BEIRUT/AMMAN (Reuters) - Syrian rebels said they had seized the headquarters of an army battalion near the southern gate of Damascus on Monday, the nearest military base to the capital reported to have fallen to opposition fighters in a 20-month revolt. Activists said the Syrian army had attacked southern districts of Damascus with shelling and rocket fire all day to try to stop the rebels seizing the base, in some of the heaviest bombardment of the capital. "Multiple rocket launchers are just making huge, random destruction," said Rami al-Sayyed of the Syrian Media Centre, an opposition organization monitoring the crackdown by President Bashar al-Assad's forces. The Islamist rebel groups Ansar al-Islam and Jund Allah Brigades said in a statement that they had taken the Air Defence Battalion base near Hajar al-Aswad after four days of fighting. The district had been home to thousands of refugees from the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. These were at the forefront of the movement against Assad's autocratic rule at the beginning of a revolt that has now turned into a civil war, in which activists say 38,000 people have been killed. Activists said all the residents had fled under the bombardment. Video footage showed rebels walking through the site, past destroyed anti-aircraft guns, and one commander saying on a walkie-talkie: "We have completely seized the compound." Louay al-Dimashki, an opposition activist who said he had documented the fall of the base on video, said the rebels had targeted the compound with mortars then attacked in small groups, killing 14 loyalist troops and taking 35 prisoner. "The fighters are taking whatever ammunition and weapons they can. They cannot hold on to the base because the regime will hit them from the air," Dimashki said by phone. Independent verification of the reports was not possible because Syria severely restricts the access of foreign media. Rebels have captured several army positions in outlying regions in the last week, including a Special Forces base near the northern city of Aleppo and a small military airport in the east, on the border with Iraq. ROADSIDE BOMB Inside Damascus, a roadside bomb hit a minibus along a route used by security forces and pro-government media, activists said. The opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said three people had been killed and at least 10 wounded. Under pressure from foreign states keen to promote a viable and responsible alternative to Assad, Syria's fractious opposition formed a broader coalition group last week, led by moderate Sunni Muslim preacher Mouaz Alkhatib. The Syrian National Coalition was promptly recognized by France as the sole legitimate representative of the Syrian people. EU foreign ministers said on Monday they considered the group to be "legitimate representatives" of the Syrian people, stopping just short of the full recognition offered by France. A group of Islamist fighters in Syria's Aleppo province, many of whom are well-known members of powerful rebel units in the area, said on Monday they rejected the umbrella group and planned to establish an Islamic state in Syria. Members of Islamist groups listed in a YouTube video as supporters of the plan told Reuters they had nothing to do with the announcement, though they acknowledged that some members of their groups had appeared in the video. This could suggest cracks in Islamist rebel ranks over how to respond to growing efforts to unify rebel groups and potentially sideline more radical Islamist elements. The expanding conflict has threatened to suck in Syria's neighbors, especially Turkey in the north. Syrian mortar rounds have fallen in Turkey, Lebanon and Israel as rebels hug the borders looking for safety, and Turkey's army is stationing soldiers in recently dug trenches along the border. REQUEST FOR MISSILE DEFENCE Germany said Turkey was expected to formally request, perhaps within days, that NATO Patriot missiles be placed on its border to defend against Syrian attacks. "There have been informal talks on a request like this in the past few days," German Defence Minister Thomas de Maiziere said in Brussels on the sidelines of an EU defence ministers' meeting. Only Germany, the Netherlands and the United States have the appropriate Patriot missile system available. De Maiziere said Berlin would study a Turkish request "with solidarity" and if Germany sent Patriot missiles to the Turkish border, German soldiers would accompany them. A Turkish government official said Ankara was still consulting with NATO. President Abdullah Gul told a press conference that Turkey was concerned about Soviet-era chemical weapons in Syria. "In this context, there will always be contingency planning in a NATO country neighboring Syria," he said. NATO has deployed Patriot surface-to-air missiles to Turkey twice before, in 1991 and 2003, during both Gulf Wars. Any NATO-supplied missiles would not be for creating a no-fly zone in Syria and, although Turkey could count on "allied solidarity", the missiles would be purely for defence, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said in Brussels. Syrian rebels, despite seizing swathes of land, are almost defenseless against Syria's air force and have called for an internationally enforced no-fly zone, a measure that helped Libyan rebels overthrow Muammar Gaddafi last year. A Reuters cameraman on the Turkish border said hundreds of families had fled the Syrian town of Ras al-Ain and were gathering at a border gate after clashes between rebels and Kurdish separatists who are wary of both rebels and the government. (Additional reporting by Adrian Croft, Sebastian Moffett, Oliver Denzer, Angelika Stricker and Robert-Jan Bartunek in Brussels, Yosri Al Jamal in Ceylanpinar, Tom Perry in Cairo, Khaled Yacoub Oweis in Amman and Erika Solomon in Beirut; Writing by Louise Ireland; Editing by Kevin Liffey)
- Yahoo News
Fresh off his inauguration Wednesday, President Biden began his term with executive orders on measures ranging from curbing the coronavirus pandemic to addressing racial inequality, many of which roll back measures enacted by former President Donald Trump’s administration.
