Damascus

A suburb of Damascus after it was recaptured by regime forces (Getty)

On a recent trip to Damascus, an acquaintance surprised me by announcing his plans to leave the country. Concerned friends have been trying to get him to move to Lebanon for the past two years, but he always refused. Like many Syrians, he felt that even with a civil war raging, Damascus had a soulfulness and integrity that Beirut lacks. Now he’s had enough.

“Its not the shelling,” he explained. “It’s the greed.” Read more

♦ The FT’s James Politi visits a military base struggling to cope with the effects of sequestration.
♦ One of the FT’s new readers had some questions about her first edition of the pink paper, including: “Why is George Osborne taking legal action against the EU cap on bankers’ bonuses when it says here that these chaps at ICAP were demanding bonuses in return for manipulating the Libor market?
♦ Hassan Rouhani has raised hope among his countrymen of a solution to the crisis over Iran’s nuclear programme.
♦ The ebb in support for Argentina’s president Cristina Fernández has been matched by the rise of Sergio Massa, one of the strongest potential candidates for the 2015 elections.
♦ News reports of the US-intercepting messages between the heads of Al-Qaeda and AQIM, discussing an imminent terrorist attack, have caused more immediate damage to counterterrorism efforts than Edward Snowden’s leaks.
♦ The New York Times profiles Rosario Crocetta, the gay, Catholic leftist taking on corruption in Sicily.
♦ In Damascus, a war-weariness has settled over the city: “there is a sense that the war will continue, perhaps for years, making the country’s rifts progressively harder to heal.”
♦ When Romanian prosecutors announced that Alexandru Visinescu would be put on trial over his role in Communist-era abuses, it raised hopes that Romania may be able to shake off its national amnesia about its brutal past. Read more

Esther Bintliff

JORDAN - JANUARY 29: Young children sit inside a tent as Syrian refugees go about their daily business in the Za’atari refugee camp on January 29, 2013 in Mafraq, Jordan (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

Syrian children in the Za'atari refugee camp in Mafraq, Jordan (Jeff J Mitchell/Getty)

The UN’s World Food Programme is running out of money to feed Syrians – both within the crisis-hit country and outside, in refugee camps where more than 1 million people have fled over the past two years. Javier Blas, the FT’s Commodities editor, has the full story.

The World blog spoke to Matthew Hollingworth, the Damascus-based officer in charge of WFP’s Syria operation, about the practicalities of getting food to people in a war zone.

Q: What kind of food do you provide?

A: When we deliver food to people we’re delivering them a family ration or parcel – a box of food. The idea is that each box has enough food to support a family of five for a whole month. The rations are very simple, non-luxury goods – rice, pasta, bulgur wheat, canned beans, lentils, sugar, salt and vegetable oil. The reason we give them some canned goods is because it’s easier for them to cook and eat those things if they have a problem receiving fuel. Next month we’re adding wheat flour to the basket because there’s a recognition that access to bread is becoming a problem.

Q: How do you transport the food boxes throughout Syria? Read more

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David Gardner

Israeli soldiers stand guard at an army post in the annexed Golan Heights on January 31 (JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images)

Israeli soldiers stand guard at an army post in the annexed Golan Heights on January 31 (JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images)

Reports that Wednesday’s Israeli air strike somewhere near Syria’s border with Lebanon was on an arms convoy destined for Hizbollah have been denied – sort of – by the Syrian regime and its paramilitary Lebanese ally.

Throughout Wednesday, Hizbollah, normally prodigious in its denunciations of any and all Israeli aggression on its al-Manar television station, maintained the stoniest of silences. Today, al-Manar moved swiftly to endorse the account given by Syria’s state news agency: that Israeli warplanes had hit a military research facility in Jamraya, near Damascus.

There is no cast-iron corroboration of anything at this stage. Israel is saying nothing. But beyond fuelling fears that Syria’s civil war will spread, Israel’s actions have led to some interesting statements. Read more

Catch up on some weekend reading and our picks from today:  

James Blitz

 BULENT KILIC/AFP/GettyImages

Protestors step on a picture of Bashar al-Assad during a rally on May 31. (Bulent Kilic/AFP/GettyImages)

The bomb attack that has killed Syria’s defence minister and President Bashar al-Assad’s brother-in-law is by far the most serious blow the Syrian regime has suffered since the rebellion began sixteen months ago.

Most security experts and Syria watchers do not believe it spells the immediate end of President Assad. He will fight on, knowing he retains considerable military force to throw at the rebellion.

But today’s events prompt three big questions that will gradually come to be answered in the days and weeks ahead. Read more