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The Wall Street Journal writer gives a compelling insider account of the deadly ambition of the Assads

In the summer of 2012, news broke that Manaf Tlass, a general in Syria’s elite Republican Guard and a confidante of Bashar al-Assad, had defected and was en route to exile in France. Tlass was not just the tennis partner of the shy ophthalmologist who was presiding over the greatest crisis of the Arab spring; they were close, indeed intimate, family friends.

Tlass had been alarmed by Assad’s brutal crackdown since protests erupted in the southern city of Daraa in March 2011: young people inspired by the historic changes taking place in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya called for dignity, freedom and the overthrow of their own oppressive regime. Syria, however, seemed destined from the start to be a different story – and a far bloodier one.

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Sweet-smelling success for Syrians who have settled in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley is dampened by growing anti-Syrian sentiment

When the plastic bucket is filled with roses, Nahla al-Zarda takes it into the kitchen, where she separates the petals from the buds. She soaks them in boiling water, which blushes pink.

“I love this colour. It will be even stronger when the drink is ready,” she says.

Salem al-Zarda scatters rose petals inside a greenhouse, to dry them for use in a herbal tea mixture

Nahla al-Zarda washes rose petals in her kitchen to make a rose drink

Related: Syrian refugee children enjoy a new start at school – in pictures

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Thousands of Aleppians are using a Facebook group to share their way of life before the Syrian war

Going to the hammam was once a beloved ritual for Aleppo resident Atef Shikhouni and his friends. Recalling the boisterous, joyful experience, the 55-year-old wrote: “Here is a man shouting, ‘Where is the soap?’ while another one is asking for the shampoo and a third wants someone to rub his back. It becomes very noisy. After spending some time in the sauna, it is time for the ‘rubbing man’. He uses a rough loofah to rub my body mercilessly and I pray it will end without any damage.”

But that was before the outbreak of war in Syria. “Today, the bath is cold and has no soul,” the sports teacher wrote in February 2017, shortly after the worst of the fighting in Aleppo had ended. “Cruel are our days, exactly like our bath today.”

Related: Beauty amid the chaos: a snapshot of Syrian cities through Instagram

It's a way of getting back to the old days, the beautiful days

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Jeremy Hunt asked Iran for assurance that detained ship Grace 1 will not go to Syria

Foreign minister Jeremy Hunt said he told his Iranian counterpart on Saturday that Britain would facilitate the release of the detained Grace 1 oil tanker if there were guarantees it would not go to Syria.

Hunt said Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif had told him that Iran wanted to resolve the issue and was not seeking to escalate tensions.

(May 5, 2019) 

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Mohamad Rahimeh found a talent for cooking in the Calais refugee camp. Now he has a viable business in London

When Mohamad Rahimeh arrived in the Calais refugee camp that was nicknamed “the Jungle”, cooking was the last thing on his mind. He was a political scientist from Syria with a journey from hell behind him. Food was just a means to an end.

But when a close friend fell sick, he rustled up a meal of eggs. A hidden talent was uncovered.

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Unaccompanied Syrian fell into despair after waiting more than six months for response to application

A Syrian teenager left suicidal after the Home Office failed to respond to his application to join his family in Britain is finally set to be reunited with his loved ones.

On Thursday, after the Guardian contacted the Home Office, Moustafa’s lawyers were told that his case had been approved and he would be brought to the UK from Athens, where he has been living for a year, as soon as possible.

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Amid a war that may have cost 500,000 lives, we must hold the Syrian government and others to account for the use of hunger as a weapon

In 2017, we started an agricultural project to help hundreds of families survive the blockade by the Assad government, as part of the Damaan Humanitarian Organization’s programme to support civilians in besieged eastern ghouta in Syria.

The project not only provided sustenance to the besieged population, it offered employment opportunities for many people.

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Move has been described as ‘major victory’ for Donald Trump’s national security team

Britain has agreed to deploy additional special forces in Syria alongside France to allow the US to withdraw its ground troops from the ongoing fight against the remaining Isis forces in the country.

US officials briefed on Tuesday that Britain and France would contribute 10% to 15% more elite soldiers, although the exact numbers involved remain secret.

Related: Trump calls May foolish as diplomatic row escalates

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How did a friendly middle-class teen from Oxford become known as ‘Jihadi Jack’? John Letts and Sally Lane on their continuing ordeal

Sitting talking to Sally Lane and John Letts at their dining table in their terraced house in Oxford, a series of questions nag in my head. One is: “What might be the limits to parental love?” As husband and wife piece together once again the story of how their eldest son, Jack, then 18, took himself off to Jordan on holiday five years ago and ended up in the newly formed Islamic State in Iraq and Syria – a journey that eventually landed him in a Kurdish prison camp and put them through a hellish court ordeal – it is hard not to wonder just a little about that word “unconditional”.

Their recent court case at the Old Bailey, three and a half years after their initial arrests, itself seemed designed to test that idea to breaking point. Letts, 58, an organic farmer, and Lane, 57, who had worked in publishing and for the NHS, were convicted on one charge of “funding terrorism”, and acquitted of another. A third charge was left on file after the jury failed to reach a verdict. Their crime had been to send, at the request of their son, the sum of £223 to an intermediary in Lebanon in September 2015, in part to pay for a pair of glasses. There was no suggestion that they believed they were sending the money to Isis, the court accepted, but it found them guilty of knowing there was a risk that the cash might fall into the wrong hands.

It’s nice that we are not in prison, I suppose. Though at least if you are in prison, you know there is nothing you can do

I have always said that if we find something he has done wrong, I will be the first to condemn it.

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Syrian Network for Human Rights says two-month offensive has left 130 children dead

At least 544 civilians have been killed and over 2,000 people injured since a Russian-led assault on the last rebel bastion in north-western Syria began two months ago, according to rights groups and rescuers.

Russian jets joined the Syrian army on 26 April in the biggest offensive against parts of rebel-held Idlib province and adjoining northern Hama provinces in the biggest escalation in the war between the Syrian president, Bashar al Assad, and his enemies since last summer.

Related: Iran fury as Royal Marines seize tanker suspected of carrying oil to Syria

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