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's Erdogan: Women Not Equal to Men

Speaking at conference in Istanbul, President Erdogan says Islam has defined a position for women: motherhood More

Ahead of SAARC Summit, Subdued Expectations

Some regional analysts say distrust between Pakistani, Indian officials has slowed SAARC's progress over the year More

Philippines Leery of Development on Reef Reclamation in S. China Sea

Chinese land reclamation projects in area have been ongoing for years, but new satellite imagery reportedly shows China’s massive construction project More

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.
Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Changei
X
November 24, 2014 10:09 PM
Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid