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.
    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

    Video Twists and Turns Aplenty in US Presidential Race

    Even as Americans pause for this week’s Memorial Day holiday, much attention is focused on the presidential contest

    Iran Orders Social Media Sites to Store Data Inside Country

    New requirements are expected to affect the instant messaging app Telegram, which has more than 20 million users inside Iran

    The Struggle With Painkillers: Treating Pain Without Feeding Addiction

    'Wonder drug' pain medications have turned out to be major problem: not only do they run high risk of addicting the user, but they can actually make patients' chronic pain worse, US CDC says

    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.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora