News / Middle East

Activists Say Syria Rebels Raid Homs, Create Council in East

Free Syrian Army fighters stand by their weapons in a street in Homs March 9, 2013.Free Syrian Army fighters stand by their weapons in a street in Homs March 9, 2013.
x
Free Syrian Army fighters stand by their weapons in a street in Homs March 9, 2013.
Free Syrian Army fighters stand by their weapons in a street in Homs March 9, 2013.
Syrian opposition activists say rebels have put more pressure on President Bashar al-Assad, launching an offensive to retake a former rebel stronghold in central Syria and establishing a religious council in the east. 
 
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said rebels stormed the Baba Amr district of the central city of Homs on Sunday, about a year after government forces drove them out in a month-long battle that killed hundreds of people. Assad had visited Baba Amr last March to mark that victory and promised to rehabilitate the devastated neighborhood. 
 
Activists said Assad's forces responded fiercely to the new rebel advance, shelling and striking Baba Amr from the air. Days earlier, Syrian troops had intensified operations to oust rebels from other Homs districts such Khaldiyeh. The activists said rebels infiltrated Baba Amr to try to relieve pressure on those enclaves. 
 
The Observatory said Islamist rebels also have proclaimed a new religious council in eastern Syria as part of the two-year-old uprising against President Assad's 12-year autocratic rule. 
 
An opposition video uploaded to YouTube on Saturday appears to show an Islamist convoy draped with black flags driving through an eastern town and attaching a banner to a building, declaring the creation of the regional council. The Observatory said the Islamist council intends to exert control over judicial and police affairs. 
 
Earlier this month, rebels captured the eastern city of Raqqa, the first Syrian provincial capital to fall into rebel hands since the rebellion started. Videos posted to the Internet on Saturday purportedly showed the al-Qaida linked Jabhat al-Nusra Front interrogating two of Assad's representatives in Raqqa, the provincial governor and the local head of the ruling Baath party. 
 
Other YouTube footage from Raqqa showed what appeared to be the aftermath of a retaliatory government air strike on Saturday. At least seven bodies could be seen on a bombed-out street. 
 
Elsewhere, the Observatory said residents of the northern city of Aleppo pulled at least 20 bodies from a river on Sunday. It was the second discovery of a mass dumping of bodies in the river since January. 
 
The Syrian government does not see itself as the target of a popular revolution and consistently claims to be fighting foreign-backed terrorists. 
 
In another development, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres said the flood of Syrians fleeing the country's civil war has intensified rapidly in recent months, rising from 3,000 a day in December to 8,000 a day last month. 
 
"This shows you the staggering escalation that we are witnessing. Now if this escalation goes on - and nothing happens to solve the problem - we might have in the end of the year a much larger number of refugees, two or three times the present level," he said.
 
The United Nations said last week the number of Syrian refugees has risen to an estimated one million people, with most concentrated in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan. 
 
Guterres said Sunday about 400,000 Syrians are believed to be in Turkey. He was speaking on a visit to the Turkish capital Ankara to coordinate assistance to the refugees.

Michael Lipin

Michael covers international news for VOA on the web, radio and TV, specializing in the Middle East and East Asia Pacific. Follow him on Twitter @Michael_Lipin

You May Like

Video Indiana Controversy Points to Divergent Notions of Religious Freedom

Gay-marriage opponents are looking for ways to maintain their beliefs in face of changing culture, one writer says More

UNICEF Denies North Korean Measles Outbreak

Agency dismisses Russian media report after government, WHO assurances More

Turkey Seen Taking Harder Stance Against Militant Kurds

Stance comes as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is being seen as moving closer to generals 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.
Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedomi
X
Jerome Socolovsky
April 01, 2015 1:41 AM
Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedom

Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Nigerians Welcome Buhari's Return to Power

Crowds of jubilant Nigerians nationwide have celebrated the return to power of former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari. The retired army general won this year's presidential election with more than 2 million votes more than incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan. Buhari's supporters hope he can strengthen the country's economy and security once he takes office in late May. Zlatica Hoke has this story.
Video

Video Report: State of Black America a 'Tale of Two Nations'

The National Urban League has described this year's "State of Black America" report as a "tale of two nations." The group's annual report, released earlier this month (March), found that under an equality index African Americans had only 72% parity compared to whites in areas such as education, economics, health, social justice and civic engagement. It’s a gap that educators and students at Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College are looking to close. VOA's Daniela Schrier reports from the school.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Gamma Ray Observatory to Open Soon in Mexico

American and Mexican scientists have completed construction of the world's largest gamma ray observatory, situated high in central Mexico’s Sierra Negra Mountain. The observatory's huge array of water-based detectors will soon start discovering secrets about black holes and supernovas. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials Underway in West Africa

Ebola has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people in West Africa. Since last summer, researchers have rushed to get anti-Ebola vaccines into clinical trials. While it's too early to say that any of the potential vaccines work, some scientists say they are seeing strong results from some of the studies. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More