News / Middle East

Syrian Opposition says Gvt. Forces Captured Strategic Northern Town

Free Syrian Army fighters take their positions behind piled sandbags, as one of them points his weapon, from inside a room in Deir al-Zor, Sept. 2, 2013.
Free Syrian Army fighters take their positions behind piled sandbags, as one of them points his weapon, from inside a room in Deir al-Zor, Sept. 2, 2013.
Reuters
Syrian forces seized the strategic northern town of Ariha on Tuesday, an opposition group said, in a move that would open the supply line between the coastal stronghold and pockets of army control in a region that is largely rebel controlled.
 
Other activists, however, said the battle was not over and that rebels were still fighting the regime in Ariha, located near a major highway in the northern province of Idlib.
 
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which reported the Assad military gain, said loyalist paramilitary forces, known as the National Defense Forces, stormed and captured Ariha under the cover of a fierce army artillery assault.
 
“This allows the regime in [coastal] Latakia to reconnect the land routes between them and their forces in Idlib province, which were under strain in an area surrounded by rebel forces,” said Rami Abdelrahman, head of the Britain-based Observatory.
 
He said the army was now pummeled other nearby towns and mountainous territories where rebels may be based in an effort to cement control of the area.
 
Syria's 2-1/2-year conflict between Assad's forces and the rebels seeking to oust him has killed over 110,000 people, most of them civilians, according to the Observatory, which uses a network of activists across the country.
 
Some activists in Idlib said Assad's military had not yet captured the town, with air strikes and fierce clashes raging; but they were not optimistic the opposition would be able to push back the army.
 
“They still haven't taken it. But they will. They've seized a large piece and they'll slowly advance if the situation stays like this,” said Ahmad, an activist living in the province, speaking by Skype. “They've been using air strikes and have reduced much of the town to rubble.”
 
Other activists in the area reported seeing large numbers of Assad forces being moved in the direction of Ariha.
 
Assad's forces in recent months have gained ground in central Syria and around the capital Damascus, but have made no major dent in rebel control of large swaths of northern or eastern Syria.
 
The army has threatened a new campaign in the north but so far there has been no major assault. Instead, they appear to be trying to bolster their pockets of territory and slowly build up their forces.
 
Activists say civilian residents have mostly fled Ariha in the past weeks, due to the heavy air and artillery strikes. According to the Observatory, NDF forces began raiding and looting the town after storming it.
 
Ariha has been in and out of rebel control. It was taken by Islamist rebel brigades, including the domestic Ahrar al-Sham group and other units linked to al-Qaida, on Aug. 24.

You May Like

IS Militants Release 49 Turkish Hostages

Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency reports that no ransom was paid and no conditions accepted for the hostages' release; few details of the release are known More

Photogallery IS Attacks Send Thousands of Syrian Kurds Fleeing to Turkey

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says more than 300 Kurdish fighters crossed into Syria from Turkey to defend a Kurdish area from attack by the Islamic militants More

Video Sierra Leone's Ebola Lockdown Continues

Thousands of health workers are going door to door in the West African country of 6 million, informing people of how to avoid Ebola, handing out soap More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’i
X
Jeff Seldin
September 20, 2014 10:28 PM
Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Obama Goes to UN With Islamic State, Ebola on Agenda

President Obama goes to the United Nations General Assembly to rally nations to support a coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He also will look for nations to back his plan to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. As VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports, Obama’s efforts reflect new moves by the U.S. administration to take a leading role in addressing world crises.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid