News / Middle East

Boosted by Foreign Shi'ite Militia, Assad's Forces Advance on Aleppo

Forces loyal to Syria President Bashar al-Assad walk in the town of Tel Arn in Aleppo after capturing it from rebels Nov. 12, 2013.
Forces loyal to Syria President Bashar al-Assad walk in the town of Tel Arn in Aleppo after capturing it from rebels Nov. 12, 2013.
TEXT SIZE - +
Reuters
— Syrian government forces backed by foreign Shi'ite Muslim militia advanced on rebels in the northern city of Aleppo on Tuesday, bent on recapturing districts from opposition brigades weakened by infighting, activists said.
 
They said that rebels saw the threat of President Bashar al-Assad wresting back Aleppo, Syria's former commercial hub and once most populous city, as so grave that Islamist brigades, including an al-Qaida affiliate, had declared an emergency and summoned all fighters to head to the fronts.
 
After 2-1/2 years of conflict, which started when Assad's forces fired on pro-democracy demonstrators and escalated into a full-blown civil war, the fighting has settled into a rough stalemate in which scores of people are killed every day.
 
Aleppo has been divided roughly in half by the warring parties for much of the conflict but the government is determined to reassert total control to solidify a foothold in the north where rebel supplies stream in from Turkey.
 
The rebel groups' joint declaration said government forces backed by Lebanese Hezbollah guerrillas, Iranian Revolutionary Guards and the Iraqi Abu al-Fadl Abbas militia had launched “a fierce offensive to reoccupy” Aleppo.
 
Dozens of men from both sides have been killed in the last few days in embattled northern and eastern areas of the city. The fighting has also involved the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, another al-Qaida branch comprised mainly of foreign fighters that has been gaining ground in the north.
 
Opposition sources said Iraqi Shi'ite and Hezbollah fighters based near Damascus had moved north to support the offensive on Aleppo. Hezbollah and Iran do not comment on the scale of their military involvement in Syria.
 
Activist Mohammad Nour of the Sham News Network opposition monitoring group said large neighborhoods in Aleppo such as the eastern district of Hananu which have been largely rebel-controlled for more than a year were now looking vulnerable.
 
“Regime forces aided by Hezbollah, the Iraqis and the Iranians have launched a pincer movement from the north and the east and are closing in on major neighborhoods,” he said.
 
Rebel infighting
 

“Infighting has undermined Aleppo's defenses,” he said, referring to clashes in the past two months inside the city and in its northern rural environs between al-Qaida affiliates and units belonging to the Western-backed rebel Supreme Military Council, whose command is based in Turkey.
 
Islamist units have also fought among themselves over land.
 
The United States and European allies hope a proposed Syria peace conference in Geneva will yield an interim government that can help end the bloodshed raging since 2011.
 
Activists said Assad's forces backed by tanks had taken two highrise buildings in the northern Ashrafieh and Bani Zeid districts, and advanced into the two neighborhoods after close-quarter street fighting.
 
The Tawhid Brigades sent reinforcements to the eastern al-Naqqarin district after Assad's forces and their militia allies penetrated the area, the opposition sources said.
 
Rebels have held most of eastern Aleppo and several districts in the west and center since fighters based in the rural hinterland and in impoverished outlying districts stormed the city in July last year.
 
Tareq Abdelhamid, an activist well-connected with different brigades in Aleppo, said: “Luckily the regime seems to be underestimating how much the (internal) divisions have sapped rebel strength and has been overcautious in its advance.”
 
Government forces recaptured at the start of November the town of Safira southeast of Aleppo on a main supply route to Hama and, with Hezbollah help, an army base near Aleppo airport after the compound changed hands several times.
 
Assad is from the minority Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam that has controlled Syria since the 1960s.
 
More than 100,000 people have been killed in Syria's increasingly sectarian conflict, pitting Alawites and Shi'ite supporters backed by Iran against mainly Sunni rebels who are supported by Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

You May Like

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 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.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid