a naval frigate and up to 1,200 soldiers to fight ISIS in Syria. The country, however, will not participate in airstrikes.

Texas and the federal government have taken their power struggle over Syrian refugees to federal court.

In a suit filed Wednesday, the state says it wasn't adequately consulted over refugee placement and asked the court system to immediately block the resettlement of any Syrian refugees in Texas.

The federal government responded Friday, saying it had communicated with the state as required and that Texas' request would prolong the suffering of families with small children for no legitimate reason.

Some Oregon and Washington lawmakers have called for at least a temporary halt to refugee resettlement. They want the federal government to beef up its screening process. But White House officials said in a conference call with reporters Monday that the process is already rigorous.

Turkey says that after issuing 10 warnings in five minutes, two of its F-16s shot down a Russian warplane that Turkey claims violated its airspace.

Jay Inslee says he won't join the growing list of governors who say they don't want Syrian refugees within their state borders.

In an interview with NPR's Morning Edition, the governor of Washington state publicly welcomed refugees, citing the inscription on the Statue of Liberty, warning fellow governors against "fear," and insisting that background checks minimize whatever risk the refugees may pose.

Turkey has acknowledged attacking a Kurdish militia group that has been a U.S. ally in the fight against ISIS, saying fighters had crossed into an off-limits area in Syria. Turkey also says it has attacked ISIS within its own borders.

The attacks underscore the complications the U.S. and its allies face when forming a strategy against the extremist ISIS terrorist group in an area where regional and sectarian conflicts continue to play out.

Neatly trimmed lawns divide dozens of identical two-story brick buildings that make up the Kenwood Gardens apartment complex in Toledo, Ohio. The people who live here are college students, blue-collar workers and — as of recently — refugees from Syria's civil war.

It's where Omar Al-Awad and his family are settling into their new life in America. On a recent morning, the apartment is already bustling: a tea kettle is on the stove, and Omar's wife, Hiyam, is helping their three children review what they learned in their first day of American school.

Updated at 3:45 p.m. ET

Despite protestations from some former Soviet bloc countries, the European Union decided to resettle 120,000 refugees through a system of quotas determined by the size and wealth of each country.

Secretary of State John Kerry is pledging that the United States will significantly increase the number of migrants it accepts over the next two years, ratcheting up to 100,000 annually by 2017.

Syria doesn't have a history of free and open elections, but in the past few weeks Syrians have been voting with their feet. After four years of brutal civil war, Syrians are registering a sense of hopelessness and are willing to risk dangerous journeys for a chance to start over again in Europe.

As the numbers mount, with Europe overwhelmed, the blame game has begun. Why don't the richest Gulf Arab states — the diplomatic and financial sponsors of Syria's rebel groups — resettle these desperate refugees?

AP Photo/APTN

As the political situation involving Syria and the U.S. continues to unfold, war veterans are watching from the sidelines with great interest.

President Obama says he’s not giving up his argument for a military strike as he considers Syria’s offer to hand over its chemical weapons.

Members of Congress from Washington state are mostly undecided ahead of an expected vote next week to authorize military force against Syria.

Speaking during a photo op with the leaders of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania today, President Obama said he has not made a final decision on launching a military strike on Syria.

But Obama echoed the case made earlier by Secretary of State John Kerry that chemical weapons in Syria threaten U.S. national security interests and that the use of chemical weapons is the "kind of offense that is a challenge to the world."

Shaam News Network via AP video

Secretary of State John Kerry says the U.S. knows based on intelligence that the Syrian regime carefully prepared for days to launch a chemical weapons attack.

Kerry says Syrian regime personnel were on the ground for three days beforehand, making preparations.

Dorothy Parvaz, a reporter for Al Jazeera and a former colleague of mine at the Seattle Post Intelligencer, has been released by Iranian authorities after she was detained in Syria and deported to Iran. Parvaz returned to Doha, Qatar, where she is now based.

Here’s the New York Times on this Happy News and, for quick background, what I wrote when D (as she prefers) first disappeared weeks ago when attempting to enter Syria to report on the protests going on there against the Assad government.

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Seattlepi.com

Maybe you've heard about it already, but former Seattle PI reporter and columnist Dorothy Parvaz has gone missing in Syria.

Journalists take risks to make sure people’s stories are told, to shine a light on wrongdoing based on the belief that public awareness is the first step toward positive change. Today happens to be World Press Freedom Day, this year hosted by the U.S.

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