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

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More