News / Middle East

Syrian Troops Defend Damascus, Storm Suburbs

Smoke rises from the suburb of Erbeen in Damascus, January 29, 2012.
Smoke rises from the suburb of Erbeen in Damascus, January 29, 2012.

Syria's embattled government defended its capital from rebel fighters Sunday, with security forces deployed across the city and around 2,000 troops backed by tanks and armored vehicles launching an assault to retake suburban areas.

Sustained fighting rocked at least four districts around Damascus, the country's largest city and seat of President Bashar al-Assad's power. The offensive pushed into predominantly Sunni Muslim areas of the capital's eastern outskirts that have slipped from government control over the past two weeks.

Activists say at least 19 civilians and rebel fighters were killed in Sunday's clashes.

The Damascus suburbs have seen large demonstrations demanding the removal of Mr. Assad, a member of the minority Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam that has dominated the mostly Sunni Muslim country for the last five decades.

The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported 72 people killed across the country Sunday, including 41 civilians, mostly in the Damascus suburbs and the central cities of Homs and Hama. The reports could not be confirmed because Syria bars foreign journalists from operating freely in the country.

In one incident, Syria's state news agency SANA said a roadside bomb went off near a military bus south of Damascus, killing six soldiers and wounding six others.  SANA also reported the deaths of 23 other security personnel in fighting with rebels.

The Syrian government accuses armed terrorists of driving the revolt against Mr. Assad's 11-year autocratic rule and killing 2,000 security personnel. The United Nations estimated the death toll from the unrest at 5,400 earlier this month before it stopped updating the figure because of difficulties in obtaining information.

Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby said Sunday the regional bloc is in talks with Russia and China to try to persuade them to support an Arab plan for ending the crisis. Elaraby was speaking in Cairo before leaving for New York, where he will formally present the initiative to the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday.

The Arab League plan calls for President Assad to transfer power to a deputy and form a unity government to prepare for national elections under international supervision. The Assad government has rejected the proposals as a violation of Syria's sovereignty.

Russia, Syria's key military ally and a veto-wielding member of the Security Council, opposes efforts by Arab states and Western powers to use the U.N. body to pressure Mr. Assad into stopping his violent crackdown.

Syria's escalating violence prompted the Arab League to suspend the operations of its observer mission in Syria on Saturday. Elaraby said monitors will remain in Damascus until the League's foreign ministers meet next Sunday to decide whether to pull them out of the country.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP.

Join the conversation on our social journalism site - Middle East Voices. Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter and discuss them on our Facebook page.

You May Like

Video Drug Use Rises in Afghanistan

Ninety percent of world’s heroin comes from Afghanistan More

Here's Your Chance to Live in a Deserted Shopping Mall

About one-third of the 1200 enclosed malls in the US are dead or dying. Here's what's being done with them. More

Video NASA: Big Antarctica Ice Shelf Is Disintegrating

US space agency’s new study indicates Larsen B shelf could break up in just a few years More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriagei
X
May 21, 2015 4:14 AM
The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.
Video

Video Women to March for Peace Between Koreas

Prominent female activists from around the world plan to march through the demilitarized zone dividing North and South Korea to call for peace between the two neighbors, divided for more than 60 years. The event, taking place May 24, marks the International Women's Day for Peace and Disarmament and has been approved by both Koreas. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Drug Use Rises in Afghanistan Following Record High Poppy Crops

Afghanistan has seen record high poppy crops during the last few years - and the result has been an alarming rise in illegal drug use and addiction in the war-torn country. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem has this report from Kabul.
Video

Video America’s Front Lawn Gets Overhaul

America’s front yard is getting a much-needed overhaul. Almost two kilometers of lawn stretch from the U.S. Capitol to the Washington Monument. But the expanse of grass known as the National Mall has taken a beating over the years. Now workers are in the middle of restoring the lush, green carpet that fronts some of Washington’s best-known sights. VOA’s Steve Baragona took a look.

VOA Blogs