News / Middle East

Syrian Rebels Seize Northern Border Crossing

Civilians and members of the Free Syrian Army inspect a damaged building in al-Kalaseh neighbourhood in Aleppo, after a morning jet air strike, September 19, 2012.
Civilians and members of the Free Syrian Army inspect a damaged building in al-Kalaseh neighbourhood in Aleppo, after a morning jet air strike, September 19, 2012.
VOA News
Syrian rebels have seized control of a third border crossing with Turkey after fierce battles with government troops, as fighting raged in the key cities of Aleppo and Damascus.

VOA correspondent Elizabeth Arrott reported from the Syrian capital Wednesday that thick, black smoke was rising from contested suburbs there - and that residents are getting nervous.

"In large part, I think people are just a little more pessimistic," said Arrott. "One gentleman today just said, 'This situation isn't bad.  It's awful.'"

At the Tal Abyad crossing near Turkey, rebels tore down the Syrian flag as Turkish authorities quickly closed the area and prevented a crowd of people from attempting to storm the border and cross into Syria.

This is the first time forces fighting to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad have overrun a border zone in al-Raqqa province, most of which has remained solidly pro-government.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said rebels withdrew from three southern districts of Damascus after weeks of heavy combat and shelling. In the northern city of Aleppo, the army said rebels attacked several military positions in the east overnight and that helicopter gunships eventually drove them off.

The Observatory said 32 people have been killed nationwide so far on Wednesday, including 27 civilians, after 173 died the previous day.

VOA's Elizabeth Arrott says the fighting is starting to weigh on those living in the capital, although life goes on as people head to work and maintain a sense of normalcy.

"I think [for] people in the street, it's just not clear how you get - what the solution would be," she said. "How does this end?  And, in fact, one analyst, a professor I was talking to today, gave the example of Lebanon, which is kind of frightening.  That went on for 15 years."

Arrott says many in Damascus also are worried about the bigger picture.

"No matter whose side they're [Syrians] on, I think there is a great sense this is a proxy war.  There are varying interests from varying countries and super powers and neighbors.  And it makes people feel a little bit, perhaps, these are issues far beyond their control," said VOA's Elizabeth Arrott.

  • Free Syrian Army fighters walk down stairs in a damaged building in Aleppo, Syria, Sept. 26, 2012.
  • Twin blasts targeting Syria's army command headquarters rocked the capital on Sept. 26, setting off hours of sporadic gunbattles and a raging fire inside the heavily guarded compound, state-run media and witnesses said.
  • The Syrian official news agency SANA photo shows the remains of a vehicle and other debris where they landed after a car exploded at Syria's army command headquarters in Damascus, Syria, Sept. 26, 2012.
  • A Free Syrian Army fighter kisses the the head of his comrade, killed by a tank blast, in Aleppo, Syria, Sept. 26, 2012.
  • A Free Syrian Army soldier, right, looks through a mirror which helps him see Syrian troops from the other side, as he takes his position with his comrade during fighting, in Aleppo, Syria, Sept. 24, 2012.
  • In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syrian government forces patrol the damaged area of the al-Arqoub district in Aleppo, Syria, Sept. 24, 2012.
  • In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syrian government forces storm a building in the al-Arqoub district of Aleppo, Syria, Sept. 24, 2012.
  • A Free Syrian Army soldier, right, shows his comrade how to use an RPG at a Turkish bath or Turkish Hamam which the rebels took as a base and rest position, in Aleppo, Syria, Sept. 24, 2012.
  • A Free Syrian Army fighter fires an anti-aircraft machine gun against a Syrian Army jet in the Saif Al Dula district in Aleppo, September 19, 2012.
  • Civilians and members of the Free Syrian Army try to pull out a body from under the rubble of a building destroyed by a jet air strike in al-Kalaseh, Aleppo, Syria, September 19, 2012.

Also Wednesday, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi met President Assad and other officials in Damascus, to discuss proposals by regional powers to end the 18-month conflict. Iran, Syria's main Middle East ally, has denied accusations it is providing military aid to the Syrian government.

Following their meeting, Assad said the war engulfing Syria is targeting not only it but the "axis of resistance" - a term Syria, Iran and Lebanon's Shi'ite Hezbollah movement use to refer to their common opposition to Israel.

Meanwhile, Amnesty International said the Syrian government has been increasingly carrying out "relentless, indiscriminate" attacks against residential areas that appear to be aimed solely at punishing civilians seen as sympathetic to rebel forces.

The rights watchdog issued a report Wednesday based on its investigation earlier this month in Idlib, Jabal al-Zawiya and Hama provinces.

Amnesty's Donatella Rovera told VOA the situation in northern Syria has significantly deteriorated since the end of July when government forces were pushed out of most of the area.

"Since then they've been essentially striking from afar, both air bombardments and artillery and mortar shelling, which are of very little use for hitting military targets because they are aerial weapons," said Rovera.

Rovera said such "battlefield weapons" have a wide impact radius and fall randomly over residential areas "with disastrous consequences for the civilian population."

Amnesty reiterated calls made by human rights groups for the United Nations Security Council to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court for probes into possible war crimes.

It also warned that opposition fighters may turn to indiscriminate attacks, and it urged rebel groups to communicate to fighters that such violations will not be tolerated.

Earlier this week, a United Nations panel presented a finding blaming both sides in Syria for increasing the number of attacks against civilians.

The U.N. commission of inquiry said that although both government and anti-government forces have committed war crimes, the abuses by opposition forces has not reached the "gravity, frequency and scale" of those carried out by pro-government fighters.


Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

You May Like

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Works to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Smithsonian senior research botanist Vicki Funk says ultimate goal is 'trying to get one-half of the diversity of plant life on Earth at the genus level in two years' More

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

Report from member of British think tank says Russian extradition requests keep targets from traveling More

US Lawmakers Weigh Turkish Anti-terror Moves

Turkey’s two-pronged campaign against Islamic State militants, Kurdish PKK forces provokes mixed reactions on Capitol Hill More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponentsi
X
Henry Ridgwell
July 28, 2015 9:53 PM
A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video Special Olympics Athletes Meet International Friends

The Special Olympics are underway in Los Angeles, California, with athletes from 165 countries participating in an event that gives people with intellectual disabilities the chance to take part in an international competition. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports that for athletes and their families, it's also an opportunity to make new friends in an international setting.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Iran Nuclear Pact Wins Few New US Congressional Backers

Later this week, President Barack Obama returns from a trip to Africa to confront a U.S. Congress roiled by the nuclear accord with Iran, an agreement that has received the blessing of the U.N. Security Council. Days of intensive lobbying and testimony by top administration officials have won few new congressional supporters of the pact. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Critics of Japan Defense Policy Focus on Okinawa

In Okinawa, many locals have long complained that Tokyo places an unfair burden on the tiny island by locating most of Japan's U.S. military bases there. As Japan's government moves toward strengthening and expanding the country's defense policies, opponents of those plans are joining local protesters in Okinawa, voicing concern about where the country is headed. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Okinawa.
Video

Video IS Uses Chemical Weapons in Syrian Attack

Islamic State militants have added a new weapon in their arsenal of fear: chemical weapons. VOA Kurdish service reporter Zana Omer was on the scene within hours of a recent attack in Hasakah, Syria, and has details of the subsequent investigation, in this report narrated by Miguel Amaya.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.

VOA Blogs