News / Middle East

Syrian Army Breaks Rebel Hold on Southern Damascus Suburbs

This image made from citizen journalist video posted by the Shaam News Network, which has been verified and is consistent with other AP reporting, shows smoke from shelling in the countryside of Damascus, Syria, Nov. 6, 2013.
This image made from citizen journalist video posted by the Shaam News Network, which has been verified and is consistent with other AP reporting, shows smoke from shelling in the countryside of Damascus, Syria, Nov. 6, 2013.
Reuters
The Syrian army and loyalist fighters on Thursday captured a strategic southern suburb of Damascus, threatening rebel control of the wider area and cutting off a supply route for insurgents around the capital, opposition activists said.
 
The town of Sbeineh is the third rebel neighborhood to fall to government forces since the army, aided by Shi'ite militias from Iraq, Iran and Lebanon, launched an offensive last month aimed at breaking resistance to President Bashar al-Assad around Damascus, the sources said.
 
“Regime troops backed by Hezbollah stormed Sbeineh. The Free Syrian Army pulled out after fierce battles over the past nine days,” the Sham News Network, an opposition monitoring group, said in a statement.
 
Syria's 2-1/2-year-old conflict began as peaceful protests against four decades of Assad family rule, but it has transformed into a civil war with sectarian dimensions. Assad is from the country's minority Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam, which has largely stood behind him. Syria's Sunni Muslim majority has led the uprising.
 
Syrian state television said the army had achieved “complete control” over Sbeineh, which it called “a hotbed for militants and a supply center for weapons and ammunition”.
 
“They headed in the direction of Hajar al-Aswad and al-Qadam and the surrounding areas, and we will pursue them there,” an army officer said, referring to the rebel fighters who fled following the battle.
 
The officer was speaking to Syrian television in a live broadcast from Sbeineh, where shattered buildings and deserted bunkers made of sand bags and metal barrels showed the intensity of the fighting in the area, which has been under siege for months.
 
Assad's army has been using a blockade tactic against the rebel-held suburbs that ring the capital. The forces have slowly advanced as they try to drain the rebels - and the civilians that live among them - of food and supplies.
 
Sbeineh, comprised of residential buildings and a large industrial zone, is situated on the highway linking Damascus to the Jordanian border, and is adjacent to Hajar al-Aswad, a southern district on the outskirts of the capital. Opposition sources have said that Nusra Front leader, Abu Muhammad al-Golani, was living in the town but it was not clear if he was still there.
 
Over the last few weeks southern Damascus has been hit by heavy rocket and artillery barrages while the Shi'ite militias in the nearby district of Saida Zainab conducted most of the street fighting, diplomatic and rebel sources said.
 
Speaking from southern Damascus, activist Rami al-Sayyed said rebel defenses were exposed when loyalist forces easily infiltrated a front manned by fighters operating under the military council command, an Arab- and Western- backed rebel formation based in Turkey.
 
“The rebels began to find themselves encircled and had to pull out. Sbeineh was key to the defense of the southern neighborhoods. Hajar al-Aswad is now vulnerable,” Sayyed said.
 
While Assad has been relying more on his militia allies, fighters from the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front and the Islamic State for Iraq and the Levant, which is heavily comprised of foreign jihadists, have joined Islamist rebel brigades and Free Syrian Army units to defend southern Damascus, opposition sources said.
 
The Iranian Mehr news agency said on Monday that Mohammad Jamalizadeh, a commander in Iran's Revolutionary Guard, was killed in Syria in the last few days after volunteering to defend the Saida Zainab shrine, a few kilometers to the east of Sbeineh.

You May Like

Tired of Waiting, South Africans Demand Change ‘Now’

With chronic poverty and lack of basic services largely fueling recent xenophobic attacks, many in Rainbow Nation say it’s time for government to act More

Challenges Ahead for China's Development Plans in Pakistan

Planned $46 billion in energy and infrastructure investments in Pakistan are aimed at transforming the country into a regional hub for trade and investment More

Audio 'Forbidden City' Revisits Little Known Era of Asian-American Entertainment

Little-known chapter of entertainment history captured in 80s documentary is revisited in new digitally remastered format and book More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
X
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs