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

Photogallery Americans Celebrate Thanksgiving With Feasts, Festivities

Holiday traditions include turkey dinners, 'turkey trots,' American-style football and New York parade with giant balloons More

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

With two years left in term, analysts say, president has less to lose by taking conversation on race further More

Video Italian Espresso Expands Into Space

When Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti headed for the ISS, her countrymen worried how she would survive six months drinking only instant coffee 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.
South Africa Sees Male Circumcision as Way to Reduce HIV Infectionsi
X
November 28, 2014 3:31 PM
South Africa remains plagued by AIDS despite massive government and NGO efforts on prevention and life-sustaining Anti-Retro-Viral programs. But the country has opened up another front to reduce new HIV infections: promoting circumcision. Emilie Iob reports for VOA News from a pioneering circumcision center in Orange Farm, Johannesburg.
Video

Video South Africa Sees Male Circumcision as Way to Reduce HIV Infections

South Africa remains plagued by AIDS despite massive government and NGO efforts on prevention and life-sustaining Anti-Retro-Viral programs. But the country has opened up another front to reduce new HIV infections: promoting circumcision. Emilie Iob reports for VOA News from a pioneering circumcision center in Orange Farm, Johannesburg.
Video

Video To Make A Living, Nairobi Street Vendors Face Legal Hurdles, Physical Violence

The Nairobi City Council has been accused of brutality in dealing with hawkers in the Central Business District - in order to stop them from illegally selling their wares on the streets. Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

Throughout the crisis in Ferguson, Missouri, President Barack Obama has urged calm, restraint and respect for the rule of law. But the events in Ferguson have prompted him to call — more openly than he has before — for profound changes to end the racism and distrust that he believes still exists between whites and blacks in the United States. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Online Magazine Gets Kids Discussing Big Questions

Teen culture in America is often criticized for being superficial. But an online magazine has been encouraging some teenagers to explore deeper issues, and rewarding their efforts. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky went to this year’s Kidspirit awards ceremony in New York.
Video

Video US Community Kicks Off Thanksgiving With Parade

Thursday is Thanksgiving in the United States, a holiday whose roots go back to the country's earliest days as a British colony. One way Americans celebrate the occasion is with parades. Anush Avetisyan takes us to one such event on the day before Thanksgiving near Washington, where a community's diversity is on display. Joy Wagner narrates
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.

All About America

AppleAndroid