News / Middle East

Diplomatic Efforts Continue as Syrian Crackdown Intensifies

Syrian soldiers who defected to join the Free Syrian Army are seen among demonstrators during a protest against Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in Kafranbel near Idlib January 29, 2012.
Syrian soldiers who defected to join the Free Syrian Army are seen among demonstrators during a protest against Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in Kafranbel near Idlib January 29, 2012.

Syrian government forces intensified their military crackdown against opposition forces near the capital, Damascus, retaking a number of key towns that had fallen to rebel soldiers in recent days. The fighting is occurring amid a frenzy of diplomatic activity to try to resolve the more than 10-month-old conflict.

Heavily armed Syrian government forces pounded a string of Damascus suburbs for a second day, reportedly retaking the towns of Saqba, Kafr Batna and Hammouriya from rebel soldiers. The shelling was so heavy in places that black smoke was visible on the horizon in Damascus.

An opposition supporter named Abou Ayman al Dimashqi told al-Hurra TV that government tanks and field artillery caused widespread destruction in several suburbs, and troops went house-to-house to arrest scores of people.

He said the suburb of East Ghouta was devastated by the shelling of buildings and civilian targets by government artillery, tanks, rockets, helicopters and planes in the face of lightly armed rebel soldiers. Al Dimashqi added that plumes of smoke poured into the sky over the town of Arbein, while government snipers deployed in Hammouriya, and troops made arrests.

Witnesses say hundreds of civilians fled the outlying suburbs for interior districts of Damascus. Government tanks and military hardware also  were deployed in central squares of the capital to allay fears that rebel soldiers might breach the capital's defenses.

Opposition sources say more than several dozen civilians were killed in the government offensive, which included attacks on the cities of Homs, Daraa, Hama and Deir ez Zor. State-controlled TV reported six soldiers were killed near the southern city of Daraa. A gas pipeline near Homs also reportedly was blown up.

Video on opposition websites showed fields being flooded in Idlib province near the Turkish border. Opposition sources claimed the government opened dams to prevent civilians from fleeing to Turkey.

Al-Arabiya TV reported the government hanged a founder of the rebel forces, Hussein Harmoush. In a report that could not be independently confirmed, the Syrian League for Human Rights said he was executed last week.

Lieutenant Colonel Harmoush was the first Syrian officer to publicly declare his opposition to the deadly government crackdown on protesters. He fled to Turkey, where opposition activists say he was kidnapped and taken back to Syria.

Peter Harling of the International Crisis Group said the military balance is still “massively” in favor of the government, although its power has slowly been eroding. But he said it is not clear if and when the government might fall.

"The regime has been eroding for months now, but it still has an ability to do a tremendous amount of damage," said Harling. "But it is not in a position really to design and implement any strategy, let alone regain control over the country and start ruling anew. So now we see the crisis accelerating, the only question is, in what direction things are going into. It could be downfall, a collapse of the regime, it could be civil war, but there is no clear third option at this stage."

As fighting intensified, the U.N. Security Council prepared for talks about the Syrian crisis.

Meanwhile Russia, which has been blocking a Security Council resolution, indicated the Syrian government was ready to hold talks with the opposition in Moscow. But opposition sources are refusing to take part.

Join the conversation on our social journalism site - Middle East Voices. Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter and discuss them on our Facebook page.

You May Like

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

Video Secret Service Chief Under Fire for White House Security Breach

Julia Pierson faces tough questions from lawmakers after recent intrusion at White House, says: 'It is clear that our security plan was not executed properly' More

Frustrated, Liberian Students Want Ebola Fight Role

Thousands have volunteered to go to counties, rural villages to talk to people in their language about deadly virus 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