By CNN's Jill Dougherty
Meeting in Rome with Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh, Secretary of State John Kerry announced Thursday that the United States would provide an additional $100 million in humanitarian assistance for refugees fleeing the fighting in Syria, bringing the total amount of aid to $510 million.
Kerry also said that he is working to bring all parties together to create a transitional government and that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad would not be part of that government.
Jordan, which is being inundated by a wave of Syrian refugees, will receive nearly $43 million, which will support United Nations humanitarian programs in the region.
By CNN's Kevin Liptak
The Democratic chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee offered legislation Monday that would allow the United States to provide lethal weapons to the Syrian opposition, a step President Barack Obama has yet to publically endorse.
Sen. Robert Menendez's bill would allow U.S.-provided arms, military training and supplies to go to groups that have been vetted and cleared, and establish a $250 million fund to help support a political transition in Syria, where a civil war has been waged for over 2 years.
The bill comes amid reports that chemical weapons have been used in the country. The White House notified lawmakers in April that the United States had established, with "varying degrees of confidence," that a sarin gas attack had taken place in Syria. But over the weekend a U.N. official said evidence points to the use of the deadly nerve agent by Syrian rebel forces, not the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. A spokesman for the Rebel Free Syrian Army disputed those claims.
Menendez, along with a group of other lawmakers, has pushed for greater U.S. involvement in Syria since before the reports of chemical weapons emerged.FULL STORY
By Jill Dougherty, CNN Foreign Affairs Correspondent
Secretary of State John Kerry departed for Russia on Monday, as the conflict in Syria heads into a new and potentially more dangerous phase, and the Obama administration tries to pin down who used chemical weapons.
Carla Del Ponte, a member of the United Nations Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria, said Monday there are "strong suspicions... if not yet, let's say, indisputable proof" that sarin gas was used in Syria by opposition forces, rather than by the regime of Bashar al-Assad.
The U.N. commission later issued a statement saying it "has not reached conclusive findings as to the use of chemical weapons in Syria by any parties to the conflict."
By Frederik Pleitgen and Sara Sidner
A Syrian official called an attack Sunday on the nation's military research facility a "declaration of war" by Israel.
In an interview with CNN, Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal al Mekdad said the attack represented an alliance between Islamic terrorists and Israel.
He added that Syria would retaliate against Israel in its own time and way.
By Tom Watkins, CNN
[Urgent update, 8:19 p.m.]
A number of explosions on Sunday rocked the Damascus suburb of Jamraya, hitting a "scientific research center," according to Syrian state TV. The news report said Israeli rockets struck the area.
[Original story published at 3:40 p.m.]
Sectarian violence reported in Syrian city of Baniyas
Sectarian violence has erupted in northwestern Syria, where three consecutive days of killing by mostly Alawite forces have left hundreds of predominantly Sunni residents dead, opposition groups said Saturday.
"The regime attacked the town of Beyda and other neighboring areas from the sea with rockets before security forces and militias loyal to the regime entered the area and conducted mass executions," Free Syrian Army chief of staff Gen. Salim Idris said by phone from Antakya, Turkey.
By Barbara Starr
The United States believes Israel has conducted an airstrike into Syria, two U.S. officials tell CNN.
U.S. and Western intelligence agencies are reviewing classified data showing Israel most likely conducted a strike in the Thursday-Friday time frame, according to both officials. This is the same time frame that the U.S. collected additional data showing Israel was flying a high number of warplanes over Lebanon.
One official said the United States had limited information so far and could not yet confirm those are the specific warplanes that conducted a strike. Based on initial indications, the U.S. does not believe Israeli warplanes entered Syrian airspace to conduct the strikes.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Thursday the Obama administration is rethinking its policy of opposing providing weapons to the Syrian rebels.
Hagel's acknowledgment - after weeks of the U.S. resisting arming the opposition, for fear the weapons could end up in the wrong hands - comes days after the White House sent a letter to two U.S. senators saying the intelligence community assessed "with varying degrees of confidence" that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government had used the chemical agent sarin on a "small scale."
President Obama, asked about Hagel's remarks, said he was only reiterating a position the administration has held for months. "We are continually evaluating the situation on the ground working with our international partners to find the best way to move a political transition that has Assad leaving, stabilizes the country, ends the killing and allows the Syrian people to determine their own destiny, " the president said during a press conference in Mexico.
By CNN Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr
Israel is asking the Obama administration not to arm Syrian rebels unless it can carefully screen them to ensure no weapons would fall into the hands of terrorists groups, the Israeli ambassador to the United States tells CNN.
"If it were decided to provide lethal assistance, we ask those groups be carefully vetted," Ambassador Michael Oren said Wednesday. He declined to offer specifics but broadly indicated the matter has come up in recent weeks - in the general time frame of visits to Israel by President Barack Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.
Neighboring Jordan and Turkey have expressed similar concerns.
By CNN Staff
All options remain on the table as the Obama administration considers what, if any, military action to take in Syria following the suspected use of chemical weapons there, U.S. officials tell CNN.
They say this includes the possibility of providing arms to rebels even though the administration has opposed this step and several caution that its resistance to doing so is unlikely to change.
So far, the United States has provided communications and other non-lethal aid to the rebels fighting the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in a two-year civil war.
By Barbara Starr
The Pentagon has in recent days stepped up planning for potential military intervention in the Syrian civil war, specifically because of growing evidence the regime may have used chemical weapons, CNN has learned.
"There is intensified planning in the works as more precise information comes in on the Syrian regime's potential use of chemical weapons and the body of evidence grows," a senior administration official said.
The official, who has direct knowledge of the effort, declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the situation.
If President Barack Obama were to order action, it could involve thousands of U.S. troops. But all of the options face serious military challenges.