News / Middle East

    International Alarm Rising Over Besieged City

    In this image made from amateur video released by the Ugarit News and accessed July 24, 2012, a Free Syrian Army solider drives a Syrian military tank in Aleppo, Syria.
    In this image made from amateur video released by the Ugarit News and accessed July 24, 2012, a Free Syrian Army solider drives a Syrian military tank in Aleppo, Syria.
    Margaret Besheer
    BEIRUT — Despite mounting international criticism, the Syrian government's offensive on the northern city of Aleppo intensified Friday as government aircraft bombed the country's commercial heart.
     
    The United States, Britain and the United Nations have voiced growing alarm of an imminent massacre there as government troops appear poised for a showdown with rebel fighters. Deaths have been reported but figures cannot be confirmed.
     
    Army troops and rebel fighters from the Free Syrian Army have been locked in battles for nearly a week.
     
    The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said President Basher al-Assad's forces were using helicopter gunships in several Aleppo neighborhoods Friday. It reported clashes and explosions in other areas of the city.
     
    International Alarm

    Aleppo NeighborhoodsAleppo Neighborhoods
    x
    Aleppo Neighborhoods
    Aleppo Neighborhoods
    A spokesman for U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said she is expressing “deep alarm” at the threat to civilians as the conflict spreads and the violence escalates.
     
    Spokesman Rupert Colville said Pillay is particularly worried about the situation in Aleppo.
     
    “The high commissioner is also expressing particular concern about this imminent confrontation that seems to be going to happen in Aleppo," he said. "Obviously everything that's gone on in the past 16 months has to make one worry about a showdown in such a big city.”
     
    Nearly three million people live in the northwestern city, which until recent days had mostly stayed out of the conflict.
     
    Pillay's spokesman says their office has been analyzing recent attacks by government forces on towns where they believe rebel fighters to be and says an alarming pattern has emerged.
     
    “Typically during the initial stages, after they have surrounded either a village or an urban district the water, electricity and the food supplies are cut," he said. "This is then followed by a period - sometimes a very extended period - of intense shelling and bombardment by a variety of weaponry, including heavy weapons, such as artillery, mortars, rockets and increasingly air support from helicopters.
     
    "And then what usually happens is that the tanks and armored vehicles move in and these are followed by the ground forces," the spokesman said. "The ground forces are then tending to go door-to-door and often reportedly summarily executing people they suspect of being fighters who they find inside.”
     
    Washington has also expressed fears of a potential “massacre” on the city saying it believes that is what the regime appears to be planning. 
     
    State Department Spokesperson Victoria Nuland said Thursday there are credible reports of columns of tanks prepared to attack the city. 
     
    “Our hearts are with the people of Aleppo, and again, this is another desperate attempt by a regime that is going down to try to maintain control, and we are greatly concerned about they are capable of in Aleppo,” Inland said.
     
    Red Cross Moves

    On Friday, the International Committee of the Red Cross said it is moving some of its foreign staff from Syria to Lebanon because of security concerns. The Syrian Arab Red Crescent is also suspending some of its aid operations in Aleppo due to the fighting.
     
    Control of Aleppo could prove a tipping point in the country's 16-month long conflict, providing a significant victory for whichever side prevails there.
     
    Meanwhile, the Assad government lost further support.
     
    Media reports Friday said a Syrian lawmaker from Aleppo has fled to Turkey, becoming one of several members of Syria's parliament to defect during the uprising.
     
    Ikhlas Badawi reportedly told Sky News Arabia she defected because of the Assad government's repression and torture of the Syrian people.
     
    The news comes just days after the defections of Syria's ambassadors to Cyprus and the United Arab Emirates, blows to President Assad characterized by the White House as an indication that his "days are numbered."
     
    Assad has also faced the defections of Syria's ambassador to Iraq and a number of high-ranking military officers, including his one-time confidante Manaf Tlas, a top general in the Republican Guard.

    • This image made from amateur video released by the Ugarit News purports to show Free Syrian Army soldiers in Anadan, 16 kilometers from Aleppo, Syria, July 30, 2012.
    • This image made from amateur video released by the Ugarit News purports to show smoke rising from buildings in Joret el-Shayah, Homs, Syria, July 30, 2012.
    • Syrian rebels sit in a pick up truck in Aleppo, Syria, July 28, 2012.
    • In this citizen journalism image provided by Edlib News Network ENN, a Syrian man walks past a destroyed building in Maarat al-Numaan on the eastern edge of Idlib province, Syria, July 28, 2012.
    • A destroyed Syrian army tank is seen in the Damascus suburb of al-Tel July 28, 2012.
    • Boys walk on debris in Marat al-Numan, near the northern province of Idlib July 27, 2012.
    • Demonstrators protest Syria's President Bashar Al-Assad at Sermeen, near Idlib, Syria, July 27, 2012.
    • Damaged buildings are seen in Juret al-Shayah in Homs, Syria, July 27, 2012.
    • A Free Syrian Army fighter looks out from the window of the Shaar district police station in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo after it was overrun by rebel fighters on July 25, 2012.
    • In this citizen journalism image provided by Shaam News Network, a Syrian citizen journalist documents Syrian forces shelling in Homs, Syria, July 24, 2012.

