News / Middle East

Syrian Troops Mass Near Border Town as Tensions Mount

An image taken from footage uploaded on YouTube by the Shams News Network (SNN) shows a Syrian anti-government protester holding a piece of paper which says in Arabic 'Friday of Prisoner Freedom, Hama, July 15, 2011' .
An image taken from footage uploaded on YouTube by the Shams News Network (SNN) shows a Syrian anti-government protester holding a piece of paper which says in Arabic 'Friday of Prisoner Freedom, Hama, July 15, 2011' .

Syrian forces have surrounded a town on the Iraqi border as the country's opposition took a step closer to forming an alternative government that would challenge President Bashar al-Assad's grip on power.

About 1,000 troops flown in by helicopter and backed by tanks and armored vehicles massed Sunday around the troubled eastern town of al-Boukamal near Iraq's Sunni heartland. The pro-government al-Watan newspaper reported that the situation in the poor, border town is "explosive," and that a military operation is imminent.

The extra security forces arrived after military intelligence agents in al-Boukamal killed five protesters, including a 14-year-old boy, on Saturday. The killings drove thousands into the streets, overwhelming Mr. Assad's forces.

Residents say about 100 Syrian troops in the border town, including dozens of Syrian Air Force personnel and the crew of at least four armored vehicles, defected to join the four-month-old anti-government uprising.

Syria's state news agency (SANA) said "terrorist gangs" killed three security members in al-Boukamal on Saturday.

Sunni tribes in the area wield great influence and have extended relations with their Iraqi brethren across the border. Sunni Muslims comprise the majority of Syria's population. But Mr. Assad's clan, part of the minority Shi'ite Alawite sect, has governed for four decades.

Elsewhere, about 2,000 soldiers in armored vehicles entered the western town of Zabadani, on the Lebanese border, detaining at least 70 people early Sunday.

The moves came as Syria's fractured opposition made its first attempt to unite, forming a 25-member National Salvation Council composed of Islamists, liberals and independents at a meeting in Istanbul on Saturday.

The Wall Street Journal reported that the group called on opposition activists inside Syria to elect another 50 board members, with plans to eventually form a transitional government.

In a separate development, authorities detained the leading opposition figure, Ali Abdullah, after a raid on his home Sunday in the Damascus suburb of Qatana. The 61-one-year old dissident was released in May as part of a government amnesty after spending four years in prison for supporting calls for democratic reforms.

Also Sunday, the head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Rami Abdul Rahman, said at least 30 people were killed in the past 24 hours in the central city of Homs when clashes broke out between pro- and anti-government supporters.

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

Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter
and discuss them on our Facebook page.

You May Like

Analyst: Joint-Arab Military Force Poses Perilous Challenge

Although international forces are desperately needed to counter the threat of the Islamic State group, analysts say conflicting alliances could escalate fighting More

Asia’s Middle Class Changes Demand for Wheat Grain Exporters

Changes in tastes and diets are boon for wheat exporters such as Australia and the United States More

S. African Comedian Taking Over Popular TV Show

Mixed-race comedian Trevor Noah, who is loved for his edgy jibes about race and language, is taking the helm from Jon Stewart at The Daily Show in US 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.
Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadistsi
X
Greg Flakus
March 30, 2015 6:48 PM
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 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 With Coalition Airstrikes, Iraq Entering 'Last Page' of IS Battle

American warplanes joined Iraq's battle against the so-called 'Islamic State' in northern Iraq late Wednesday, as Iraqi ground troops launched a massive assault on Tikrit. Analysts say the offensive could take the coalition a step further towards Mosul, the largest city held by Islamic State forces. Others say it could also deepen already-dangerous sectarian tensions in the region. VOA's Heather Murdock has more from Cairo.
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 Hi-tech Motorbike Helmet's Goal: Improve Road Safety

In cities with heavily congested traffic, people can get around much faster on a motorcycle than in a car. But a rider who is not sure of his route may have to stop to look at the map or consult a GPS. A Russian start-up company is working to make navigation easier for motorcyclists. Designers at Moscow-based LiveMap are developing a smart helmet with a built-in navigation system, head-mounted display and voice recognition. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video DOJ: Illinois National Guard Soldier Tried to Join ISIS

U.S. federal law enforcement agents arrested two suburban Chicago men accused of trying to join ISIS overseas, while also plotting attacks in the United States. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports from the Midwest state of Illinois, one of those arrested is a soldier of the Illinois National Guard.
Video

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Traditional push-rim wheelchairs create a lot of stress for arm, shoulder and neck muscles and joints. A redesigned chair, based on readily available bicycle technology, radically increases mobility while reducing the physical effort. VOA’s George Putic 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.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.

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