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

Beijing Warns Hong Kong Protesters, Cracks Down at Home

In suppressing protest news, China reportedly has arrested more than 20 people on the mainland who acted in support of Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters More

Competing Goals Could Frustrate Efforts to Fight Islamic State

As alliances shift and countries re-define themselves, analysts say long-standing goals of some key players in Middle East may soon compete with Western goals More

Child Sexual Exploitation to Worsen in SE Asia

Southeast Asia’s planned economic integration is a key step for boosting the region’s productivity, but carries downsides as well 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.
The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plainsi
X
October 01, 2014 10:45 AM
It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plains

It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Draw New Supporters on National Holiday

On the 65th anniversary of the founding of Communist China, Hong Kong protesters are hoping to stage the largest pro-democracy demonstration since the 1989 Tiananmen protests. VOA's Brian Padden visited one of the protest sites mid-day, when the atmosphere was calm and where the supporters were enthusiastic about joining what they are calling the umbrella revolution.
Video

Video India's PM Continues First US Visit

India's prime minister is on his first visit to Washington, to strengthen political and economic ties between the world's oldest and the world biggest democracies. He came to the U.S. capital from New York, the first stop on his five-day visit to the country that denied him an entry visa in the past. From Washington, Zlatica Hoke reports Modi seemed most focused on attracting foreign investment and trade to increase job opportunities for his people.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid