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Two famous ancient structures in the city of Palmyra have been destroyed by ISIS forces, Syria's antiquities chief says.

The Tetrapylon and the facade of the city's Roman theater have both been almost completely demolished, the official says, according to NPR's Alison Meuse.

"Activist Khaled al-Homsi, who is from Palmyra, shared satellite imagery to Twitter, which appears to confirm the scale of the damage," Alison reports. "The face of the Roman theater is a pile of rubble and only four of the Tetrapylon's 16 columns appear to be standing."

Ryan Caron King / WNPR

Immigrants in Connecticut come from many different backgrounds. They’re white-collar or blue-collar workers; they’re artists and students. We have an occasional series on Where We Live that highlights their stories.

Ryan Caron King / WNPR

War and poverty displace millions of people around the world.

This hour, we hear from two Connecticut artists who have personal experience with the global refugee and migrant crisis.

Melinda Burnham

Here’s something that may surprise you. The single largest U.S. employer of full-time professional musicians is the United States Armed Forces.

Agreement Reached On Syria Cease-Fire

Dec 29, 2016

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced in Moscow that the Syrian government and Syrian opposition forces have agreed to a nationwide cease-fire to begin at midnight local time.

The Syrian army said the agreement excludes the Islamic State as well as Jabhat Fateh al Sham — the group formerly known as the Nusra Front — and all groups linked to them. Turkey's foreign ministry said the agreement excludes groups the U.N. deems terrorist organizations.

Evacuations continue from east Aleppo, as remaining rebels and civilians wait in freezing weather for transportation out of the city.

The end of the evacuations may be coming soon: NPR's Alice Fordham reports that regime forces might be entering the tiny enclave that has been held by rebels as early as Thursday evening.

The fall of eastern Aleppo to the forces aligned with Syrian President Bashar Assad has been a foregone conclusion for weeks now. The question was whether civilians and fighters would be allowed to leave.

Updated at 7:15 p.m. ET

Evacuations of east Aleppo have resumed, after a series of false starts and broken cease-fires.

And United Nations officials said more than 100 U.N. humanitarian staffers are in place and could begin monitoring the evacuation under terms of a U.N. resolution approved unanimously Monday.

At least 25 buses entered besieged neighborhoods to evacuate rebel fighters and civilians from eastern Aleppo Sunday, Syria's official news agency says — but that was before an attack on buses elsewhere put all movement on hold.

The setback comes after the evacuation effort was halted Friday after just one day, with all sides lobbing accusations at each other.

Evacuations of embattled eastern Aleppo, which began Thursday after days of efforts to negotiate a cease-fire, have come to a halt.

Thousands of civilians and fighters have already been evacuated from the rebel-held enclave: Some 3,000 civilians were evacuated in the first few convoys, along with more than 40 wounded people, the International Committee of the Red Cross said Thursday.

The aid group anticipated it would take days to fully evacuate east Aleppo.

After years of devastating war, days of increasing desperation and the collapse of one cease-fire, evacuations are underway in besieged eastern Aleppo.

Live images on Syrian state TV showed ambulances entering the rebel-held enclave on Thursday morning to evacuate the wounded. Aid groups confirm that evacuations have begun — despite reports of a brief burst of gunfire targeting ambulances.

Updated at 8:00 p.m. ET

A cease-fire in besieged eastern Aleppo appears to be going forward, paving the way for people trapped there to evacuate.

It's difficult to confirm exactly how many civilians remain in the small slice of Aleppo still controlled by rebel groups, but estimates put the number in the tens of thousands.

NPR's Alison Meuse reports an opposition activist in the city says the bombing has stopped.

In central Damascus, it's perfectly clear that President Bashar Assad is firmly in control. In the souks of the Old City, his face looks out of almost every shop window, pinned up next to gold jewelry or intricate rugs. No one has a bad word to say about him, at least not to a Western journalist.

In rebel enclaves nearby, forces loyal to Assad are creeping back into control. After years of siege tactics, opposition forces in the suburbs of Damascus are increasingly making deals that see their fighters heading into rebel-held areas.

When the last remaining hospital in besieged eastern Aleppo crumbled under a wave of artillery strikes on Nov. 18, one of the casualties was 25-year-old nurse Kefah.

