News / Middle East

    Battles Intensify in Syrian City of Homs

    In this July 7, 2013, citizen journalism image provided by Lens Young Homsi, black smoke rises from buildings damaged by Syrian government airstrikes and shelling in Homs, Syria.
    In this July 7, 2013, citizen journalism image provided by Lens Young Homsi, black smoke rises from buildings damaged by Syrian government airstrikes and shelling in Homs, Syria.
    Reuters
    Syrian troops fought with rebels in Homs on Monday in a battle seen as crucial to the government's attempts to drive a wedge between opposition-held areas and establish links between the capital and President Bashar al-Assad's coastal strongholds.
     
    Assad's forces have been on the offensive in the central Syrian city for 10 days, hitting rebel-held neighborhoods with air strikes, mortar bombs and tanks.
     
    Rebels control much of northern Syria but have been on the back foot against Assad's army further south since it retook Qusair last month, a town near the border with Lebanon, where victory marked a change in the government's fortunes.
     
    At a time when the army has made gains on the battlefield, Syrian state media announced that new leaders had been appointed in the ruling Baath Party in a reshuffle that will be seen as an attempt by Assad to put a new face on the political organization that has dominated Syrian politics for more than four decades.
     
    In Istanbul, the newly elected head of the opposition Syrian National Coalition told Reuters that the rebels' military position was weak and proposed a truce for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which begins on Tuesday, to stop fighting in Homs.
     
    There was no sign that the government in Damascus, with its forces now grinding out advances following setbacks earlier in the war, was ready to accept such a ceasefire.
     
    “We are staring at a real humanitarian disaster in Homs,” said Ahmad Jarba, who was elected at an opposition conference on Saturday.
     
    He said he expected advanced weapons supplied by Saudi Arabia, the main opposition backer, to reach rebel fighters soon and strengthen their position on the ground.
     
    The Syrian National Coalition, a largely exile group, has little influence on rebel units in Syria. That could change if it succeeds in facilitating the supply of sophisticated weapons to the opposition, whose fighters say they need shoulder-launched missiles to take on Assad's air force.
     
    Syria's two-year revolt began as peaceful protests but, under a fierce security force crackdown, degenerated into civil war. The conflict has killed more than 100,000 people, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British-based monitoring group, says.
     
    Clashes and bombardment were reported by activists in nearly every province on Monday, from the outskirts of the capital in the south to the northwestern farming province of Idlib to the eastern desert city of Deir al-Zor.
     
    Homs, 140 km (90 miles) north of Damascus, is situated at a strategic crossing linking the capital with army bases in coastal regions controlled by Assad's Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam that has dominated majority Sunni Syria since the 1960s.
     
    Assad is trying to cement control of this belt of territory, in a move that could drive a wedge between rebel-held areas in the north and south of the country.
     
    The United States and Sunni Gulf countries say they are backing the opposition but Assad has made significant gains in recent months with military and financial support from Russia and Shi'ite Iran.
     
    Fighters from Lebanon's Shi'ite militant group Hezbollah have also played a significant role in helping Assad recapture border towns from Sunni rebels.
     
    The Syrian state news agency SANA quoted a military source as saying that the army had killed “terrorists” - a word state media uses for insurgents - in several areas of Homs on Monday, including the Old City district of Bab Hood and some satellite towns around the country's third largest city.
     
    The Observatory said that Bab Hood and the al-Safsafa district were being hit with heavy artillery, mortar bombs and tank fire, resulting in several injuries.
     
    “Violent clashes took place on Monday morning between rebels and army forces,” the Observatory said in an email. It did not give casualty figures, which are hard to confirm due to media and security restrictions.
     
    The Observatory said that the army had retaken around a fifth of al-Khalidiya, a northern district that links the outskirts of the city with the center.
     
    A local physician working in Homs with displaced families said she had heard constant bombardment over the past few days.
     
    “What can we say? We've gotten so used to it we don't even want to think about it. God protects us,” she said over the phone on condition of anonymity from the central neighborhood on Inshaat.
     
    Video uploaded by an activist group in Homs showed smoke billowing from damaged buildings and the near-constant echo of gunfire and explosions ringing through the narrow streets.
     
    The 13th-century Khalid ibn al-Walid mosque, a prominent central landmark, could be seen in the footage. Like many of Syria's historical treasures, the mosque, with its silver-colored domes, has been badly damaged.
     
    The United Nations has expressed alarm at conditions in Homs, Syria's third largest city, saying last week that between 2,500 and 4,000 civilians were trapped there amid shortages of food, water, medicine, electricity and fuel.
     
    Homs city was the epicenter of protests at the start of the revolt and the armed insurgency. Many districts have fallen in and out of government control during the past two years.

