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Updates in plain English from the conflict that won't stop

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A Syrian child collects water from a well in the Syrian town of Douma, near the capital Damascus. (ABD DOUMANY/AFP/Getty Images)

Today is Day 1,228 of the conflict in Syria.

The week is young, and so far it's filled with horrible images.


Day 1,126: A portrait of Syrian exhaustion

Yet another person is pulled from rubble.
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(ZEIN AL-RIFAI/AFP/Getty Images)

Today is Day 1,126 of the conflict in Syria. Above is a photo of Syrian civil defense workers helping a man out of the remains of a building, after yet another barrel bomb was allegedly dropped on the Sakhour neighborhood in Aleppo. New photos like this one show up on the wire services every day. 


Day 1,225: Norway braces for a possible Syria-linked terror attack

Police Thursday issued an unusual public announcement, saying an attack could come within days.
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Minister of Justice and Public Security, Anders Anundsen (L), the head of the Norwegian intelligence service, Benedicte Bjoernland, and head of the police Vidar Refvik. Norway has taken exceptional security measures after being informed of a possible imminent 'terrorist' attack by militants who have fought in Syria, the country's intelligence chief said Thursday. (Heiko Junge/AFP/Getty Images)

Today is Day 1,225 of the conflict in Syria.

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A rebel fighter stands on a street covered with dust following a reported air strike by Syrian government forces in the old city of Aleppo. (Ahmed Deeb/AFP/Getty Images)

Today is Day 1,224 of the conflict in Syria.

Jihadist Sunni militant organization the Islamic State, better known for cutting people’s heads off, putting dead bodies up on crosses, and kicking all the Christians out of Mosul, but not before stealing everything they own, is now in the tour bus business.


Day 1,216: The UN belatedly locates its gonads, will now dare to deliver blankets without permission

Yesterday, the Security Council voted unanimously to authorize aid deliveries in Syria whether or not they get the approval of the Syrian government.
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The United Nations Security Council meets to discuss the situation in Syria July 14, 2014 at the United Nations in New York. (Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images)

Today is Day 1,216 of the Syrian conflict.


Day 1,215: The choice is between a mass-murdering dictator and mutilation-happy jihadists

It's becoming clearer and clearer that these are the key players with which the country is left.
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A Syrian resident grasps a mattress amid rubble following a reported overnight air strike by government forces on July 14, 2014 in the al-Firdous neighborhood of the northern city of Aleppo. (Baraa al-Halabi/AFP/Getty Images)

Today is Day 1,215 of the Syrian conflict. Deir al-Zor is the latest Syrian city to become a symbol of the wider dynamics of the fight. AFP reported via the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights this morning that the Islamic State (previously known as ISIS or ISIL) had seized the rebel-held half of the city, kicking out rival rebel groups. Now half of the city is held by Assad forces and half held by the Islamic State.

In other words, half of the city is under a regime that very probably gassed its own people and has no problem torturing children. The other half is under a group whose members reportedly slaughtered an entire family in Zanuba by shooting several in their sleep and burning the remaining alive. They have also, infamously, stuck dead bodies on crosses. Attorney General Eric Holder over the weekend talked about his "extreme concern" over the Islamic State's gains, calling Syrian jihadists' suspected work on undetectable explosives "more frightening than anything I think I've seen as attorney general." He said he considers it "just a matter of time before they start looking ... at the West and at the United States in paticular."

Unsurprisingly, the Assad regime is seeking to paint itself as the lesser of two evils in Syria. On Sunday, The Guardian published the writeup of an interview with Syria's vice foreign minister, who insisted that the government will "eliminate" the Islamic state, and according to reporter Ian Black, "urged western countries to recognize 'new realities' by joining the battle against terrorism and ending their support for rebels trying to overthrow ... Assad."

The minister, Faisal Mekdad, also dismissed accusations that Assad has been passive against the group —even aiding it — as a way of getting rid of moderate rebels and presenting himself as the country's protector, standing against the fanatics.