- Yahoo News
Republicans built up QAnon backer Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, but now are they afraid of what they created?
On the eve of President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration, freshman Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, the combative Georgia Republican known for her association with QAnon, was back on Twitter after a 12-hour suspension, and back to making waves.
- CBS News
Vice presidents since Vice President Walter Mondale have been living in the residence at the Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C.
Capt. Scott Moss, who led the NOSC in Knoxville, was relieved of command by Capt. Dale Maxey.
The U.S. Senate on Wednesday approved Avril Haines as the Director of National Intelligence, the nation's top intelligence job, making her the first of President Joe Biden's nominees to be approved. The vote was 84-10, with all the "no" votes coming from Republicans. Both Democrats and leading Republicans issued statements praising the nominee.
- The Week
President Biden's inaugural address has won some high praise on Fox News.Fox News anchor Chris Wallace on Wednesday praised Biden's "great" inaugural address, going as far as to deem it the best he's ever watched in his life."I thought it was a great speech," Wallace said. "I've been listening to these inaugural addresses since 1961 -- John F. Kennedy, 'ask not.' I thought this was the best inaugural address I ever heard."Biden during his first address as president declared that "democracy has prevailed" and urged unity, saying politics "doesn't have to be a raging fire destroying everything in its path." Wallace noted the speech and the ceremony itself was especially meaningful coming exactly two weeks after a mob of former President Donald Trump's supporters stormed the Capitol building in an attempt to disrupt Congress' certification of the election results."It was a less an inaugural address and more part sermon, part pep talk," Wallace said.The Fox News anchor also called for those in the media to particularly take note of Biden's comment that "there is truth and there are lies, lies told for power and for profit, and each of us has a duty and a responsibility ... to defend the truth and defeat the lies.""Now he's gotta turn words, rhetoric into reality and action," Wallace added. "But I thought it was a great start." > Fox News's Chris Wallace: "This was the best inaugural address I ever heard." pic.twitter.com/W2tauGp5g5> > -- Washington Examiner (@dcexaminer) January 20, 2021More stories from theweek.com 7 brutally funny cartoons about Trump's White House exit Bernie Sanders steals the inauguration with his grumpy chic outfit Joe Biden needs to get real
- Yahoo News
Donald Trump bragged about his tax cuts and attempted to take credit for an anticipated economic boom under President Biden to the smattering of supporters his team was able to corral for the event.
The United Nations Office for Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs said on Wednesday it has halted programs in Venezuela that provide cash transfers to the poor via local nonprofit organizations. The U.N. office known as OCHA is asking the government of President Nicolas Maduro to establish clear rules regarding cash transfers. "We're working with pertinent authorities so that the (cash transfer programs) are in line with the country's financial/banking regulatory framework with the aim of reactivating them, guaranteeing the safety of humanitarian workers and continuing to support ... vulnerable people," OCHA said in an email.
- Architectural Digest
800 feet up in the sky, the Dreamy 6,000 square foot space offers panoramic views from the East River to the HudsonOriginally Appeared on Architectural Digest
- Yahoo News
Joe Biden was sworn in as the 46th president of the United States in Washington, D.C., Wednesday. In his inaugural address, Biden called for national unity and an end to the "uncivil war." He also signed 17 executive actions, rolling back measures enacted by President Trump.