"The last time he called me was one night before he was killed," says Dr. A.M. — an intensive care specialist based in Detroit who, for the past four years, has been providing training and support via Skype and WhatsApp to medical staff in Aleppo. He asked that we only use his initials because the Syrian government has persecuted doctors — and their families — for treating rebels.

Guillaume Flament / flickr creative commons

Colin is back, and we've got some questions, and we're guessing you do too.

Foreign journalists' access to Syria is severely restricted, but this week, the regime of Bashar Assad extended an unusual invitation to a group of Western reporters to visit Damascus, the capital. NPR's Peter Kenyon and Alison Meuse are among the foreign journalists who've been granted visas to Damascus this week. For Kenyon, it's the first time back since 2008, before the 2011 uprising that led to Syria's war. He spoke with Morning Edition host Renee Montagne about the visit.

ISIS fighters launched attacks on police Friday in the city of Kirkuk, as Iraqi security forces continued a massive military offensive to try to pry Mosul, one of Iraq's largest cities, from the militant group.

"The fighters struck [Kirkuk] before dawn, with suicide bombers hitting four police stations and gunmen killing police," NPR's Alice Fordham reports from Irbil, Iraq, though the number of casualties wasn't immediately clear. "A curfew is imposed in Kirkuk, but eyewitnesses say fighting continues."

The battle for the ISIS-held city of Mosul, now in its second day, is expected to drag on for weeks or months. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces approach the city, aid groups in the region are preparing for a humanitarian crisis.

Fighting has lulled in some areas, but is continuing in others, and airstrikes by the U.S.-led coalition continue, NPR's Alice Fordham reports from Kalak, Iraq.

"The Iraqi army is fighting its way toward the city from the south: a spokesman said they are facing resistance but moving," Alice says.

An attack on a funeral hall killed 90 people and wounded more than 560 in Sanaa Saturday, Yemen's rebel government says. The Saudi-led coalition has promised to conduct an immediate investigation into the airstrikes.

"We're mobilizing to support health facilities deal with the influx of dead and wounded," the Red Cross delegation in Yemen says, adding that it's sending 300 body bags and medical supplies to help cope with the violence's effects.

Juan Manuel Santos, the president of Colombia, was awarded this year's Nobel Peace Prize for his "resolute efforts to bring the country's more than 50-year-long civil war to an end."

The surprise announcement comes less than a week after Colombian voters delivered a shocking blow to the peace process, and the award notably excludes any leaders of the FARC guerilla group, the other side of the negotiating table.

The Colombian government and the FARC rebel group have spent four years negotiating a peace deal to bring an end to more than 50 years of war.

Terms were agreed on, a deal was finalized, the accord was signed — and then, in a stunning turn of events, the people of Colombia voted against the agreement in a national referendum Sunday.

So. What now?

In an interview with The Associated Press, Syrian President Bashar Assad blamed the U.S. for the collapse of a fragile cease-fire earlier this week and denied carrying out well-documented human rights abuses, such as besieging civilians or using chemical weapons against them.

At least five emergency medical workers were said to have been killed in airstrikes near the northern city of Aleppo on Tuesday, following the collapse of a fragile cease-fire in Syria.

The Syrian military announced Monday it is no longer observing a cease-fire brokered by the U.S. and Russia to allow food and medicine into besieged areas.

Seven days after the agreement was reached by Russia, which backs Syrian President Bashar Assad, and the U.S., which backs anti-Assad rebels, the regime blamed the truce's collapse on the rebels, and unilaterally declared that the cease-fire is over.

NPR's Alice Fordham reports this about the cease-fire:

Women Warriors

Sep 13, 2016
Wikimedia Commons

There is still a debate about whether women belong in combat. It's been more than a year since Defense Secretary Ash Carter ordered all branches of the military in 2015 to allow women on to the front lines of combat and generations since women silently fought alongside men in the Civil War.

A Syrian cease-fire went into effect at sundown on Monday, at approximately 11:45 a.m. EDT.

Just hours before the start of the planned cease-fire, Syrian President Bashar Assad announced on state media that he plans to "reclaim every area from the terrorists," The Associated Press reports. Assad's government had earlier indicated it would abide by the negotiated truce.

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