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

Arrested Football Officials Come Mainly From the Americas

US Justice Department alleges defendants participated in 24-year scheme to enrich themselves through corruption of international soccer More

Video Kenyans Lament Al-Shabab's Recruitment of Youths

VOA travels to Isiolo, where residents share their fears, struggles to get loved ones back from Somalia-based militant group More

This US Epidemic Keeps Getting Worse

One in 4 Americans suffers from this condition More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensionsi
X
May 26, 2015 11:11 PM
When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video US-led Coalition Gives Some Weapons to Iraqi Troops

In a video released Tuesday from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, Iraqi forces and U.S.-led coalition troops survey a cache of weapons supplied to help Iraq liberate Mosul from Islamic State group. According to a statement provided with the video, the ministry and the U.S.-led coaltion troops have started ''supplying the 16th army division with medium and light weapons in preparation to liberate Mosul and nearby areas from Da'esh (Arabic acronym for Islamic State group).''
Video

Video Amnesty International: 'Overwhelming Evidence' of War Crimes in Ukraine

Human rights group Amnesty International says there is overwhelming evidence of ongoing war crimes in Ukraine, despite a tentative cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels. Researchers interviewed more than 30 prisoners from both sides of the conflict and all but one said they were tortured. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Washington Parade Honors Those Killed Serving in US Military

Every year, on the last Monday in the month of May, millions of Americans honor the memories of those killed while serving in the armed forces. Memorial Day is a tradition that dates back to the 19th Century. While many people celebrate the federal holiday with a barbecue and a day off from work, for those who’ve served in the military, it’s a special day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Arash Arabasadi reports for VOA from Washington.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.

VOA Blogs