- The Week
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is genuinely undecided on how he will vote in former President Donald Trump's second Senate impeachment trial, his close allies say, but a faction of Senate Republicans are warning him if he votes to convict, the backlash will be swift and severe, CNN reports. "If he does, I don't know if he can stay as leader," one senior GOP senator told CNN, portraying that as a sentiment shared by several of his colleagues. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) said he could not support McConnell if he voted against Trump.McConnell has publicly shifted against Trump since a pro-Trump mob ransacked Congress on Jan. 6. "The mob was fed lies," McConnell said Tuesday. "They were provoked by the president and other powerful people." McConnell is part of "a small but notable faction of high-profile Republicans are taking a stronger stance against Trump or distancing themselves from him," The Associated Press notes, but "Trump is expected to remain politically active, including trying to exact revenge by backing primary challenges against Republicans he believed scorned him in his final days," especially the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach him."In the House, a group of Trump loyalists are seeking to strip Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney of her GOP leadership post for supporting impeachment," CNN reports, "a predicament some Republican senators privately believe could hound McConnell if he seeks to end Trump's political career."The logistics and timing of Trump's impeachment trial are up in the air, though multiple Capitol Hill sources tell Politico's Playbook team it could end up being as short as three days, barring Trump calling witnesses. In the end, CNN reports, "Republicans who know McConnell well believe he will take the temperature of the Senate GOP conference and ultimately make a decision based in part on the views of his colleagues and the mood of the country when it comes time to cast the key vote."More stories from theweek.com 7 brutally funny cartoons about Trump's White House exit Bernie Sanders steals the inauguration with his grumpy chic outfit Joe Biden needs to get real
The United States on Tuesday sanctioned a network of oil trading firms, individuals and vessels that have helped Venezuelan state-run oil company PDVSA sell crude mainly to Asia despite Washington's sanctions on the South American nation. The measure targets a network that the U.S. Treasury Department says helped the administration of President Nicolas Maduro, whose 2018 re-election Washington called a sham, broker the sale of hundreds of millions of dollars in Venezuelan oil.
- The Independent
It remains unclear whether the halt to construction will be permanent
- Associated Press
A powerful earthquake shook parts of the southern Philippines on Thursday night, but authorities said it was too deep to cause major damage and no tsunami warning was issued. The quake measured magnitude 7.0 and was located 95.8 kilometers (60 miles) below the sea and about 210 kilometers (130 miles) southeast of Pondaguitan in Davao Occidental province, the U.S. Geological Survey said. In Davao city, President Rodrigo Duterte’s hometown, some residents ran out of their houses as the ground shook and power cables and business signs swayed, but there were no reports of damage or injuries.
- The Telegraph
Donald Trump spent his first night as a private citizen settling into his new home at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, where he has reportedly already begun preparing for his upcoming impeachment hearing. Mr Trump’s final engagement in Washington DC as president was attending his farewell at Joint Base Andrews in DC, which was attended only by some 250 of his most loyal aides and supporters. Notably absent were close White House aides and his own vice president Mike Pence. The former president then left for Florida as President Joe Biden was being sworn in, where he received a much warmer welcome. Supporters lined Mr Trump’s route to Mar-a-Lago, waving “Trump 2020” flags and signs reading “welcome home!”, while others screamed “I love you” as his motorcade drove past. Some still refused to accept the results of the election.
- Yahoo News Video
Alejandro Mayorkas, President-elect Joe Biden’s pick to head the Department of Homeland Security, said during his Senate confirmation hearing that he would execute Biden’s plan to stop building the wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Mayorkas also said that CBP and ICE play “critical roles” in the federal government and that he wouldn’t abolish them.
A British prosecutor hired by the Hong Kong government to lead a case against democracy activists has pulled out after coming under pressure in Britain including 'disgraceful' comments by its foreign minister, city authorities said on Wednesday. David Perry, a Queen's Counsel, was due to lead the case against tabloid media magnate Jimmy Lai and several others, including veteran democracy activists Martin Lee and Margaret Ng. But Hong Kong's Department of Justice noted "growing pressure and criticism" of Perry in Britain for taking the case, adding in a statement that he had "concerns about such pressures and the exemption of quarantine" and "indicated that the trial should proceed without him".
- Associated Press
China on Thursday expressed hope the Biden administration will improve prospects for people of both countries and give a boost to relations after an especially rocky patch, while getting in a few final digs at former Trump officials. “I think after this very difficult and extraordinary time, both the Chinese and American people deserve a better future,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told reporters at a daily briefing. “Many people of insight in the international community are looking forward to the early return of Sino-U.S. relations to the correct track in making due contributions to jointly address the major and urgent challenges facing the world today,” Hua said.
- The Independent
What happened to Joe Biden’s father? President references his dad’s unemployment in inaugural address
Joe Biden Sr was an important influence in 46th president’s life
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday accused President Donald Trump, a fellow Republican, of provoking the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol. The U.S. House of Representatives last Wednesday impeached Trump for a second time. The Senate has yet to schedule a trial to determine Trump's guilt or innocence.