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

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
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 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 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 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.

VOA Blogs