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

China May Be Biggest Winner From Ukraine Crisis

Missile sales, oil and gas shipments are among many areas that may drive Beijing and Moscow closer together in coming years More

Obama Faces Chaotic World, Limits of Power

Current foreign policy issues bring into focus challenges for US policymakers who are mindful of Americans' waning appetite for overseas military engagements More

SADC Meeting Lesotho Officials to Resolve Stalemate

Official says regional bloc has been engaged with leaders in Lesotho to resolve political disagreement that led to coup attempt 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.
West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015i
X
Carol Pearson
August 30, 2014 7:14 PM
A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assault

After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Growing Business Offers Paint with a Twist of Wine

Two New Orleans area women started a small business seven years ago with one thing in mind: to help their neighbors relieve the stress of coping with a hurricane's aftermath. Today their business, which pairs painting and a little bit of wine, has become one of the fastest growing franchises across the U.S. VOA’s June Soh met the entrepreneurs at their newest franchise location in the Washington suburbs.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials To Begin Next Week

The National Institutes of Health says it is launching early stage trials of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus, which has infected or killed thousands of people across West Africa. The World Health Organization says Ebola could infect more than 20,000 people across the region by the time the outbreak is over. The epidemic has health experts and governments scrambling to prevent more people from becoming infected. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Asian Bacteria Threatens Florida Orange Trees

Florida's citrus fruit industry is facing a serious threat from a bacteria carried by the Asian insect called psyllid. The widespread infestation again highlights the danger of transferring non-native species to American soil. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Aging Will Reduce Economic Growth Worldwide in Coming Decades

The world is getting older, fast. And as more people retire each year, fewer working-age people will be there to replace them. Bond rating agency Moody’s says that will lead to a decline in household savings; reducing global investments - which in turn, will lead to slower economic growth around the world. But experts say it’s not too late to mitigate the economic impact of the world’s aging populations. Mil Arcega has more.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.

AppleAndroid