Syria war: What brought it about?

Syria war: What brought it about?

A peaceful uprising against the president of Syria seven years ago has turned into a full-scale civil war. The conflict has left more than 350,000 people dead, devastated cities and drawn in other countries. How did the Syrian war start?

Even before the conflict began, many Syrians were complaining about high unemployment, corruption and a lack of political freedom under President Bashar al-Assad, who succeeded his late father Hafez in 2000.

In March 2011, pro-democracy demonstrations erupted in the southern city of Deraa, inspired by the "Arab Spring" in neighbouring countries.

When the government used deadly force to crush the dissent, protests demanding the president’s resignation erupted nationwide.

The unrest spread and the crackdown intensified. Opposition supporters took up arms, first to defend themselves and later to rid their areas of security forces. Mr Assad vowed to crush what he called "foreign-backed terrorism".

The violence rapidly escalated and the country descended into civil war. Eastern Ghouta damage seen from space ‘My daughter’s losing her hair from fear’ How many people have died? The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights , a UK-based monitoring group with a network of sources on the ground, had documented the deaths of 353,900 people by March 2018, […]

Brexit: David Davis ‘can live’ with shorter EU transition

Brexit: David Davis 'can live' with shorter EU transition

David Davis said he can "live with" a transition period of under two years if that helps to secure an early deal.

The Brexit secretary said the EU and UK will establish a joint committee during the transition period to guarantee a "duty of good faith" by both sides.

He said that outlines of the transition phase would reassure Brexit supporters.

Mr Davis will travel to Brussels on Sunday for a meeting on Monday with the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier.

Prime Minister Theresa May has called for an implementation period of "around two years" after the UK leaves the EU on 29 March next year.

Juncker: UK will ‘regret’ Brexit We don’t want wall with UK – Tusk All you need to know about Brexit In an interview with BBC Newsnight, Mr Davis said he was prepared to accept the EU demand that the transition should come to end earlier – in December 2020 – to ensure the transition is concluded at the same time as the EU’s seven-year budget cycle.The Brexit secretary said his main priority was to secure agreement on the implementation period at next week’s EU summit in Brussels.He told Newsnight: "That is more important to me […]

The trouble telling aid workers and jihadists apart

The trouble telling aid workers and jihadists apart

It should be easy to tell the difference between an aid worker and a jihadist, but the war in Syria shows that is not always the case. Finding a solution could help ensure aid still reaches the people who need it in future conflicts.

A desire to ease the suffering of ordinary Syrians during its years of civil war has been shared by many people around the world.

But getting aid into Syria and making sure it reaches the right people is extremely difficult.

The conflict is complex and jihadists took advantage of the ensuing confusion – particularly at the start of the war – with some aid money diverted and foreign fighters entering the country by posing as aid workers.

Charities and aid have been exploited by extremists in previous conflicts – in countries from Bosnia to Afghanistan.

So, how can they be stopped from doing so in future?In Syria, research by the Lowy Institute shows how extremists have often portrayed themselves as champions of the oppressed , with many claiming to be working with children and orphans.Among them was Briton Omar Hussain, who travelled to Syria in 2014 and became an active voice in social media propaganda for the Islamic State group […]

Arsenal Women v Manchester City Women (Wed)

Arsenal Women v Manchester City Women (Wed)

Arsenal striker Vivianne Miedema is looking for a first trophy with the club since joining from Bayern Munich in June 2017 BBC coverage

How to follow: Listen on BBC Radio 5 live sports extra, plus live text commentary on the BBC Sport website Holders Manchester City Women face Arsenal Women in the Continental Tyres Cup final on Wednesday, with both teams looking to secure the first silverware of the season.

City, who trail Women’s Super League One leaders Chelsea by one point, beat Birmingham to win the trophy in 2016.

New Arsenal manager Joe Montemurro will be hoping to win his first trophy as boss at the first opportunity.

The final is being played at Wycombe Wanderers’ ground Adams Park.

Since its creation in 2011, Manchester City and Arsenal are the only two sides to have lifted the Continental Tyres Cup.Four-time winners Arsenal have appeared in six of the seven finals to be played, with the competition not running in 2017 as the WSL transitioned from a summer season to a winter campaign. Arsenal midfielder Leah Williamson told BBC Sport: "It’s a replay of the 2014 final, which is a coincidence, but we’re obviously keen to better that result [a 1-0 defeat]."The club […]

Antonio Conte: Chelsea boss says 3-0 defeat in Barcelona ‘unfair’

Antonio Conte: Chelsea boss says 3-0 defeat in Barcelona 'unfair'

Lionel Messi hit his 100th Champions League goal to consign Chelsea to a 3-0 defeat at the Nou Camp Chelsea manager Antonio Conte felt the 3-0 defeat in Barcelona which ended his side’s involvement in the Champions League was "unfair".

Two goals from Lionel Messi plus one from Ousmane Dembele – his first in a Barca shirt – helped the Spanish giants to a 4-1 aggregate victory.

Defeat damages Chelsea’s chances of Champions League football next season, with Conte’s side now needing a top-four finish in the Premier League.

"We have no regrets," he said.

"If you watch the game, you can see the final result is unfair."

Conte acknowledged Messi – who also scored in the first leg – had been "the difference" between the sides.The Argentina striker’s second goal in the Nou Camp took him to 100 in the Champions League.While Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo holds the record with 117, Messi reached three figures in 14 games fewer."We are talking about the best player in the world," said Conte."He scores 60 goals every season – he is a super top player. Barcelona were very clinical."Chelsea led for 13 minutes of the first leg and hit the woodwork four times over the […]

MPs warn of ‘poisonous air’ emergency costing £20bn a year

MPs warn of 'poisonous air' emergency costing £20bn a year

The automotive industry says a £220m clear air fund is already in operation MPs have demanded an end to the UK’s "poisonous air" in an unprecedented report from four Commons committees.

