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

IS Militants Release 49 Turkish Hostages

Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency reports that no ransom was paid and no conditions accepted for the hostages' release; few details of the release are known More

Photogallery IS Attacks Send Thousands of Syrian Kurds Fleeing to Turkey

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says more than 300 Kurdish fighters crossed into Syria from Turkey to defend a Kurdish area from attack by the Islamic militants More

Video Sierra Leone's Ebola Lockdown Continues

Thousands of health workers are going door to door in the West African country of 6 million, informing people of how to avoid Ebola, handing out soap More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’i
X
Jeff Seldin
September 20, 2014 10:28 PM
Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Obama Goes to UN With Islamic State, Ebola on Agenda

President Obama goes to the United Nations General Assembly to rally nations to support a coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He also will look for nations to back his plan to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. As VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports, Obama’s efforts reflect new moves by the U.S. administration to take a leading role in addressing world crises.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid