News / Middle East

    US Closes Damascus Embassy as Assad Forces Kill More Syrians

    The US embassy building is seen in Damascus, Syria, January 12, 2012.
    The US embassy building is seen in Damascus, Syria, January 12, 2012.

    The United States has closed its embassy in Syria as the government there escalates its violent crackdown on an opposition uprising.

    The U.S. State Department said Monday that embassy functions have been suspended and that Ambassador Robert Ford and other staff have left the country. The Obama adminstration had warned last month it would close its mission in Damascus unless Syria's government addressed security considerations, including the safety of its personnel.

    Violence continued to flare Monday as Syrian government forces bombarded the country's third largest city of Homs, large parts of which are in rebel hands.

    Residents say shells slammed into apartment blocks, causing numerous casualties, as Syrian government forces pounded areas of Homs with heavy artillery. Opposition sources indicated that tanks had blocked all entrances to the city.

    Videos on opposition websites showed bodies in the street amid pools of blood.  Other videos showed men trying to evacuate people from a field hospital which had been hit.  It was impossible to independently verify the videos.

    Al Arabiya TV showed live webcam images of shells slamming into the Bab Amr district of Homs as smoke rose from buildings which had caught fire.  The most intense shelling was reported in the districts of Bab Amr, Khalidiya, Bab Sibai and Insha'at.

    Opposition activist Omar Idliby told al Hurra TV that government forces began to prepare for the bombardment hours in advance.

    Government forces withdrew from many positions inside Homs overnight in preparation for the bombing campaign, he said, which is being conducted from a distance.  Idliby said rebel soldiers defending parts of Homs have only light arms.  And he claimed the government used attack helicopters, as well as artillery and Grad rockets, adding that civilians have been trying to flee, but that it's been difficult.

    Other witnesses say medical supplies are running short in Homs and that government forces are firing on anything that moves, preventing the work of ambulances and rescue workers.

    Elsewhere, opposition sources report government attacks on suburbs of Damascus, including Daraya and the mountain resort of Zabadani.  In northern Idlib province, rebel soldiers attacked government troops, reportedly killing three officers and capturing 19 soldiers.

    Peter Harling, of the International Crisis Group, says the Syrian government has lost control of much of its territory and is conducting scattered attacks, but is unable to hold what it's retaken.

    "The regime has lost control of its territory, by and large," said Harling, "It's lost control of some of its units, that have been behaving like militias going on the rampage. Even where the army and the security services are showing a great degree of cohesiveness, what we see is something like occupation forces, completely cut from society. So, they can move in with massive firepower, doing a tremendous amount of damage, but they can't really stay. If they do try to stay, very quickly they're sniped, they're ambushed and they're forced to leave."

    Meanwhile, Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby has warned the Syrian government to end to its military escalation, saying it is pushing the country towards civil war.

    Join the conversation on our social journalism site - Middle East Voices. Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter and discuss them on our Facebook page.

    You May Like

    Turkey, US Splits Deepen Over Support for Kurdish Militants

    Ankara summons American ambassador to protest remarks by State Department spokesman who said Washington does not consider Syria's Kurdish Democracy Union Party (PYD) a terrorist organization

    Obama Seeking $19 Billion for National Cybersecurity

    Move, touted as attempt to build broad, cohesive federal response to cyberthreats, calls for increase in cybersecurity spending across all government agencies

    Video Foreign Policy Weighs Heavy for Some US Voters

    VOA talks to protesters in Manchester, New Hampshire, who sound off on foreign policy issues such as the Guantanamo Bay prison, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the wars in Iraq, Syria and Yemen

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clownsi
    X
    February 09, 2016 8:04 PM
    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clowns

    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Rocky Year Ahead for Nigeria Amid Oil Price Crash

    The global fall in the price of oil has rattled the economies of many petroleum exporters, and Africa’s oil king Nigeria is no exception. As Chris Stein reports from Lagos, analysts are predicting a rough year ahead for the continent’s top producer of crude.
    Video

    Video Foreign Policy Weighs Heavy for Some US Voters

    VOA talks to protesters in Manchester, New Hampshire who sound off on foreign policy issues such as the Guantanamo Bay Prison, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Middle East Affairs and national security.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.