The Environment, Health, Transport and Environmental Audit committees want a new Clean Air Act, and a clean air fund financed by the motor industry.

They are also demanding a faster phase-out of petrol and diesel cars – currently set for 2040.

The government said air pollution had improved significantly since 2010 but there was "more to do".

MPs have been frustrated by the response from ministers, who have promised to publish a comprehensive clean air strategy later this year.

Their report says: "Air pollution is a national health emergency resulting in an estimated 40,000 early deaths each year, costing the UK £20bn annually."It is unacceptable that successive governments have failed to protect the public from poisonous air. UK air pollutants continue decline Government loses clean air court case Reality Check: Are diesel cars always the most harmful? "Despite a series of court cases, the government has still not produced a plan that adequately addresses the scale of the challenge. Nor has it demonstrated the national leadership needed."The report – the […]

Penny pitching: Your eight uses for 1p and 2p coins

Penny pitching: Your eight uses for 1p and 2p coins

The future of 1p and 2p coins may be in doubt – but it seems their use goes way beyond simply paying for things.

Treasury officials are seeking views on the future mix of UK notes and coins as we increasingly move towards digital and mobile payments.

It conjures up the image of people throwing their smartphones, rather than coppers, into a fountain for good luck – although Downing Street has backed away from a plan to scrap copper coins.

According to BBC News readers, viewers and listeners there are many other uses for these coins, from home improvements to baking. Here is a selection. 1. Tulip fever

Many flower sellers and lovers swear by the use of pennies in a vase to keep them from drooping. Reader Chris Stone says: "The question the government should really be asking is if they end copper coins, what will we put in our vases with tulips? Is this part of their strategy to restrict growth?"

They say the copper is important, and it is unlikely they would want to dunk a fiver in the vase – even though the new polymer banknotes are waterproof. 2. Language matters From pretty penny to penny-wise, there are dozens […]

Parents fined £24m for children’s truancy and term time holidays

Parents fined £24m for children's truancy and term time holidays

About 400,000 penalty notices for school non-attendance have been issued to parents in England and Wales in the past three years Parents across England and Wales have been fined about £24m for failing to send their children to school during the past three years, it has emerged.

A BBC investigation also shows some councils are issuing penalties at rates five times higher than the average.

Some parents say they now actively budget for the cost of fines when planning holidays.

While some councils admit they have become "stricter", they say they are protecting the education of children.

Between them, 155 local authorities in England and Wales ( Scotland and Northern Ireland do not issue fines ) issued about 400,000 penalties over three years. A further 19 did not supply data.

On average, 12 penalties were issued per 1,000 children – whether for truancy or for parents taking children away on holiday during term time – during 2016-17. Number of penalties awarded to parents for failing to send their children to school, per 1,000 pupils Tap or click to explore your area 6© OpenStreetMap contributors, © CARTO BBC Freedom of Information requests Map by Daniel Wainwright and Daniel Dunford, built with Carto. Can’t see […]

‘Sofia Solidarity Centre’: Court Evicts Dozens Of Rough Sleepers From London Building Despite ‘Death’ Fears

'Sofia Solidarity Centre': Court Evicts Dozens Of Rough Sleepers From London Building Despite 'Death' Fears

Sofia House in London which rough sleepers have been occupying since March 1 Rough sleepers who have taken refuge in a disused central London building for the past two weeks face uncertain futures after a court approved their immediate eviction.

Activists from Street Kitchen set-up a make-shift shelter in the four-story Sofia House on Great Portland Street on March 1, aptly dubbing it the ‘Sofia Solidarity Centre’ (SCC), and over the following days claimed up to 200 rough sleepers a night called it “home”, as freezing conditions blanketed the city in snow.

On Wednesday, at the London County Court, Judge Saunders granted the building’s owner, W1 Developments, a summary application for possession “forthwith”, during a hearing scheduled for 15-minutes that lasted over four hours.

A draft order, immediately tendered by barrister Jonathan Chew to give the company the legal right to enforce the ruling, was set to be approved tonight. It means the rough sleepers could be evicted at any time. Judge ruled against us. He has granted the claimant a possession order.

We will continue to provide support, sleeping bags, hot food and a social environment for the homeless of London.

Thank you for all your support during this battle. — Streets […]

Brexit Risks Half A Million More Air Pollution Deaths, MP Warns

Brexit Risks Half A Million More Air Pollution Deaths, MP Warns

PA Wire/PA Images The UK could face half a million more early deaths from air pollution after Brexit if the government fails to take robust action, an MP has warned.

Labour’s Geraint Davies says ministers’ current plans to completely phase out petrol and diesel cars by 2040 do not go far enough to mitigate leaving the EU and its commitment to improving air quality in all of its member states.

Toxic air is currently blamed for 40,000 premature deaths in the UK every year – meaning about 500,000 more people are at risk if things continue as they are – and the government’s air quality strategy was branded inadequate by the High Court for the third time last month.

Davies’ call comes as four Parliamentary committees release a joint report on air quality, calling for the car industry to be made to pay towards a new clean air fund.

“Parliament’s new report was jointly produced by four committees and reached cross-party consensus in recognising air pollution as a ‘national emergency’ costing 40,000 premature deaths and £20 billion a year,” he said.

“It points the finger at government failure, having lost in court four times for illegal levels of toxic air pollution. The government must […]