Fighters of the Ansar al-Islam Brigade with a tank near Damascus International Airport
2200 GMT: Al Safira. Earlier we reported about heavy fighting on the outskirts of the Al Safira military base, a massive base east of Aleppo that houses a massive suspected chemical weapons stockpile (update 1526). The LCC reports that the people of the town have paid a heavy price:
The number of martyrs in the towns of Tal Aaran and Tal Hasel has risen to 20 martyrs and 40 wounded people during the air strikes by regime forces using cluster and vacuum bombs.
However, it's not just civilians who have paid a heavy price. According to various opposition sources, 7 armored vehicles and a jet fighter have been destroyed by the rebels. This video reportedly shows some of the destroyed vehicles, part of a larger convoy:
This video is entitled "Mujahideen heroes are targeting Assad tanks."
1940 GMT: Government Executed 80 in Aleppo. Al Jazeera's Zeina Khodr reports that, according to civilians who were claiming the bodies, and according to Free Syrian Army members at the scene, the 80+ who were pulled from the river were missing for over a week, and some were known to have been arrested first. One of the dead was as young as 12.
Sadly, according to the report, there were even more bodies, but some said there was a government sniper preventing anyone from removing them.
90 martyrs were reported in Aleppo, including 80 in Bustan Al-Qasr neighborhood; 26 in Damascus and its suburbs; 16 in Daraa; 15 in Homs; 6 in Idlib; 6 in Deir Ezzor and 3 in Hama.
1609 GMT: Aleppo - Executions by the River. Below is one of the least graphic pictures we can find of the bodies of the men (they appear to all be adult men) who were found in or near the Quweiq River, which separates the Bustan Al-Qasr district from Ansari in the southwest of the city (see updates below). It is a screenshot of a video taken by an opposition Facebook page. One video shows row after row of bodies, while another appears to show civilians walking among the bodies in an attempt to identify the victims. At one point, wailing is heard as a man finds a family member or friend.
1526 GMT: Heavy Fighting in Safira. The Syrian opposition is buzzing with news of heavy fighting in Al Safira, just 20 kilometers southwest of Aleppo city (map). The town is significant as a huge military installation is located on the southwest outskirts of the town - a military installation that is suspected of housing Syria's largest single stockpile of chemical weapons.
Several claims speak to heavy fighting, and several of them also suggest that the rebels have won significant victories today. This report is from the LCC:
The Free Syrian Army destroy a military convoy composed of 7 tanks and a BMP vehicles in the Defence Factories, in conjucntion with fierce and ongoing clashes between the Free Syrian Army and regime forces.
Another report claims that a regime warplane was shot down. We've not been able to independently verify either claim, though both would be significant. The LCC purports to internally verify all of their reports before publication.
What we can verify, however, is that the town has been hit by both shelling and airstrikes, and perhaps more than a dozen civilians have been killed. Several videos, including this one, show the bodies of the dead. Other videos show smoke rising above the town.
1508 GMT: US Announces New Aid Package. US President Barack Obama has announced an additional $155 million in humanitarian aid to help those affected by the Syrian crisis. This raises the total US aid package to Syria to $365 million, which makes the US the single largest donor.
The Guardian has more detail on the donation, as well as a description of the UN project to raise more money from the largest economies beyond the US, UK, and France.
90 martyrs in Aleppo,among them 80 martyrs in Bustan Al-Qasr, 19 martyrs in Damascus and its Suburbs, 15 martyrs in Daraa, 14 martyrs in Homs, 5 martyrs in Idlib, 3 martyrs in Deir Ezzor.
Yet another video from Aleppo shows an endless supply of bodies down by the river. So far, it's not clear who these men are (they all appear to be men), where they are from, who killed them or why they were killed. Beyond the obvious gunshots to the head (visible in many of the videos) there's very little to go on.
Amal Hanano says it all:
James Miller takes over today's live coverage. Thanks to Scott Lucas for getting us started today.
1325 GMT: Islamists Take Regime Position. Activists, supported by video, claim that insurgents, including the Islamist Jabhat al-Nusra, have captured an intelligence branch in the eastern city of Deir Ez Zor after days of heavy fighting,.
Footage showed men armed with assault rifles cheering as they stood outside the building. Some of the fighters carried a black flag with the Islamic declaration of faith and the name of Jabhat al-Nusra.
1252 GMT: Humanitarian Aid. The European Commission has pledged 100 million Euros ($75 million) in aid at the International Pledging Conference for Syria convened by United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in Kuwait.
The Commission committed 100 million Euros in 2011/12.
Non-governmental organisations pledged another $182 million.
1241 GMT: Casualties A Free Syrian captain has said that the bodies of at least 68 young men and boys, all executed with a single gunshot to the head or neck, were found on Tuesday in a river in Aleppo.
The captain said more bodies were being dragged from the Quweiq River, which separates the Bustan Al-Qasr district from Ansari in the southwest of the city.
A volunteer said he helped load the bodies on a truck. The victims had no ID on them.
Graphic video has been posted on the bodies.
1002 GMT: Opposition and Jabhat al-Nusra. Speaking to Russia Today, George Sabra, the Vice President of the opposition Syrian National Coalition, has appealed for military aid: “We need some new weapons against airplanes. You know Bashar Al Assad sends planes to damage villages and cities and civilians. We need to protect ourselves our children from killing every day.”
Asked about the Islamist faction Jabhat al-Nusra, Sabra said, "They are fighting for freedom and democracy, but maybe we will face some problem with them. Anyway, they are a small part of the revolution in Syria." He said he was "very sure" that the opposition could control the group.
0955 GMT: Refugees. More than 700,000 Syrian refugees have registered in neighboring countries or await processing there, with aid workers are struggling to keep up with the exodus, according to the United Nations High Commission on Refugees.
After a recent surge of people across its border, Jordan hosts 167,444 registered Syrian refugees, as well as 51,729 who await processing, many of who fled fighting around Daraa in southern Syria.
Lebanon has 157,139 Syrian refugees, as well as nearly 69,000 who await processing. Turkey has 163,161 Syrian refugees in its 15 camps while Iraq hosts 77,415. There are 14,312 in Egypt and 5,417 registered across the rest of North Africa, the agency said.
Until two months ago, locals in this corner of north-western Syria had not had to contend with the Jabhat al-Nusra organisation. Like much else about the war now crippling the nearby cities of Idlib and Aleppo, it was out of sight and out of mind, a distant bogeyman that posed little threat to this border town.
Then came a campaign by rebel units pushing south towards cities still controlled by the regime after almost two years of civil war. "That's when we first saw them," a rebel, Mahmoud Darwiche, said of Jabhat al-Nusra, which insurgent leaders simply call al-Qaida.
"They were good at first, quiet and respectful. Even now, they are still trying to behave. But they will kill any Alawite fighter they capture."
Until December, the town of Darkoush was roughly divided: the north supported the opposition while the south supported the regime; the frontline was marked by a line of ransacked security buildings.
Now, it is a staging point for a coming battle in the mountains to the south, a battle that will decide the fate of Syria's cosmopolitan heart.
Rebel leaders are preparing what they say will be imminent attacks on regime cities. Jabhat al-Nusra is also making plans, with new arrivals to the group turning up on most days over the past few weeks. Some are taking over empty Alawite homes near Darkoush; others are pushing south to frontlines near Latakia.
0547 GMT: Damascus. Insurgents reportedly carried out a series of attacks on Monday on the southern suburbs of Damascus. They shelled the International Airport and claimed to have a militia location nearby. Raids were also reported in Al Qadam and Mleha.
Late last year, opposition fighters pursued sustained attacks on the road to the airport, briefly closing the facility and grounding all flights.
Meanwhile, the regime continued its bombardment of insurgent-held areas to the east of the capital, such as Darayya and East Ghouta.
The Local Coordination Committees claimed 129 people were killed on Monday, including six women and 16 children. Thirty-three of the deaths were in Damascus and its suburbs, 28 in Aleppo Province, 24 in Idlib Province, and 19 in Hama Province.