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

Multimedia VOA SPECIAL REPORT: US Army Turns Its Best Minds Toward Ebola

Scientists at America's premier biological research center race to find effective drugs, speedier tests and a safe vaccine amid the deadliest outbreak of Ebola in history More

Kurdish Poet Battles to Defend Language, Culture

Kawa Nemir's work is an example of what he sees as an irreversible cultural and political assertiveness among Kurds in Turkey More

Dissident Venezuelan General Resurfaces in New York

Antonio Rivero has resurfaced after nearly a year in hiding, appearing at United Nations in New York More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Filmmakers Produce Hand-Painted Documentary on Van Goghi
X
George Putic
January 29, 2015 9:43 PM
The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Filmmakers Produce Hand-Painted Documentary on Van Gogh

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Super Bowl Ads Compete for Eyes on TV, Web

Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 1) is about more than just the NFL's American football championship and big parties to watch the game. Viewers also tune in for the world famous commercials that send Facebook and Twitter abuzz. Daniela Schrier reports on the social media rewards for America’s priciest advertising.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Freedom on Decline Worldwide, Report Says

The state of global freedom declined for the ninth consecutive year in 2014, according to global watchdog Freedom House's annual report released Wednesday. VOA's William Gallo has more.
Video

Video MRI Seems to Help Diagnose Prostate Cancer, Preliminary Study Shows

Just as with mammography used to detect breast cancer, there's a lot of controversy about tests used to diagnose prostate cancer. Fortunately, a new study shows doctors may now have a more reliable way to diagnose prostate cancer for high risk patients. More from VOA's Carol Pearson.
Video

Video Smartphones About to Make Leap, Carry Basic Senses

Long-distance communication contains mostly sounds and pictures - for now. But scientists in Britain say they are close to creating additions for our smartphones that will make it possible to send taste, smell and even a basic touch. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.
Video

Video Crowded Republican Presidential Field Off to Early Start for 2016

It seems early, but the 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign is already heating up. Though no one has officially announced a candidacy, several potential Republican contenders have been busy speaking to conservative groups about making a White House run next year. Many of the possible contenders are critical of the Obama administration’s foreign policy record. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid