News / Middle East

Assad's Forces Set to Control Homs

This May 7, 2014 photo provided by the Coordination Committee of Khalidiya Neighborhood in Homs shows green buses carrying Free Syrian Army fighters leaving Homs, Syria.
This May 7, 2014 photo provided by the Coordination Committee of Khalidiya Neighborhood in Homs shows green buses carrying Free Syrian Army fighters leaving Homs, Syria.
Reuters
Syrian forces say they will take full control on Thursday over Homs, a city once associated with scenes of joyous pro-democracy crowds but now famed for images of ruin that epitomize the brutality of Syria's civil war.
 
After holding the Old City of Homs for nearly two years, more than 900 rebel fighters, some limping their way onto busses, made their way out of the “capital of the revolution” in several convoys on Wednesday.
 
They were driven to rebel-held territory outside the city under a deal agreed between the insurgents and forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad.
 
Homs provincial governor Talal Barazi told state media 80 percent of the fighters had left and the rest would be evacuated on Thursday after which the center of Homs would be “declared a secure city” and reconstruction would commence.
 
Rebels smiled to cameras as they left but the fall of Syria's third largest city to government forces is a major blow to the opposition and a boon for Assad weeks before his likely re-election.
 
When thousands of Syrians took to the streets of Homs in 2011, it electrified the nation and anti-Assad demonstrations erupted in every major city. Government forces cracked down on the religiously-mixed city with batons and live ammunition.
 
Mortar bombs were fired on protests in Homs and the revolution became armed. Rebel groups spread through the city as civilians fled or cowered in the basements of battered buildings. A year ago, government forces laid siege to the Old City and residents said they starved.
 
State television broadcast footage on Thursday of a reporter, without body-amour, standing in the rain in the deserted center of Homs interviewing governor Barazi, who said the remaining fighters would be evacuated in the next few hours.
 
Behind them, not one building had been spared by the bullets, mortars and bombs of nearly three years of fighting. Some were completely leveled.
 
Assad gains
 
The evacuation comes after months of gains by the army, backed by its Lebanese militant ally Hezbollah, along a strategic corridor of territory linking the capital Damascus with Homs and Assad's Alawite heartland on the Mediterranean.
 
Assad's forces now control most of the capital, along with the main highway from Damascus through to Homs and the western Mediterranean coast. Rebels control much of the desert in the north and east while Syria's second city, Aleppo, is contested.
 
At the same time as rebels were evacuated from Homs, dozens of captives held by rebels in the northern provinces of Aleppo and Latakia were freed as part of the same deal.
 
Governor Barazi said 70 people abducted by rebels were released, including 5 children and 17 women.
 
But a planned relief convoy trying to reach two rebel-blockaded Shi'ite towns outside Aleppo - also part of the deal - was turned back by fighters from al-Qaida's Nusra Front on Wednesday. It was not clear if the aid had moved on Thursday.
 
Assad is widely expected to be the runaway victor in the June 3 presidential vote, which his opponents have dismissed as a charade.
 
They say no credible election can be held in a country fractured by civil war, with swaths of territory outside government control, 6 million people displaced and another 2.5 million refugees abroad.
 
More than 150,000 people have died in the conflict. Millions more have fled their homes and fighting regularly kills more than 200 people a day.

You May Like

Bernie Sanders Surge Reflects US Shift on Socialism

Although most analysts say it is unlikely he will get the Democratic nomination, Sanders' campaign opens up questions and issues that are otherwise marginalized More

Crowdfunding Helps Save Neil Armstrong's Spacesuit

Smithsonian turns to Kickstarter to raise more than $700,000 to help preserve the spacesuit worn by the first man to walk on the moon More

Video On IS Frontline, Kurdish Fighters Ready for Offensive

Peshmerga soldiers say although they need more heavy artillery, they are poised to take the fight to the Islamic State extremists on their turf More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Drowned Migrant Toddler Photo Triggers European Outragei
X
Henry Ridgwell
September 04, 2015 11:36 AM
The harrowing picture of a drowned three-year-old Syrian boy washed up on a Turkish beach appears to have galvanized Europe’s leaders into doing more to address the refugee crisis. France, Germany and Italy issued a joint call Thursday for compulsory quotas of refugees for all EU states. But there were chaotic scenes in Hungary as police tried to force migrants off a train heading for Austria. Henry Ridgwell has more. And a caution, some of the images in this report may be disturbing.
Video

Video Drowned Migrant Toddler Photo Triggers European Outrage

The harrowing picture of a drowned three-year-old Syrian boy washed up on a Turkish beach appears to have galvanized Europe’s leaders into doing more to address the refugee crisis. France, Germany and Italy issued a joint call Thursday for compulsory quotas of refugees for all EU states. But there were chaotic scenes in Hungary as police tried to force migrants off a train heading for Austria. Henry Ridgwell has more. And a caution, some of the images in this report may be disturbing.
Video

Video Russians Observe 11th Anniversary of Beslan School Attack

This week, Russians have been observing the 11th anniversary of the attack by Islamic militants on a school in Russia's North Caucasus region that killed more than 330 hostages, including 186 children. The three-day siege and massacre that started on September 1, 2004 took place in Beslan, a town in the republic of North Ossetia, and is one of the bloodiest terrorist acts ever in Russia. VOA's Mike Richman reports.
Video

Video Native Americans Debate: Father Serra, Saint or Sinner?

Pope Francis will canonize an 18th century missionary to Spanish California during a papal visit to the United States this month.  But some Native Americans have criticized the elevation to sainthood of the missionary priest, Junipero Serra. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan has more from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisis

Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Kurdish Fighters on IS Frontline Ready for Offensive

Finger on the trigger, the Kurdish Peshmerga soldier stared across the dust at a village taken over by Islamic State extremists. The Kurdistan’s Khazir frontline, just 45 minutes from the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul. And at this point, the militants were less than two kilometers away. VOA's Sharon Behn reports.
Video

Video China Announces Troop Cuts at WWII Parade

Chinese President Xi Jinping Thursday announced plans to cut the world’s largest military force by 300,000 troops. The announcement was made during a massive military parade to commemorate victory over Japan in World War II. The event was shunned by most Western leaders and for some is raising fresh concerns about China’s military ambitions. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video Russia-Japan Relations Cool as Putin Visits China for WWII Anniversary

Russian President Vladimir Putin is in Beijing for commemorations of the 70th anniversary of China's WWII victory over Japan. Putin is expected to visit Japan later this year, but tensions between Tokyo and Moscow over islands disputed since the war, and sanctions over Ukraine, could pour cold water on the plan. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Yemen ‘on Brink of Disaster’ as Medical Shortages Soar

Aid agencies warn Yemen is on the brink of humanitarian disaster – with up to half a million children facing severe malnutrition, and hospitals running out of basic medicines. There are fears Yemen's civil war could escalate as the coalition led by Saudi Arabia tries to drive back Houthi rebels, who seized control of much of the country earlier this year. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Apps Helping Kenyan Businesses Stay Ahead of Counterfeiters

Counterfeit goods in Kenya cost the government as much as $1 billion each year in lost tax revenues. The fake goods also hurt entrepreneurs who find it hard to carve out a niche in the market and retain customers. But as Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi, information technology is being used to try to beat the problem.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.

VOA Blogs