Kidnapping of aid workers in Syria adds another layer to conflict
The humanitarian crisis in Syria is mounting, with reports of starvation in some towns. The kidnapping of seven Red Cross and Red Crescent workers won't make aid distribution any easier.
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And an evacuation has given some relief to a rebel-held suburb of Damascus where hunger has become a serious scourge, according to The New York Times:Skip to next paragraph
James Norton got his professional start at the Monitor as an online news producer, before moving over to edit international news during the invasion and occupation of Iraq. Since leaving the Monitor in 2004, he has worked as a radio producer, author, and food blogger.
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Hundreds of people were allowed to leave a besieged, rebel-held suburb of Damascus, the Syrian capital, on Sunday in a rare cease-fire, according to the government and its opponents.
But aid workers said they were still unable to enter the town, Moadhamiyeh, which international organizations have been trying to reach for months and where six people have reportedly died of malnutrition.
The challenge of moving food, medical aid, and international observers around in a civil war is a serious one, reports the Times in a story about the country's highways.
Road tripping in Syria reveals the sometimes surreal experience of Syrians’ trying to move themselves and their goods around a country that has become a patchwork of rebellion and control, where government and rebel fighters share the roads with families and traders trying to go about their business.
Part of the problem lies with the nature of the rebellion, a much contested and increasingly complicated part of the story of Syria's civil war. The Washington Post looked at the rival Al Qaeda-linked groups within the rebellion:
The two rebel groups [the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and Jabhat al-Nusra], with their distinct lineages to the terrorist network founded by Osama bin Laden, have become the focus of Western fears that jihadist influences within Syria’s rebel movement are rising. Two and a half years after the conflict in the country started, Islamists are carving out fiefdoms and showing signs of digging in.
As factionalism mounts among rebels, so have rebel-linked atrocities. The Economist looked at attacks on Alawites, the minority group to which the ruling Assad family belongs.
But is President Bashar al-Assad actually lucky to have so many jihadis squaring off against him? Perhaps, says a Monitor story, which suggests that Mr. Assad may have aided the radicalization of the rebels in hope of winning international support for his besieged regime:
Even the Assad regime is believed to have played a role in establishing a hard-line salafist presence within the armed opposition. In May 2011, when the rebellion was in its infancy, the Assad regime granted amnesty to political prisoners, releasing hundreds of them from jail, including members of the banned Muslim Brotherhood. The newly released Islamists went on to play leading roles in the armed opposition, including helping found Ahrar ash-Sham.
But whether hard-line Islamists make up a large percentage of anti-regime fighters is an open question that is difficult to resolve. The Monitor does its best to break it down and finds that there is much wiggle room between confirmed facts and sometimes dubious analysis:
Consider a headline yesterday from The Telegraph of the UK. "Syria: nearly half rebel fighters are jihadists or hardline Islamists, says IHS Jane's report."
Pretty scary sounding, no? But in fact, based on the work of the Jane's analyst Charles Lister, at least as it's cited in the report, the headline could have easily been: "Only 10 percent of Syria rebels aligned with Al Qaeda" or "A majority of Syria rebels not fighting for Islamist causes."
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