    Some information in this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters

    You May Like

    Russian-Backed Offensive in Syria Pushes War to Tipping Point

    As threat to Aleppo and rebel forces grows, US plan to negotiate becomes less and less appealing for Syrian government, says one military analyst

    IS Runs Timber Smuggling Business in Afghanistan, Officials Say

    Government turning blind eye to smuggling, according to tribal leaders; Afghanistan's forest cover dropped by 50 percent in three decades, experts say

    Video White House Seeks $1.8 Billion to Combat Zika

    Obama administration says funding would 'support essential strategies to combat the virus' such as rapidly expanding mosquito control programs, accelerating vaccine research

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Anonymous
    July 28, 2012 6:10 PM
    I believe in "An eye for an eye."... I think when the FSA captures Assad they shouldn't instantly kill him, doing so he would be getting off lightly.

    by: jim from: PA, USA
    July 28, 2012 10:33 AM
    If some group like the native americans took up arms against oppression in the US what would / did we do. We massacred them at Wounded Knee. Also we shall see how Turkey likes the unintended consequence of a Syria Kurdistan area - it is the price they will be paying.

    by: Michael from: USA
    July 28, 2012 9:40 AM
    The Western assessment that "the Muslim hero has no meaning any longer," is refuted by listening the the beliefs found in the Syrian nationalist's writings and speeches (which are not distributed in the West)

    by: kafantaris from: USA, Ohio
    July 27, 2012 2:16 PM
    What we are seeing in Syria is also a preview of the demise of the Iranian regime.
    The regime sees it too -- though it prefers to avert its eyes.
    Nonetheless, the writing is on the wall.
    And it was put there with the blood of those Iranians killed while peacefully protesting Ahmadinejad’s election.
    The shedding of their innocent blood started the Arab spring, and the shedding of much more innocent Iranian blood will end it.
    The regime sealed this fate with its brutality back in 2009.

    by: Rob Swift from: United Kingdom
    July 27, 2012 12:41 PM
    Don't worry Mr Putin, your name is on the list. Your turn is coming round.

    by: Vis8 from: NJ USA
    July 27, 2012 11:11 AM
    Americans, take heed:
    American citizens are just beginning to realize that Obama and Hillary Clinton's 'foreign policy' has backfired big: whilst fighting al-quaeda in Afganistan, Obama and Clinton are supporting, arming, financing, and providing media support to the same jihadis in the Mid East. Thanks to these two blunderers, jihadi extremists have come in to power for the first time in the world: Egypt, Libya and soon in Syria....

    Chemical weapons in the hands of al-quaeda in the Mid East would be a real frightening scenario. Soon, we'll be sending shiploads of our troops and spend trillions of our tax dollars to fight the same hooligans that we are now supporting. Americans, do we need four more years of this buffoonery?
    In Response

    by: Mike from: California
    July 27, 2012 9:24 PM
    The response by "Anonymous" seems like your typical partisan rebuttal. There is some truth in Vis8's post regardless of the political implications. Asad is a tyrant, but he may very well be replaced by a worse regime which hears little voices calling for blood for reasons we all know but can't state here due to censorship rules.

    Obama and Clinton are not about so send troops to die in Syria because it is an election year, but mostly because unlike the previous nutter in the White House, they don't believe wasting American lives. Don't get me wrong; I did not vote for Obama. But like many people I recognize that there are no "good-guys" in the region, just different flavors of sickness.
    In Response

    by: Anonymous
    July 27, 2012 12:27 PM
    I like how it always comes back to Obama. The Russians are arming Syria, and the Americans are arming Israel, and the Russians are vetoing any UN action in Syria. Somehow this is Obama's fault? It's like, there could be a hurricane in Venezuela and you would find a way to blame Obama. The price of cheese could go up, you would blame Obama. You might get a rash on your butt, and you would blame Obama. It's hilarious, it's just so funny because it's apparent that all the yokels ripping on Obama don't have a clue about international politics, they just don't like Obama. All of a sudden, because people don't like Obama, they become historians and economists overnight, and they all have an opinion about everything he does. It's just so funny because it's always the same opinion that you see on FOX News, one of Rupert Murdoch's companies, you know, that guy who's company was indicted in Britain for corruption and manipulating politics. Yeah what a trustworthy source of information, seriously. You guys are jokes and it will be a hell of a wake up call if Romney wins, when he epically fails to even maintain your economy.

    by: melvin polatnick from: USA
    July 27, 2012 8:55 AM
    Five years of free housing is promised to Syrian rebels if they defeat the Assad rent collectors. Also government jobs will be given to those that have shown bravery. Those that remain loyal to the oppressors will become homeless and unemployed. God will be generous to the victors.
    In Response

    by: Juan Pereda from: Los Angeles, ca usa
    July 27, 2012 12:14 PM
    The US should be Giving the rebels arms to fight the JetAirplanes, Helicopters and Tanks .Talk is cheap, Actions not words!.
    In Response

    by: robert bagsted from: USA
    July 27, 2012 11:16 AM
    sounds like and Obama Plan

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenyai
    X
    February 08, 2016 4:30 PM
    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video Sanders, Clinton Battle for Young Democratic Vote

    Despite a narrow loss to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in last week's Iowa Democratic caucuses, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders secured more than 80 percent of the vote among those between the ages of 18 and 29. VOA correspondent Aru Pande talks to Democrats in New Hampshire about who they are leaning towards and why in this week's primary.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.