News / Middle East

    Assad Forces Advance Into Rebel-Held Damascus District

    Syrian soldiers cheer after battling with rebels during a tour for journalists organized by the Syrian Information Ministry in the Damascus suburb of Jobar, Syria, July 14, 2013.
    Syrian soldiers cheer after battling with rebels during a tour for journalists organized by the Syrian Information Ministry in the Damascus suburb of Jobar, Syria, July 14, 2013.
    Reuters
    Syrian troops backed by tanks and artillery moved into a rebel-held district of Damascus on Monday, stepping up efforts to drive opposition fighters from the capital and build on battlefield gains elsewhere in the country, a rebel commander said.
     
    Opposition sources said troops loyal to President Bashar al-Assad advanced into the neighborhood of Qaboun after subjecting the Sunni Muslim district to heavy shelling. Two adjacent rebel-held neighborhoods have been under sustained fire in recent weeks to cut off the movement of rebel fighters.
     
    Diplomats and security sources said Assad appeared intent on securing the capital from rebels that pose a threat to his troops, who are dug into positions in the center of the city.
     
    Backed by guerrillas from the Lebanese Shi'ite group Hezbollah, Assad has recaptured important regions in central Syria in the past two months, linking Damascus to his Alawite heartland on the coast. His troops now appear focused on eliminating the rebel threat to the capital.
     
    Assad's gains, after more than two years of a war that has killed more than 90,000 people, come amid growing signs of rebel infighting that has pitted Islamist fighters against the Western- and Arab-backed Free Syrian  Army.
     
    In Qaboun, Republican Guards troops detained hundreds of people in public places to prevent rebel fighters from hitting government troops as they breached rebel defenses and entered  the district, activists said.
     
    There was no immediate comment on the fighting from the Syrian government and Reuters was not able to verify opposition accounts.
     
    Republican Guards
     
    Qaboun contains an industrial area through which rebels had been linking up with opposition units in the north-eastern suburb of Harasta.
     
    Republican Guards units overran the industrial area and besieged Qaboun with T-72 tanks while units on high ground in the center of the capital hit Qaboun with rockets and artillery, according to a rebel commander there.
     
    “They made inroads into Qaboun. We are still on the high buildings but they took lots of civilians to prevent us from hitting them,” said Mohammad Abu al-Hoda of the Free Syrian Army.
     
    He said the hostages were being held in a mosque and two schools.
     
    The Qaboun Coordination Committee, an activist group, said at least 60 people had been killed in Qaboun over the last few days by the shelling and subsequent clashes.
     
    A working class district, Qaboun was one of the first areas of Damascus to demonstrate against four decades of rule by Assad and his late father before becoming a center of armed resistance after security forces killed dozens of Sunni Muslim protesters.
     
    The conflict has taken on a sectarian dimension seen elsewhere in Syria, with Sunni Qaboun pitted against an adjacent neighborhood inhabited by members Assad's Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam that has dominated the state since the 1960s.
     
    The opposition Syrian National Coalition said in a statement that 200 people were trapped in a mosque in Qaboun and 40,000 civilians in Qaboun and nearby Barzeh have been under siege for the last seven months and face the threat of being wiped out by indiscriminate shelling.
     
    The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a pro-opposition monitoring group, said that the detained residents were able to flee the mosque on Saturday. But it said locals were struggling to cope with shortages of food and medicine and the presence of snipers.

    You May Like

    Turkey, West in Standoff Over Syrian Refugees

    Turkish government refuses to admit refugees, the first in a wave of civilians fleeing offensive by Assad regime in northern Aleppo countryside

    Jailed American Testifies About Islamist Involvement in Mumbai Attacks

    David Headley testifies via video link that Pakistan-based Islamic terror group made two failed attempts to mount strikes in Mumbai in months prior to coordinated assault

    These Are the 10 Smartest US States

    A new report breaks down the nation's best and brightest

    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.