Day 1,212: Syria needs more than a UN special envoy

But a third envoy is what it'll get.
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Syrian children play in a bomb crater flooded with water from a broken mains in the northern city of Aleppo. (Fadi al-Halabi/AFP/Getty Images)

Today is Day 1,212 of the Syria conflict. As of yesterday, there's a new guy who's supposed to be resolving it.

Staffan de Mistura is the third man to be named Official UN Make-Syria-Better Fairy, replacing Lakhdar Brahimi who resigned May 31 due to a dearth of people believing in magic. Egyptian Ambassador Ramzy Ezzeddine Ramzy has been named Mistura's deputy (aka official carrier of special Arab League fairy dust). You can read the AP report with the straight news here.

One can only hope — against the testament of the past — that the UN has some fight left in it still and Mistura can succeed where others have failed: The past day has also brought fresh numbers on the severity of the crisis. AFP reports today that Syria's coastal provinces, some of the few places in Syria mostly free of bombs falling from the skies, have seen a population increase of 50 percent due to the influx of one million displaced people. NGOs are handing out food, hygiene kits, etc. just as fast as they can, but the same report says the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent in June "assisted 160,000 displaced people in Latakia and Tartus." Even if not all one million displaced need ICRC assistance, there is a big gap between 160,000 and one million. Yesterday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, one of the only institutions still attempting to keep a death count in Syria, said that the number killed in Syria's conflict has passed 170,000, one-third of those deaths civilians.

The UN's refugee agency this morning asked Europe to take more of Syria's refugees, attacking the policies of the past few years. Almost all of the refugees from the conflict are currently in Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey , and those countries, Reuters reports UNHCR's spokesperson Melissa Fleming as saying, have reached "saturation point." Meanwhile some European countries have tried to turn refugee boats around before they land, even when those boats are unfit for travel. "There was one case in which ... in the process of being turned around it capsized and many of the passengers died," Fleming said. Russia has actually sent some refugees back to Syria. Fleming attacked fearmongering in tabloids "claiming that floods of Syrians were about to arrive."

The conflict continues.


Day 1,211: Singapore and Turkey are worried about Syria, too

Meanwhile, Hezbollah rakes in the cash from marijuana sales.
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A Syrian man carries two girls covered with dust following a reported air strike by government forces in Aleppo. (Mohamad al-Tayb/AFP/Getty Images)

Today is Day 1,211 of the Syrian conflict, and this morning it's Turkey's and Singapore's turns in the headlines for their efforts to keep their residents out of Syria. 


Day 1,210: Women who like jihadists, and other news from Syria

There's a new National Council leader. Also, rebels shot up a village for no apparent reason.
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French Interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve speaks to the press following the weekly cabinet meeting on July 9, 2014 at the Elysee palace in Paris. France's interior minister presented on July 9 a bill aimed at beefing up anti-terrorism laws and preventing aspiring jihadists from fighting abroad amid concern over the number of young nationals travelling to Syria. (Gertrand Guay/AFP/Getty Images)

Today is Day 1,210 of the Syrian conflict, the headlines dominated by the story of twin British teenage girls, "star pupils," who ran away two weeks ago to Syria. The current theory is that they have joined their brother, thought to be an ISIL fighter.


Day 1,209: Eric Holder calls on European governments to keep Westerners out of Syria

At a speech to Norwegian diplomats, the US attorney general speaks on the theme of the month.
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US Attorney General Eric Holder Jr speaks during a press conference next to Norway's Minister of Justice Anders Anundsen. (Terje Bendiksby/AFP/Getty Images)

Today is Day 1,209 of the Syrian conflict.

US Attorney General Eric Holder has jumped on the theme of the month: In an address to Norwegian diplomats in Oslo, Holder called on European governments to consider further laws, covert operations, and intelligence sharing to keep their citizens out of the fight in Syria.