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

How to Safeguard Your Mobile Privacy

As the digital world becomes more mobile, so too do concerns about eroding privacy and increased hacking More

'Desert Dancer' Chronicles Iranian Underground Dance Troupe

Film by Richard Raymond is based on true story of Afshin Ghaffarian and his friends More

Obesity Poses Complex Problem

Professor warns of obesity’s worldwide health impact More

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.
Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam Wari
X
Katherine Gypson
May 25, 2015 1:32 AM
For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.
Video

Video Scientists Testing Space Propulsion by Light

Can the sun - the heart of our solar system - power a spacecraft to the edge of our solar system? The answer may come from a just-launched small satellite designed to test the efficiency of solar sail propulsion. Once deployed, its large sail will catch the so-called solar wind and slowly reach what scientists hope to be substantial speed. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video FIFA Trains Somali Referees

As stability returns to the once lawless nation of Somalia, the world football governing body, FIFA, is helping to rebuild the country’s sport sector by training referees as well as its young footballers. Abdulaziz Billow has more from Mogadishu.
Video

Video With US Child Obesity Rates on the Rise, Program Promotes Health Eating

In its fifth year, FoodCorps puts more than 180 young Americans into 500 schools across the United States, where they focus on teaching students about nutrition, engaging them with hands-on activities, and improving their access to healthy foods whether in the cafeteria or the greater community. Aru Pande has more.
Video

Video Virginia Neighborhood Draws People to Nostalgic Main Street

In the U.S., people used to grow up in small towns with a main street lined by family-owned shops and restaurants. Today, however, many main streets are worn down and empty because shoppers have been lured away by shopping malls. But in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, Virginia, main street is thriving. VOA’s Deborah Block reports it has a nostalgic feel with its small restaurants and unique stores.

VOA Blogs