BEIRUT — Among the streams of refugees seeking safety from the chaos of war-torn Syria, one stood out: A 4-year-old boy, wandering alone in the wilderness.
A United Nations worker on the Jordanian border Sunday tweeted a
heartbreaking photo of 4-year-old Marwan, being rescued by aid workers
after the boy had become separated from his family.
Andrew Harper, a representative to Jordan for the United Nations High
Commissioner for Refugees, tweeted the picture Sunday, one of a string
of postings he’s made over the last months documenting what he has
called “an endless tide” of refugees fleeing the conflict, toting only
what few possessions they can carry.
But this story had as happy an ending as possible for those displaced
by the fighting: Harper on Monday tweeted “Marwan was safely reunited w
his mother soon after being carried across the #Jordan border.”
The three-year-old Syrian conflict has killed more than 130,000
people and is destabilizing the country’s neighbors. The mainly Sunni
Muslim rebels have drawn support from radical Sunni groups such as al
Qaeda and other foreign militants.
Meanwhile, Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday blamed the Assad
government for stalling Syrian peace talks and pressed Russia to stop
supplying it weapons, telling Moscow it needed to be part of the
International mediator Lakhdar Brahimi said in Geneva on Saturday
that the first two rounds of peace talks had not made much progress but
that the two sides had agreed on an agenda for a third round at an
“The regime stonewalled. They did nothing except continue to drop
barrel bombs on their own people and continue to destroy their own
country. And I regret to say they are doing so with increased support
from Iran, from Hezbollah and from Russia,” Kerry told reporters in
Jakarta on Monday during a trip to Asia and the Middle East.
Using unusually strong language, Kerry said: “Russia needs to be a
part of the solution and not be contributing so many more weapons and so
much more aid that they are in effect enabling Assad to double-down,
which is creating an enormous problem.”
Assad is still trying to win Syria’s civil war militarily rather than find a solution through peace talks, he said.
“It is very clear that Bashar al-Assad is continuing to try to win
this (on) the battlefield rather than to (go) to the negotiating table
(with) good faith.”
Also Monday, the Western-backed rebel movement the Free Syrian Army
announced it was replacing its military chief with an experienced,
moderate field commander from the south. The shakeup comes after months
of losses to Syrian forces and Islamic extremists.
The opposition reluctantly agreed to participate in two rounds of
peace negotiations in Geneva, hoping it would convince the U.S. of the
futility of a diplomatic track to end the country’s three-year conflict.
By revamping the opposition’s moderate forces, it hopes to encourage
its reluctant U.S. and European allies to send them anti-aircraft
weapons to challenge Assad’s monopoly on air power.
Brig. Gen. Abdul-Ilah al-Bashir replaces Gen. Salim Idris, a
secular-leaning moderate who was criticized by many in the opposition
for being ineffective and lost the confidence of the U.S. and its
allies, particularly after Islamic extremists seized a weapons depot
from moderate rebels. The move was announced Monday in a statement by
the FSA’s Supreme Military Council.
Al-Bashir, who previously headed the group’s operations in the
southern province of Quneitra on the border with the Israeli-occupied
Golan Heights, is considered a moderate Islamist. He hails from the
region’s most powerful al-Nuaimi tribe, giving him influence
among Syria’s conservative rural areas, where tribal connections are
Rebels say he has vast knowledge of the areas south of Damascus where
he served as an army commander until defecting to the opposition in
2012. His son Talal, also a rebel, was killed in battle with government
forces in Quneitra last year.
In speeches, al-Bashir has said he supports a democratic Syria.
“The value of this man to the rebels is enormous. He was the
commander of the Syrian army in the south, which included Daraa province
and Golan area. These are the nearest points to Damascus,” said Mustafa
Alani, the director of the security department at the Geneva-based Gulf
In rebel-held parts of northern Syria where Islamic rebel groups prevail, al-Bashir’s appointment was met with a shrug.
“Most of the factions on the ground are mostly of the Islamic Front
who don’t really care that Idris was fired, or that Bashir was
appointed,” said Akram al-Halabi, spokesman of the Tawhid Brigades, part
of the Islamic Front.
“The people lost hope in the FSA a long time ago,” he said.
With Associated Press and Reuters