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

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. More

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

Dropout rate at an all-time high in South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during 3-year civil war More

Tennessee Songbirds Fly Coop Long Before Tornadoes Arrive

Researchers say birds apparently alerted to danger by sounds at frequencies below range of human hearing More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacksi
X
December 19, 2014 12:45 AM
The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid