Alison Meuse

From the outside, the Syrian war may appear to consume every corner of the country. But inside an ancient Damascus bazaar, the war can feel very far away.

The covered Hamidiyeh bazaar has always been a place filled with treasures, and it still feels like the heartbeat of the capital, with throngs of shoppers passing through its grand, gently winding thoroughfare.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

In Syria, Russian-backed government troops have entered the ancient city of Palmyra after days of intense clashes with Islamic State militants.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the conflict, says regime troops have pushed into the southwest corner of the city. Observatory Director Rami Abdel Rahman says advances inside the city are slow, as ISIS planted mines in areas where it retreated.

State news agency SANA reports that the army took control of Mount Altar, a strategic point west of the city's famed ruins.

With the assistance of Russian airstrikes, President Bashar Assad's forces are pressing ahead with a major offensive around the northern city of Aleppo, a development that has sent another wave of Syrian civilians seeking refugee in neighboring Turkey.

Thousands took to the streets in Martyrs' Square in the Lebanese capital of Beirut on Saturday for the second week in a row to demand government accountability and solutions for a mounting garbage crisis.

Also for the second week in a row, the diehard protesters were dispersed by force. As the sun set and the families went home, a faction of protesters tried to break through barricades protecting the government palace. Police chased them down with batons, clearing the entire downtown and arresting stragglers.

Consider the plight of Syria's many minorities — the Christians, the Druze, the Ismailis and many others.

On one hand, they face threats by extremists like the self-proclaimed Islamic State, which considers their beliefs heretical. On the other hand, joining forces with President Bashar Assad's regime could mean dangerous military deployments and antagonizing the Sunni Muslim majority.

Pages