    You May Like

    Video Rubio Looks to Surge in New Hampshire

    Republican presidential candidate has moved into second place in several recent surveys and appears to be gaining ground on longtime frontrunner Donald Trump

    UN Calls for Global Ban on Female Genital Mutilation

    Recent UNICEF report finds at least 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone female genital mutilation in 30 countries

    UN Pilots New Peace Approach in CAR

    Approach launched in northern town of Kaga Bandoro, where former combatants of mainly Muslim Seleka armed group and Christian and animist anti-Balaka movement are being paid to do community work

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Anonymous
    July 08, 2013 2:41 PM
    What should be verified is Assads whereabouts, to be sure he is not on a Russian Warship. If Assad is on a Russian warship, then Russian votes should not count in the Security Council. Reason being, Russia is being an accomplice in the terrorist acts implemented by Assad so their votes shouldn't count. Then the International Criminal Court could have Assad up on Charges. Once Assad has charges by the ICC, he is a goner. The only reason Assad is not wanted on crimes against humanity is because of Russia objecting the security council. Is Assad guilty? Of course he is, the world knows it. Still everyday he continues to bomb civilian residential neighbourhoods killing more innocent civilians than any so called "terrorists". Assad has murdered more innocent civilians than any group in Syria. Who is the terrorist kingpin of Syria? None other than Bashar al Assad and he should be treated just like a terrorist, he is one. He should of been stopped long long long ago.
    In Response

    by: Anonymous
    July 09, 2013 12:32 PM
    RE: Igor from Russia, that is not the right answer... As long as assad is indiscriminately dropping bombs in Syrian residential areas all over the country, the people of Syria deserve protection against this act. This is in fact a form of terrorism against the Syrian Nation. IF Assad could be arrested (If he is even in Syria), and was put before the people, he would have charges for killing tens of thousands of innocent civilians. He would also face charges for hundreds of thousands (If not millions) of home owners homes, businesses destroyed. Dropping bombs in civilian areas does not earn you votes, it earns you criminal charges. The opposition has not done even 1/1000th of the destruction in Syria that Assad has done.

    Assad has sicked his henchmen against the entire country of Syria. Most of the Syrian army top brass defected long ago because of these type of terrorist acts against the Syrian nation, that they would not take part in. Hats off to the Syrian people, they will now be able to defend their homeland against assads criminal aggression. Assad is only trying to protect himself, most certainly he is not protecting the country of Syria by completely destroying it. This is a crime that should not go unpunished. IF it wasn't for Russia vetoing the UN Security Council Assad WOULD be up on war crimes. The best thing the west has done so far is helped providing non-lethal aid, most importantly video cameras for everyone to record assads crimes against the nation. These videos will go down in syrian history as evidence of the crimes. Assads father killed tens of thousands of opposition years ago as well. Like father like son.
    In Response

    by: Igor from: Russia
    July 09, 2013 12:55 AM
    Assad is only a poor victim of the Western media and the terrorist groups backed by the West and some of their allies. Before the war Syria is the most peaceful and tolerant place in The Midle East where all religions and sects lived in hamony and were treated equally. The West and its allies have been instigating hatred among diferent sects and backing terrorist groups in order to oust Mr. Assad to create a pumppet one which would be ready to obey their orders. To fight against international organized groups of terrorists are extremely difficult and Syrian government are lacking of precise and advanced weapons so civilian casualty is inevitable. The solution to the war is that the West must stop providing terrorists with weapons and other nations should provide Assad with much more advanced ones to minimize civilian casualty and to completely destroy all terrorists.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibiti
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 05, 2016 4:30 PM
    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 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 Former Drug CEO Martin Shkreli Angers US Lawmakers

    A former U.S. pharmaceutical business executive has angered lawmakers by refusing to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill by 5,000 percent. Martin Shkreli was removed from a congressional hearing on Thursday after citing his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Super Bowl TV Commercials are Super Business for Advertisers

    The Super Bowl, the championship clash between the two top teams in American Football, is the most-watched sporting event of the year, and advertisers are lining up and paying big bucks to get their commercials on the air. In fact, the TV commercials during the Super Bowl have become one of the most anticipated and popular features of the event. VOA's Brian Allen has a sneak peek of what you can expect to see when the big game goes to commercial break, and the real entertainment begins.
    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 Solar Innovation Provides Cheap, Clean Energy to Kenya Residents

    In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kangemi, customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
    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.
    Video

    Video Apprenticeships Put Americans on Path Back to Work

    Trying to get more people into the U.S. workforce, the Obama administration last year announced $175 million in grants towards apprenticeship programs. VOA White House correspondent Aru Pande went inside one training center outside of Washington that has gained national recognition for helping put people on the path to employment.
    Video

    Video New Material May Reduce Concussion Effects

    As the 2016 National Football League season reaches its summit at the Super Bowl this coming Sunday (2/7), scientists are trying to learn how to more effectively protect football players from dangerous and damaging concussions. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities say their origami-based material may solve the problem. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Saudi Arabian Women's Sports Chip Away at Stereotypes

    Saudi Arabian female athletes say that sports are on the front line of busting traditions that quash women’s voices, both locally and internationally. In their hometown of Jeddah, a group of basketball players say that by connecting sports to health issues, they are encouraging women and girls to get out of their homes and participate in public life. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
    Video

    Video A Year Later, Fortunes Mixed for Syrians Forging New Lives in Berlin

    In April of last year, VOA followed the progress of six young Syrian refugees -- four brothers and their two friends -- as they made their way from Libya to Italy by boat, and eventually to Germany. Reporter Henry Ridgwell caught up with the refugees again in Berlin, as they struggle to forge new lives amid the turmoil of Europe's refugee crisis.
    Video

    Video Zika Virus May be Hard to Stop

    With the Zika virus spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization Monday declared Zika a global health emergency. As Alberto Pimienta reports, for many governments and experts, the worst is yet to come.