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

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

Russia’s Prosecutor General to Review Legality of Baltics Independence

Move, announced Tuesday, has alarmed Baltic States and strained even further their increasingly tense ties with Moscow More

US Urged to Keep Up Pressure on Cuba Rights

Communist government continues to hold dozens of political prisoners, tightly restricts freedom of expression, uses threats, intimidation to discourage critics, according to activist groups 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.
Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Interneti
X
Mike O'Sullivan
June 30, 2015 8:20 PM
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 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 Syrians Flee IS Advance in Hasaka

The Syrian government said Monday it has taken back one of several districts in Hasaka overrun by Islamic State militants. But continued fighting elsewhere in the northern city has forced thousands of civilians from their homes. In this report narrated by Bill Rodgers, VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer describes the scene in Amouda, where some of the displaced are taking refuge.
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 S. Korea Christians Protest Gay Rights Festival

The U.S. Supreme Court decision mandating marriage equality nationwide has energized gay rights supporters around the world. Gay rights remain a highly contentious issue in a key U.S. ally, South Korea, where police did a deft job Sunday of preventing potential clashes between Christian protesters and gay activists. Kurt Achin reports from Seoul.
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 Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. 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.
Video

Video In Syrian Crisis, Social Media Offer Small Comforts

Za’atari, a makeshift city in Jordan, may be the only Syrian refugee camp to tweet its activities, in an effort to keep donors motivated as the war in Syria intensifies and the humanitarian crisis deepens. Inside the camp, families say mobile phone applications help hold together families that are physically torn apart. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.

VOA Blogs