Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.: 'Today, Democrats and Republicans spoke with one voice to tell the ISIS terrorists: we will find you and destroy you. The Senate has passed a strong bill to arm and train vetted Syrian opposition fighters as part of the President's strategy to destroy ISIS without repeating the mistakes of the past in the Middle East' - statement
More: When asked how France was able to secure the release of 4 hostages from Islamic State militants, Hollande says, 'France doesn't engage in prisoner exchanges, but that doesn't mean other countries don't. Some countries have done it to help us, I admit that' - @Reuters
Editor's note: In a what appears to be a new video uploaded to YouTube by Islamic State militants, a British hostage delivers an introduction to what he says will be other 'programs' exposing the 'truth' behind the Islamic State. The hostage says the aim is to prevent another war, and that as a captive, 'I have nothing to lose.' We are looking for verification of the clip and response from UK government officials. - Tricia
Editor's note: The pre-dawn Australian police raids in Sydney and Brisbane come days after the country raised its threat level to "high," citing the likelihood of terrorist attacks by Australian citizens radicalised in Iraq or Syria, Reuters reports. - Stephanie
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., on legislation authorizing training Syrian rebels: 'I don't know how this vote will turn out,' says 'we are not supporting combat troops in how we solve this problem' - @KellyO, @seungminkim
Syria (/ˈsɪ.rɪə/ SIH-ree-ə ; Arabic: سوريا or سورية, Sūriyā or Sūrīyah), officially the Syrian Arab Republic, is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the west, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest. Its capital Damascus is among the oldest continuously-inhabited cities in the world. A country of fertile plains, high mountains, and deserts, it is home to diverse ethnic and religious groups, including the majority Arab population, Alawite, Druze, Sunni and Christian. Other ethnic groups includes; Armenians, Assyrians, Kurds, Yezidi and Turks. Sunni Arabs make up the largest population group in Syria.
In English, the name "Syria" was formerly synonymous with the Levant (known in Arabic as al-Sham) while the modern state encompasses the sites of several ancient kingdoms and empires, including the Eblan civilization of the third millennium BC. In the Islamic era, Damascus was the seat of the Umayyad Caliphate and a provincial capital of the Mamluk Sultanate in Egypt.
The modern Syrian state was established after World War I as a French mandate, and represented the largest Arab state to emerge from the formerly Ottoman-ruled Arab Levant. It gained independence in April 1946, as a parliamentary republic. The post-independence period was tumultuous, and a large number of military coups and coup attempts shook the country in the period 1949–1971. Between 1958-61, Syria entered a brief union with Egypt, which was terminated by a military coup. Syria was under Emergency Law from 1963 to 2011, effectively suspending most constitutional protections for citizens, and its system of government is considered to be non-democratic. Bashar al-Assad has been president since 2000 and was preceded by his father Hafez al-Assad, who was in office from 1970 to 2000.
Syria is a member of one international organization other than the United Nations, the Non-Aligned Movement; it is currently suspended from the Arab League and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, and self-suspended from the Union for the Mediterranean. Since March 2011, Syria has been embroiled in civil war in the wake of uprisings (considered an extension of the Arab Spring, the mass movement of revolutions and protests in the Arab world) against Assad and the Ba'athist government. An alternative government was formed by the opposition umbrella group, the Syrian National Coalition, in March 2012. Representatives of this government were subsequently invited to take up Syria's seat at the Arab League.