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

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants 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.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs