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IDLIB CITY, August 14, 2018 (AFP) - An antiquities museum in Syria's rebel-held province of Idlib, said to house one of the world's oldest dictionaries, reopened on Monday after five years, an AFP correspondent said.

Dozens of visitors trickled into the museum in Idlib city to see what an official said represented just a fraction of the building's collection.

Ayman al-Nabu, head of antiquities for the city controlled by an alliance of rebels and jihadists, said the museum had been damaged by air strikes and looting during Syria's nearly seven-year conflict.

After it was closed in 2013, “we carried out maintenance and rehabilitated the museum to give it new life,” he said.

Organisers are planning “visits for a whole generation of students who have been unable to visit archeological sites due to the war,” he added.

The museum is said to house a collection of clay tablets dating back to 2400-2300 BC, which bear witness to the invention of the first alphabet.

They were discovered in Idlib province's site of Ebla, which was the seat of one of ancient Syria's earliest kingdoms.

Nabu urged Unesco to help preserve the archeological sites of the province, and said archeology has nothing to do with politics.

Yesterday, a man admired clay lamps displayed in a glass cabinet, while a women took a picture with her phone of a collection including a large amphora. A dark grey statuette stood beheaded on a pedestal in a corner.

Archeologist Fayez Qawsara said he remembers the museum's opening in 1989.

“I attended the founding of Idlib museum in my youth... and today, after all these dark happenings, the museum is reopening with what remains in it,” he said.

Important objects in the collection included “the Ebla tablets and basalt statues showing ancient religious rites,” he said.

Major historical sites or monuments have been destroyed in fighting during Syria's war, including in the Unesco-listed world heritage site of Palmyra.

Idlib is the last province in Syria that is still largely under opposition control.

President Bashar al-Assad has warned that government forces intend to retake the province after the Russia-backed Syrian army seized territory from rebels and terrorists in other parts of Syria.

The war has killed 350,000 people and displaced millions more.

BERLIN, August 13, 2018 (News Wires) — Chancellor Angela Merkel’s office says she plans weekend talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Germany on issues including the development of a contentious Baltic Sea natural gas pipeline.

Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert said Monday the two leaders will meet Saturday at the German government’s guest house outside Berlin.

The Nord Stream 2 project will add to an existing direct Russian-German pipeline, increasing the amount of natural gas Russia can send to central Europe skirting transit countries to Germany’s east. Several eastern European countries object to the plan, which the United States also opposes.

Seibert says Germany’s position is it’s “important Ukraine retains a role as a transit country” for Russian gas.

The leaders will also discuss ending the Syrian conflict, the situation in eastern Ukraine and bilateral topics.

MOSCOW, August 13, 2018 (News Wires) - Russia's Foreign Ministry said on Monday a four-way Syria summit "is planned in the upcoming future", with the leaders of Russia, France, Turkey and Germany attending.

It said Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will visit Ankara on Monday and Tuesday to discuss the four-way meeting with his Turkish counterpart.

BEIRUT, August 12, 2018 (News Wires) — Syrian opposition activists say an explosion in the country's north has killed at least 18 people and wounded many others. The cause of the blast wasn't immediately known.

The opposition-run Syrian Civil Defense, also known as White Helmets, says the blast occurred on Sunday in the village of Sarmada near the Turkish border and "killed and wounded dozens." The explosion collapsed a five-story building, burying many of the victims.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights put the death toll at 18. It's unclear if the casualties are all civilians.

The Observatory says an arms depot in the basement of a building had detonated. It says the depot was run by an arms dealer close to the al-Qaeda-linked Levant Liberation Committee.

Meanwhile, Syrian government forces are fighting rebels in Idlib province.

LONDON, August 11, 2018 (MENA) - Thirty people were killed in an aerial bombardment that was launched by the governmental warplanes against posts of the Syrian opposition in the southern countryside of Idlib, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said on Saturday.

SOHR noted that the Syrian government's fighter jets conducted more than 110 airstrikes on the southern countryside of Idlib, terming the bombardment as the most violent in months, Al Arabiya Al Hadath news channel reported.

Separately, preparations are underway in the eastern part of the countryside of Daraa, to displace a new batch, the fifth one of its kind, towards the Syrian north, SOHR said.

The new batch which includes fighters, their families and other civilians, is supposed to depart to Idlib Province within the next two days, where the names of those who wish to leave are now being registered, SOHR added.



BEIRUT, August 10, 2018 (MENA) - Lebanese security forces thwarted Friday an attempt by 163 Syrian immigrants to enter the country illegally.

The forces also detained two Syrian human traffickers.

In a statement, Lebanon's General Directorate of the Internal Security Forces said 86 men, 40 women and 37 children were arrested while attempting to infiltrate into the Lebanese territories from Syrian via the border village of Suwayri, Beqaa province.

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