News / Middle East

    Syrian Forces Step Up Attacks in Capital

    A view of rubble and damaged buildings after what activists said was shelling by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, Daraya, Feb. 4, 2013.
    A view of rubble and damaged buildings after what activists said was shelling by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, Daraya, Feb. 4, 2013.
    Edward Yeranian
    Syrian rebel forces stepped up their attacks on parts of the capital Damascus Wednesday in some of the heaviest fighting inside the city in months.
     
    Government forces responded with heavy shelling of inner districts of the capital and closed off the city's main Abbassid Square.
     
    Amateur video shows what Syrian rebel fighters claim to be an attack on a government position in the Damascus district of Joubar.
     
    Opposition activists say that the attack is part of a multi-pronged rebel attack on government forces near the capital's southern ring road.
     
    Witnesses inside Damascus say that government forces have been shelling to try and repel the rebel attack. Sources inside the capital also say that the city's historic Abbassid Square was closed as fighting raged nearby.
     
    Rebel declaration
     
    The rebel Free Syrian Army issued a declaration calling Wednesday's assault "Operation Epic in the Capital of the Omayyids" to liberate Damascus. The statement listed six rebel brigades that were participating in the battle, including the al-Qaida-linked Jabhat al-Nusra.
     
    Earlier, a government security compound was hit in the central city of Palmyra, where a pair of suicide car bombs exploded. Activists said the bombings targeted a military intelligence compound, killing at least 12 Syrian security personnel.
     
    State media described the explosions differently, saying they went off in a residential area and killed several people.
     
    Peter Harling of the International Crisis Group said that the rebel attack in Damascus may be an attempt to relieve pressure on the rebel-held suburb of Daraya, which has been under heavy government shelling and aerial bombardment for days.
     
    He said despite reports that government forces have pulled back from certain areas of the capital under rebel pressure, it was unlikely that the government was about to collapse.
     
    "The regime has rebuilt itself into a rather cohesive fighting force and I think this notion that it's losing ground is partly an illusion," Harling said. "I mean the regime has been losing ground consistently on the economic, political, moral levels, but I think militarily it's still extremely strong."
     
    Harling added that the government has "massive human resources and military assets in the capital" and that its forces are "entrenched in a large and very defensible area in the heights of Damascus."
     
    A recent call for a negotiated solution to the conflict by opposition leader Mouaz al-Khatib has hit resistance from various opposition groups. The opposition Syrian National Council said that it would meet soon to discuss the proposition.

    • A Free Syrian Army fighter prepares to fire a B-10 recoilless gun in the Haresta neighborhood of Damascus, Feb. 7, 2013.
    • Free Syrian Army members raise an Islamic flag on a rooftop after heavy fighting with President Bashar al-Assad's forces, in the Jobar area of Damascus, Syria, Feb. 6, 2013.
    • A Free Syrian Army fighter walks in the Haresta neighborhood of Damascus Feb. 7, 2013.
    • Boys warm up next to a fire outside a building in the Ain Tarma neighborhood of Damascus, Feb. 5, 2013.
    • Rubble and damaged buildings in Daraya after what activists said was shelling by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, Feb. 4, 2013. (Shaam News Network)
    • A member of the Free Syrian Army points his weapon through a hole in a wall as he takes up a defense position in Daraya Feb. 4, 2013. (Shaam News Network)
    • A man carries his sister who was wounded in a government airstrike in Ansari, in Aleppo, Feb. 3, 2013.
    • People carry a body after a government airstrike hit Ansari, Aleppo, Feb. 3, 2013.
    • This citizen journalism image provided by Aleppo Media Center shows people searching through the debris of destroyed buildings after airstrikes hit Ansari, Aleppo, Feb. 3, 2013.
    Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

    You May Like

    Candidates' Comments Fly Like New Hampshire Snowflakes

    Four days ahead of the country's first-in-the-nation Republican and Democratic party primary elections, surveys show the parties' contests tightening

    South Korea Says North Korea Moving Closer to Rocket Launch

    In phone call, US President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping agree that Pyongyang's move would be 'provocative'

    Australian Commander: IS Changing Tactics

    Head of Australian forces in Middle East talks with VOA about training Iraqi troops, countering evolving Islamic State efforts and defeating extremism

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: JKF from: Ottawa, Canada
    February 06, 2013 1:48 PM
    The opposition is slowly creeping ahead, as they close the lines of communication, and the fighting damages infrastructure, especially water supplies the regime will have to withdraw from Damascus, or just be encircled and oversee the total destruction of Damascus. The big concern are the number of civilans that will be trapped in Damascus, if it is encircled. Most of those civilians are associated with supporting the regime, therefore I expect that they will not fare well, and they will now become the majority of the victimes; I hope they have the sense and promptly withdraw to the coastal areas, if that is at all possible. At that point in time, the situation for Lebanon will become more and more at risk; potentially remainders of the Syrian gvmt forces may push into the Bekka valley and beyond; no question, that then a new confrontation may come about. It is very unfortunate that Lebanon has not requested help from the UN to secure its border with Syria.

    by: Michael from: USA
    February 06, 2013 10:04 AM
    The revolution or war against a dynasty, has from it's onset, the effectiveness of military arms, a priority which in turn is shared by suicide missions where armspower is first and life second. In the West, death is seen as ultimate (if it occurs, what else can matter?)

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibiti
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 05, 2016 4:30 PM
    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video Former Drug CEO Martin Shkreli Angers US Lawmakers

    A former U.S. pharmaceutical business executive has angered lawmakers by refusing to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill by 5,000 percent. Martin Shkreli was removed from a congressional hearing on Thursday after citing his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Super Bowl TV Commercials are Super Business for Advertisers

    The Super Bowl, the championship clash between the two top teams in American Football, is the most-watched sporting event of the year, and advertisers are lining up and paying big bucks to get their commercials on the air. In fact, the TV commercials during the Super Bowl have become one of the most anticipated and popular features of the event. VOA's Brian Allen has a sneak peek of what you can expect to see when the big game goes to commercial break, and the real entertainment begins.
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Solar Innovation Provides Cheap, Clean Energy to Kenya Residents

    In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kangemi, customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Apprenticeships Put Americans on Path Back to Work

    Trying to get more people into the U.S. workforce, the Obama administration last year announced $175 million in grants towards apprenticeship programs. VOA White House correspondent Aru Pande went inside one training center outside of Washington that has gained national recognition for helping put people on the path to employment.
    Video

    Video New Material May Reduce Concussion Effects

    As the 2016 National Football League season reaches its summit at the Super Bowl this coming Sunday (2/7), scientists are trying to learn how to more effectively protect football players from dangerous and damaging concussions. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities say their origami-based material may solve the problem. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Saudi Arabian Women's Sports Chip Away at Stereotypes

    Saudi Arabian female athletes say that sports are on the front line of busting traditions that quash women’s voices, both locally and internationally. In their hometown of Jeddah, a group of basketball players say that by connecting sports to health issues, they are encouraging women and girls to get out of their homes and participate in public life. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
    Video

    Video A Year Later, Fortunes Mixed for Syrians Forging New Lives in Berlin

    In April of last year, VOA followed the progress of six young Syrian refugees -- four brothers and their two friends -- as they made their way from Libya to Italy by boat, and eventually to Germany. Reporter Henry Ridgwell caught up with the refugees again in Berlin, as they struggle to forge new lives amid the turmoil of Europe's refugee crisis.
    Video

    Video Zika Virus May be Hard to Stop

    With the Zika virus spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization Monday declared Zika a global health emergency. As Alberto Pimienta reports, for many governments and experts, the worst is yet to come.