BEIRUT -- A Canadian freelance photographer (click here) was killed in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo on Sunday, his sister and activists said, the latest journalist to be killed covering a brutal war that has become the deadliest place in the world for them to operate.

Ali Mustafa died along with seven others when government aircraft dropped crude bombs and one exploded where was standing with firefighters in the rebel-held Hadariyeh area of Aleppo city, said an activist who identifies himself as Abu al-Hassan Marea.

Mustafa's sister, Justina Rosa Botelho confirmed her 29-year-old brother's death after activists sent her a photograph of his corp....

I actually don't have a problem in stabilizing the border between Lebanon and Syria. Why? Because as long as Assad can prove he still has control while trying to settle so many turbulent issues in Syria, Hezbollah will stand down. If Hezbollah feels there is complete anarchy in Syria, they will continue to kill people without discrimination as to whom and the domestic environment in Syria will never settle down.

The military takeover of Zara, (click here) in Homs province, is the latest advance in the effort to block rebel supply routes from Lebanon.

BEIRUT — After weeks of fighting, the Syrian military has wrested control of a rebel-held town near the Lebanese border in the strategic province of Homs, military and opposition representatives said Saturday.

The seizure of Zara, close to the main highway linking Homs city to the Mediterranean coast, is the latest reported government advance in its effort to seal the porous border with Lebanon, long a conduit for antigovernment fighters and arms.
In a statement, the Syrian military hailed the seizure of Zara, which "had been used as a main passage for the terrorist groups that would come from Lebanon and head to neighboring areas to carry out their criminal operations."
The Syrian government routinely refers to rebels as "terrorists" and "mercenaries."...

Rebels are not terrorists. That is a reality Assad can't seem to come to grips with. Assad cannot simply kill ethnic settlements. He needs to seek peace with them. If Assad doesn't seek peace with the people within Syria he will have chronic war and killing.

Syrian rebels (click here) in battle-scarred Tal Khalakh have turned in their arms and signed loyalty pledges to the government. Similar truces, though tenuous, are spreading in some areas.

"I was ashamed," recalled the father, a shop owner in Tal Khalakh, long renowned as a smuggling hub with nearby Lebanon — and more recently as a cross-border terminus for arms and rebel fighters. "He was not my son anymore."
All that has changed. Khaled has renounced the uprising to oust President Bashar Assad and is studying to become a lawyer.
"I was wrong; some people deceived us," Khaled, 31, dressed in a track suit, said as he and other young men hung out on the eerily becalmed streets of Tal Khalakh, where bullet- and shell-pocked buildings attest to months of conflict. "I'm back to myself now."
He is among hundreds of ex-rebels in the Tal Khalakh area who, according to the mayor here, have joined what the Syrian government calls the "reconciliation" process....

This momentum has to sustain and not simply a temporary truce. The cities and town of Syria first need food and clean water and then they need to rebuild their economy.

Fear between the ethnicities has spread like wildfire in the Mideast from Arab Maghreb to Syria. At one time the minority ethnicities had no choice but to be extremists and conduct violence to maintain a footprint. That has changed and the region needs to appreciate a balance of respect. Their economies are completely dependent on mutual respect and equity on the lands. Their pilgrimages are vital to their lives and devotions and it cannot be interrupted by violence and hatred anymore.

Tripoli, Siham Ali in Rabat, (click here) Jamel Arfaoui in Tunis and Jemal Oumar in Nouakchott — Top diplomats from across North Africa gathered in Tripoli on Saturday (February 15th) to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Arab Maghreb Union (UMA).

"There is no doubt that the results in terms of consolidating this entity are still much lower than the aspirations of our peoples," Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zidan said in marking the occasion.

Libyan Foreign Minister Mohamed Abdulaziz chaired the meeting in the presence of his counterparts from Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Mauritania as well as UMA Secretary-General Habib Ben Yahia.

"What we face in terms of challenges and obstacles are too large and requires effort and hard work on a political level as well as a real, serious, and focused dialogue," Zidan pointed out.

"Compromise is essential and necessary, and relations between states and peoples cannot be consolidated without concrete initiatives in the fields of economy, trade, education, and culture," the Libyan premier continued.
Zidan also called for "co-operation in security, the exchange of information, border protection, experiences and the development of expertise"...