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

US, Brazil's Climate-Change Plan: More Renewables, Less Deforestation

update Officials say joint initiative on climate change will allow Brazil, United States to strengthen and accelerate cooperation on issues ranging from land use to clean energy More

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Reporting from Somali capital for past decade, Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal has been working at one of Mogadishu's leading radio stations covering parliament More

After Nearly a Century, Voodoo Opera Rises Again

Opera centers on character named Lolo, a Louisiana plantation worker and Voodoo priestess More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishui
X
Abdulaziz Billow
June 30, 2015 2:16 PM
Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video US Gay Marriage Ruling Yields Real-life Impact

Friday’s landmark Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the United States is an outcome few thought possible just years ago, and shows a nation that increasingly tolerates and even celebrates the hopes and aspirations of gay people. VOA’s Michael Bowman spoke to a same-sex couple that will benefit from the high court ruling, and to a Christian scholar who is apprehensive about its potential consequences for America’s faith community.
Video

Video Syrians Flee IS Advance in Hasaka

The Syrian government said Monday it has taken back one of several districts in Hasaka overrun by Islamic State militants. But continued fighting elsewhere in the northern city has forced thousands of civilians from their homes. In this report narrated by Bill Rodgers, VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer describes the scene in Amouda, where some of the displaced are taking refuge.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video S. Korea Christians Protest Gay Rights Festival

The U.S. Supreme Court decision mandating marriage equality nationwide has energized gay rights supporters around the world. Gay rights remain a highly contentious issue in a key U.S. ally, South Korea, where police did a deft job Sunday of preventing potential clashes between Christian protesters and gay activists. Kurt Achin reports from Seoul.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Syrian Refugees Return to Tal Abyad

Syrian refugees in Turkey confirm they left their hometown of Tal Abyad because of intense fighting and coalition airstrikes, not because Kurdish fighters were engaged in ethnic cleansing, as some Turkish officials charged. VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer, in Tal Abyad, finds that civilians coming back to the town agree, as we hear in this report narrated by Roger Wilkison.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.
Video

Video In Syrian Crisis, Social Media Offer Small Comforts

Za’atari, a makeshift city in Jordan, may be the only Syrian refugee camp to tweet its activities, in an effort to keep donors motivated as the war in Syria intensifies and the humanitarian crisis deepens. Inside the camp, families say mobile phone applications help hold together families that are physically torn apart. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.

VOA Blogs