News / Middle East

    Blast Kills at Least 30 in Syria's North

    Forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad are seen at Suleiman al-Halabi neighborhood in Aleppo, Syria, September 20, 2012.
    Forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad are seen at Suleiman al-Halabi neighborhood in Aleppo, Syria, September 20, 2012.
    A Syrian rights group says a blast in northeast Syria has killed at least 30 people and wounded dozens of others.

    The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights quotes witnesses as saying the blast occurred when an air strike hit a fuel station in al-Raqqa province. The group's director, Rami Abdelrahman, said witnesses told him they saw at least 30 bodies, with the death toll likely to rise.

    Meanwhile, Syrian state television said a military helicopter that crashed near Damascus clipped the tail of a Syrian passenger plane in midair.  The report said the passenger jet landed safely at Damascus International Airport with 200 people onboard.

    Speaking from Damascus, VOA correspondent Elizabeth Arrott said reports of the incident were an alarming example of the lack of control.

    "It just speaks to the kind of chaotic situation, with helicopters flying around bombing these places just sporadically and without, evidently, very clear guidelines of where they are flying," she said.

    Opposition activists said rebels shot down the helicopter.  The Syrian state report did not include eyewitnesses to the alleged incident.

    • Free Syrian Army fighters walk down stairs in a damaged building in Aleppo, Syria, Sept. 26, 2012.
    • Twin blasts targeting Syria's army command headquarters rocked the capital on Sept. 26, setting off hours of sporadic gunbattles and a raging fire inside the heavily guarded compound, state-run media and witnesses said.
    • The Syrian official news agency SANA photo shows the remains of a vehicle and other debris where they landed after a car exploded at Syria's army command headquarters in Damascus, Syria, Sept. 26, 2012.
    • A Free Syrian Army fighter kisses the the head of his comrade, killed by a tank blast, in Aleppo, Syria, Sept. 26, 2012.
    • A Free Syrian Army soldier, right, looks through a mirror which helps him see Syrian troops from the other side, as he takes his position with his comrade during fighting, in Aleppo, Syria, Sept. 24, 2012.
    • In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syrian government forces patrol the damaged area of the al-Arqoub district in Aleppo, Syria, Sept. 24, 2012.
    • In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syrian government forces storm a building in the al-Arqoub district of Aleppo, Syria, Sept. 24, 2012.
    • A Free Syrian Army soldier, right, shows his comrade how to use an RPG at a Turkish bath or Turkish Hamam which the rebels took as a base and rest position, in Aleppo, Syria, Sept. 24, 2012.
    • A Free Syrian Army fighter fires an anti-aircraft machine gun against a Syrian Army jet in the Saif Al Dula district in Aleppo, September 19, 2012.
    • Civilians and members of the Free Syrian Army try to pull out a body from under the rubble of a building destroyed by a jet air strike in al-Kalaseh, Aleppo, Syria, September 19, 2012.

    Solution nowhere in sight

    Meanwhile, the Syrian government's Minister of National Reconciliation, Ali Haider, spoke to reporters in the capital Thursday.

    "He too does not seem to have any great groundbreaking effort to be able to bring the two sides closer together," Arrott said.  "He spoke of this as a turning point. But again, it was very much that the rebels kind of just have to lay down their arms and say they are sorry, and that doesn't seem likely to happen."

    As Syrian children started their first days of school this week, people are still pessimistic on the subject of reaching a solution to the crisis, which began in March of last year. Inside the classrooms, teachers and students hear the shelling and explosions nearby.

    "Meanwhile the kids are in class trying their best to carry on, but it's a very disturbing scene," Arrott said.

    Classrooms are crowded in the al-Abbassiyin neighborhood as parents bring their children from nearby towns where fighting rages.

    In Syria's most populous city, Aleppo, a pro-government television station claimed Thursday government forces had advanced, killing large numbers of what it described as "terrorists." Syria's official news agency claimed that 100 Afghan fighters were killed in one district of the city.

    The war of attrition inside Aleppo between government forces and rebel fighters is now in its third month.

    International community weighs in

    As the humanitarian crisis continues both inside and outside Syria, the government said Russia had sent 50 tons of aid to the Syrian people and would send another shipment on Friday. Deputy Social Affairs Minister Hassan Hijazi thanked Russia for the aid and accused the European Union and the U.S. of creating the humanitarian crisis by imposing economic sanctions on Syria.

    Foreign supporters of the Syrian opposition's Friends of Syria group met in the Netherlands Thursday to discuss new economic sanctions against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Dutch Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal argued that more sanctions would help topple the Syrian president.

    On Wednesday, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the government and the opposition in Syria appear determined to resolve the crisis militarily. He told reporters that military means will not bring an answer, and the crisis should be resolved through political dialogue.

    Ban said Syria will be a top issue as he meets with world leaders at the U.N. General Assembly, saying they must urgently address the situation.

    Reporter Elizabeth Arrott contributed to this report from Damascus and Ed Yeranian contributed to this report from Cairo.

    Carla Babb

    Carla is VOA's Pentagon correspondent covering defense and international security issues. Her bylines include Ukraine, Turkey, Pakistan, Korea, Japan and Egypt.

    You May Like

    Mother of IS Supporter: Son Was Peaceful, 'Role Model'

    Somali-American Abdirizak Mohamed Warsame pleaded guilty Thursday to charges of conspiring to provide material support to Islamic State militants

    Factions Shift as Civilians Die in Syrian War

    Scenario likely only to further confuse military situation on ground and potentially worsen humanitarian crisis that already has grown to epic proportions

    Presidential Hopefuls Woo Minorities, Evangelicals

    Four GOP candidates to speak at forum at Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina

    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.
    Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortagei
    X
    February 12, 2016 7:31 PM
    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortage

    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Gateway to Mecca: Historical Old Jeddah

    Local leader Sami Nawar's family has been in the Old City of Jeddah for hundreds of years and takes us on a tour of this ancient route to Mecca, also believed to be the final resting place of Adam's wife, Eve.
    Video

    Video New Technology Aims to Bring Election Transparency to Uganda

    A team of recent graduates from Uganda’s Makerere University has created a mobile application designed to help monitor elections and expose possible rigging. The developers say the app, called E-Poll, will make Uganda's democratic process fairer. From Kampala, VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video Russia Bristles at NATO Expansion in E. Europe

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is meeting Friday with the head of NATO after the Western military alliance and the United States announced plans for the biggest military build-up in Europe since the Cold War. Russia has called NATO's moves a threat to stability in Europe. But NATO says the troop rotations and equipment are aimed at reassuring allies concerned about Russia as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.