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Syria Jihadist Kills Mother after she Asked him to Leave IS

An Islamic State jihadist killed his mother in a public square in the Syrian city of Raqa who begged him to leave the organization, a monitor said Friday.

Ali Saqr, 20, had reported his mother, Lina, to IS authorities in Raqa "because she tried to persuade him to leave IS and flee the city," the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

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Syria Government to Allow Aid into Besieged Madaya

Syria's government gave permission Thursday for U.N. aid deliveries to three besieged towns, including Madaya near Damascus where people are reportedly starving to death, the U.N. said.

"The U.N. welcomes today's approval from the Government of Syria to access Madaya, Fuaa and Kafraya and is preparing to deliver humanitarian assistance in the coming days," a U.N. statement said.

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Church Leader Backs Syria Campaign as Russia Marks Orthodox Christmas

The head of Russia's Orthodox Church justified the Kremlin's bombing campaign in Syria, calling it a "defensive war" in an interview released Thursday as the country marked Orthodox Christmas.

Patriarch Kirill said Moscow's military strikes were necessary to protect Russia from "terrorism".

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Despite Tensions, Russia's 'Syria Express' Sails by Istanbul

It's an occasional but regular sighting in Istanbul. Out of the mist on the Bosphorus that divides Europe and Asia looms the hulk of a Russian warship purposefully making its way to the Mediterranean.

Most likely the ship is part of Moscow's so-called "Syria Express", a key supply line for naval deliveries from its Black Sea ports to military operations backing the regime of President Bashar Assad in Syria.

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Syria's Declared Chemical Arms '100% Destroyed'

Syria's declared chemical weapons arsenal has been completely destroyed capping more than two years of work, a global arms watchdog said Tuesday, amid concern sarin gas is still being unleashed in the country's complex civil war.

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) -- which oversaw the dangerous removal and elimination of Syria's avowed stockpile -- has for months been warning of the continued use of mustard, sarin and chlorine gas in the brutal conflict.

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Despite Ceasefire, Syrians Starve in Besieged Town

In the besieged Syrian town of Madaya, skeletal residents are braving landmines and snipers to scrounge for food despite a rare ceasefire deal that was meant to allow aid to enter.

"We've forgotten what bread tastes like," 27-year-old Mohamed told AFP from the town near the Lebanese border.

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Syria Regime Bastion Welcomes Russian 'Friends'

In the windows of his father's shop in coastal Syria, Ihab replaces bottles of the national tipple arak with vodka, hoping to please his growing customer base of Russian soldiers.

"In the past the demand was more for whiskey and arak, but with the Russians arriving in Syria, it's changed to vodka," Ihab, 32, says inside the "Crown" store in Latakia province.

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Saudi Arabia Sees 'No Effect' from Break with Iran on Syria, Yemen

Saudi Arabia's decision to break off relations with Iran should have no impact on peace efforts in Syria and Yemen, Riyadh's envoy to the United Nations said Monday.

"From our side, it should have no effect because we will continue to work very hard to support the peace efforts in Syria and Yemen," Saudi Ambassador Abdallah al-Mouallimi told reporters.

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U.N. Watchdog Finds Traces of Syria Sarin Gas Exposure

A fact-finding mission by the U.N. chemical weapons watchdog has found that some people in Syria may have been exposed to sarin or a sarin-like gas, according to a report released Monday.

The mission by the Hague-based Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said it was investigating 11 incidents of the use of toxic chemicals reported by the Syrian government.

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Lebanese Arrested for Joining Nusra Front, Recruiting Members to Fight in Syria

The General Security arrested a Lebanese man for confessing to belonging to the al-Qaida-affiliated al-Nusra Front, it said in a statement on Thursday.

The suspect admitted that he was tasked with forming a Nusra Front cell in Lebanon, recruiting members, and facilitating their passage to join the fight in Syria.

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