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

    US-Russia Tensions Complicate Syria War

    With a shared enemy and opposing allies, Russia and the US are working to avoid confrontation

    Video Re-opening Old Wounds in Beirut's Bullet-riddled Yellow House

    Built in neo-Ottoman style in 1920s, it is set to be re-opened in Sept. as ‘memory museum’ - bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity

    Cambodian-Americans Lobby for Human Rights Resolution

    Resolution condemns all forms of political violence in Cambodia, urges Cambodian government to end human rights violations, calls for respect of press freedom

    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.
    Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territoryi
    X
    June 24, 2016 9:38 PM
    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territory

    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Experts: Very Few Killed in US Gun Violence Are Victims of Mass Shootings

    The deadly shooting at a Florida nightclub has reignited the debate in the U.S. over gun control. Although Congress doesn't provide government health agencies funds to study gun violence, public health experts say private research has helped them learn some things about the issue. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
    Video

    Video Trump Unleashes Broadside Against Clinton to Try to Ease GOP Doubts

    Recent public opinion polls show Republican Donald Trump slipping behind Democrat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election matchup for November. Trump trails her both in fundraising and campaign organization, but he's intensifying his attacks on the former secretary of state. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapide’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.
    Video

    Video Florida Gets $1 Million in Emergency Government Funding for Orlando

    The U.S. government has granted $1 million in emergency funding to the state of Florida to cover the costs linked to the June 12 massacre in Orlando. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the grant Tuesday in Orlando, where she met with survivors of the shooting attack that killed 49 people. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video How to Print Impossible Shapes with Metal

    3-D printing with metals is rapidly becoming more advanced. As printers become more affordable, the industry is partnering with universities to refine processes for manufacturing previously impossible things. A new 3-D printing lab aims to bring the new technology closer to everyday use. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Big Somali Community in Minnesota Observes Muslim Religious Feast

    Ramadan is widely observed in the north central US state of Minnesota, which a large Muslim community calls home. VOA Somali service reporter Mohmud Masadde files this report from Minneapolis, the state's biggest city.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora