News / Middle East

    Violence Flares as Syrian Opposition Garners Support

    Cleric Ahmad al-Khatib was chosen in Doha, Qatar to lead newly united opposition against Syrian's president, Bashar al-Assad, November 11, 2012.
    Cleric Ahmad al-Khatib was chosen in Doha, Qatar to lead newly united opposition against Syrian's president, Bashar al-Assad, November 11, 2012.
    Edward YeranianLisa Schlein
    Deadly fighting continues in Syria, as Arab and European leaders urge the newly-united opposition to seek broader support after it was recognized by the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council.
     
    It was a day of partial victories for the new Syrian opposition front, as European and Arab foreign ministers discussed levels of recognition by foreign states and regional groups.
     
    Reported Deaths Across Syria - updated Nov 5, 2012Reported Deaths Across Syria - updated Nov 5, 2012
    x
    Reported Deaths Across Syria - updated Nov 5, 2012
    Reported Deaths Across Syria - updated Nov 5, 2012
    Qatar's Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamid bin Jaber bin Jassem Al Thani urged international support. He called on international and regional groups to recognize the new entity as the legitimate expression of the expectations of the Syrian people, but stopped short of calling for it to be their sole representative.
     
    Arab League foreign ministers gave the new coalition partial recognition, but did not go so far as to delegitimize the embattled government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
     
    Arab media reported that Algerian, Iraqi and Lebanese foreign ministers refused to endorse such a move.
     
    British Foreign Secretary William Hague called the formation of the new group a "milestone," but insisted that strong internal support was needed before Britain would recognize it.
     
    Profiles of three leaders of newly-founded Syrian National Coalition for Revolutionary Forces and Syrian Opposition:

    Ahmad Maath Khatib

    Khatib is the president of the coalition. He is a 52-year-old political activist and a former cleric at the Great Mosque of Damascus, Islam's fourth holiest site. Khatib is regarded as a religious moderate and a political independent, even after spending four years working for the government-owned oil company. Khatib has been jailed four times for taking part in demonstrations against President Bashar al-Asad. He fled for Cairo with his family in April.

    Riad Seif

    Syrian opposition members elected Seif as Khatib's deputy. He is 65-years-old and ran an Adidas sportswear store in Syria before Syrian authorities imprisoned him and forced him into bankruptcy for his pro-opposition activities. When Mr. Assad became president in 2000, Seif founded the Damascus Declaration, a movement calling for more liberalized political institutions. He also founded a political party to challenge the ruling Ba'ath Party. Seif fled to Amman last year.

    Suhair Atassi

    A human rights activist, Atassi is one of the few women among the opposition leadership. She runs the Jamal Atassi Forum, a Facebook group calling for political reforms and the restoration of the civil and constitutional rights suspended since 1963. Atassi has been frequently harassed and threatened by Syrian security forces who demand she shut down her forum.
    "We do now want to see the detail of the agreement that was made in Doha implemented and we want to see, in practice, that the Syrian opposition, that the coalition that has now been assembled, is as inclusive as possible of opposition groups and of all communities in Syria, and we want to see that they have support inside Syria," Hague said.
     
    Hague and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said their countries would continue to abide by a European Union arms embargo on Syria, which prevents them from arming rebel forces. Fabius, however, stated that France would recognize the new coalition.

    Opposition seeks legitimacy

    The head of the new Syrian opposition front, Maath al-Khatib, urged the EU to recognize the body by providing both political and financial support.
     
    George Sabra, one of Khatib's deputies, has said repeatedly that the rebels need weapons more than anything else. The regime, he said, is armed, but its victims are not.
     
    Meanwhile, Syrian government warplanes bombed the border town Ras al-Ein for another day Tuesday, causing more casualties and creating panic. Government planes also carried out aerial bombardment of parts of the capital Damascus and its outer suburbs.
     
    Riad Kahwaji, who heads the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis, said that the government's bombing of the capital reflects its growing level of desperation, something the government denies is happening.
     
    "This reflects the desperate position the regime has reached," he said. "The only reason that the Syrian regime is still in the fight is because of the money and the support it has been receiving from Iran and some manpower from Hezbollah. If it wasn't for the Iranian financing, the regime would have collapsed a long time ago."
     
    No-fly zone debated
     
    Kahwaji said the rebels have been making slow but steady progress in capturing portions of Syria from the government, but that it has taken a human toll. He said a no-fly zone, which is being considered by the U.S. and its NATO allies, would cut down civilian losses and hasten the fall of the government.
     
    "Deploying Patriots along the borders will establish a no-fly zone up to about fifty to sixty kilometers deep into Syria," he said. "This would cover most of the provinces of Aleppo, Idlib and good chunks of Raqqa and Latakiya. Just the Patriots along the borders will create a no-fly zone for northern Syria."
     
    People from the northern Syrian town of Ras al-Ain attempt to cross into Turkey, as a Free Syrian Army fighter leaves a home in the background, as seen from the Turkish border town of Ceylanpinar, Sanliurfa province, November 13, 2012.People from the northern Syrian town of Ras al-Ain attempt to cross into Turkey, as a Free Syrian Army fighter leaves a home in the background, as seen from the Turkish border town of Ceylanpinar, Sanliurfa province, November 13, 2012.
    x
    People from the northern Syrian town of Ras al-Ain attempt to cross into Turkey, as a Free Syrian Army fighter leaves a home in the background, as seen from the Turkish border town of Ceylanpinar, Sanliurfa province, November 13, 2012.
    People from the northern Syrian town of Ras al-Ain attempt to cross into Turkey, as a Free Syrian Army fighter leaves a home in the background, as seen from the Turkish border town of Ceylanpinar, Sanliurfa province, November 13, 2012.
    Crisis worsening
     
    Humanitarian groups reported Monday that the crisis is worsening for Syrians.
     
    The Syrian Arab Red Crescent estimates that 2.5 million people inside Syria have fled their homes and are in need of humanitarian assistance.
     
    United Nations refugee spokeswoman Melissa Fleming said five percent of them are living in schools and other public places. The rest are living with families.
     
    "We have so many accounts from refugees who have come across borders who were previously internally displaced," she said. "They were internally displaced several times before they became refugees."
     
    The United Nations refugee agency has some 350 staff in Syria, working in Damascus, Aleppo and Hassakeh. Fleming said the UNHCR is trying to provide aid to up to 1.5-million people inside Syria by the end of the year.
     
    Fleming said recent disruptions to operations due to insecurity are hampering these efforts. Over the past few weeks, she said the agency lost aid supplies due to shelling and other problems. In addition, a truck carrying 600 blankets was hijacked on its way to Adra, outside Damascus.

    - Correspondent Lisa Schlein reported from Geneva.

    You May Like

    Chechen Suspected in Istanbul Attack, but Questions Remain

    Turkish sources say North Caucasus militants involved in bombing at Ataturk airport, but name of at least one alleged attacker raises doubts

    With Johnson Out, Can a New ‘Margaret Thatcher’ Save Britain?

    Contest to replace David Cameron as Britain’s prime minister started in earnest Thursday with top candidates outlining strategy to deal with Brexit fallout

    US Finds Progress Slow Against Human Trafficking in Africa

    Africa continues to be a major source and destination for human trafficking of all kinds -- from forced labor to sexual slavery, says State Department report

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Anonymous
    November 14, 2012 8:54 AM
    A "Crisis", caused, by the so-called rebels. No matter what is "claimed" the fact is that this insurgency would NEVER survive without external factors supplying, orchestrating, financing and perpetuating the conflict. Period.

    by: Michael from: USA
    November 14, 2012 3:41 AM
    France has stood up for a communal welcome but others are calling for air-power, which shows why pacifists are against war as a solution to these large problems

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Eitheri
    X
    Jim Malone
    June 29, 2016 6:16 PM
    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Either

    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeast

    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video New US Ambassador to Somalia Faces Heavy Challenges

    The new U.S. envoy to Somalia, who was sworn into office Monday, will be the first American ambassador to that nation in 25 years. He will take up his post as Somalia faces a number of crucial issues, including insecurity, an upcoming election, and the potential closure of the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. VOA’s Jill Craig asked Somalis living in Kenya’s capital city Nairobi how they feel about the U.S. finally installing a new ambassador.
    Video

    Video At National Zoo, Captivating Animal Sculptures Illustrate Tragedy of Ocean Pollution

    The National Zoo in Washington, D.C., is home to about 1,800 animals, representing 300 species. But throughout the summer, visitors can also see other kinds of creatures there. They are larger-than-life animal sculptures that speak volumes about a global issue — the massive plastic pollution in our oceans. VOA's June Soh takes us to the zoo's special exhibit, called Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora