News / Middle East

    Hopes Dim for Syrian Cease-Fire

    Residents hold a banner during a protest against Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in Kafranbel near Idlib October 19, 2012.
    Residents hold a banner during a protest against Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in Kafranbel near Idlib October 19, 2012.
    VOA News
    A Syrian rights group says government warplanes have attacked a strategic rebel-held northern town in the latest setback to international efforts to secure a cease-fire during a Muslim holiday that begins this week.

    The opposition Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Tuesday's air strikes targeted Maaret al-Numan, a town that rebels seized earlier this month, effectively cutting a highway linking the capital Damascus with Syria's northern financial hub of Aleppo.

    The Observatory also said Syrian rebels battled government forces holed up in a nearby military base that has been under a rebel siege for days.

    The rights group said neither government nor rebel forces appear to be making any preparations to adopt a cease-fire during the Eid al-Adha holiday that begins Friday, as proposed by international peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi.

    Envoy ends visit

    The envoy ended a four-day visit to Damascus on Tuesday without winning a public commitment to the truce from the government. Syrian opposition and rebel leaders also have expressed skepticism about a truce.

    U.N. peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous said he is making preparations for a Syria peacekeeping force if a cease-fire takes hold. But he said it is premature to discuss the details.

    Syrian state television said President Bashar al-Assad decreed a new amnesty on Tuesday, pardoning those who committed crimes before October 23.

    The Syrian government has made numerous amnesty offers since an opposition uprising began in March 2011, typically stipulating that the pardons do not cover those who took part in killings.

    • A crowd gathers in front of damaged buildings after a car bomb exploded at Daf al-Shok district, in Damascus, Syria, October 26, 2012, in this photograph released by Syria's national news agency SANA.
    • A crowd gathers in front of damaged buildings after a car bomb exploded at Daf al-Shok district, in Damascus, Syria, October 26, 2012, in this photograph released by Syria's national news agency SANA.
    • Demonstrators hold opposition flags during a protest against Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, after Eid al-Adha prayers, Dara, Syria, October 26, 2012.
    • Syria's President Bashar al-Assad (C) chats with people after prayers for Eid al-Adha at al-Afram Mosque, Damascus, Syria, October 26, 2012.
    • Members of the Free Syrian Army watch for snipers during fighting against pro-government forces in Harem, Idlib, Syria, October 25, 2012.
    • Smoke is seen after pro-government forces shelled the outskirts of Atareb, in Idlib governorate, Syria, October 24, 2012.
    • A member of the Free Syrian Army stands guard during a shelling by pro-government forces on the outskirts of Atareb, in Idlib governorate, Syria, October 24, 2012.
    • A Free Syrian Army fighter smokes a cigarette as he guards his position in Aleppo, Syria, October 23, 2012.
    • Residents are seen near damaged buildings at Marat al-Numan, near the northern province of Idlib, Syria, October 23, 2012.
    • Children play on swings in Aleppo, Syria, October 23, 2012.
    • Turkish boys look through a shattered window after an anti-aircraft shell fired from Syria hit a health center across the border in Reyhanli, Hatay province, Turkey, October 23, 2012.
    • A building that anti-government sources said was destroyed by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces is seen in Saqba, Damascus, Syria, October 22, 2012.

    In other developments Tuesday, Turkish media said a Syrian anti-aircraft shell hit a Turkish health center in Hatay province near the Syrian border, but caused no casualties. Turkey has fired back at Syria several times in recent weeks after previous cases of Syrian fire landing on the Turkish side of the border.

    Refugee crisis grows

    Meanwhile, the U.N. refugee agency said Lebanon has become the third country in the region to host more than 100,000 registered refugees from the Syrian civil war. The UNHCR previously reported more than 100,000 Syrian refugees in both Turkey and Jordan.

    UNHCR spokeswoman Melissa Fleming said recent unrest in Lebanon has temporarily disrupted the agency's operations in the country, including the registration of Syrian refugees in Tripoli, Akar, Beirut and Sidon in southern Lebanon.

    "Just to note what the refugees tell us in Lebanon," she said. "As you know, none of them are living in refugee camps. They are living in local communities and they are struggling to make ends meet because they do live on the open economy.

    "And, they complain of high prices," she said. "We are trying to help them through the provision of assistance depending on their circumstance. But, that is a common complaint, a common concern in Lebanon."

    Fleming said U.N. refugee workers hope to resume the operations as soon as conditions allow.

    About 1.5 million people are displaced inside Syria. The U.N. refugee agency says the displaced live in sub-standard public shelters and many do not receive essential aid because of security constraints.

    VOA's Michael Lipin contributed to this report from Washington and Lisa Schlein from Geneva.

    • A crowd gathers in front of damaged buildings after a car bomb exploded at Daf al-Shok district, in Damascus, Syria, October 26, 2012, in this photograph released by Syria's national news agency SANA.
    • A crowd gathers in front of damaged buildings after a car bomb exploded at Daf al-Shok district, in Damascus, Syria, October 26, 2012, in this photograph released by Syria's national news agency SANA.
    • Demonstrators hold opposition flags during a protest against Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, after Eid al-Adha prayers, Dara, Syria, October 26, 2012.
    • Syria's President Bashar al-Assad (C) chats with people after prayers for Eid al-Adha at al-Afram Mosque, Damascus, Syria, October 26, 2012.
    • Members of the Free Syrian Army watch for snipers during fighting against pro-government forces in Harem, Idlib, Syria, October 25, 2012.
    • Smoke is seen after pro-government forces shelled the outskirts of Atareb, in Idlib governorate, Syria, October 24, 2012.
    • A member of the Free Syrian Army stands guard during a shelling by pro-government forces on the outskirts of Atareb, in Idlib governorate, Syria, October 24, 2012.
    • A Free Syrian Army fighter smokes a cigarette as he guards his position in Aleppo, Syria, October 23, 2012.
    • Residents are seen near damaged buildings at Marat al-Numan, near the northern province of Idlib, Syria, October 23, 2012.
    • Children play on swings in Aleppo, Syria, October 23, 2012.
    • Turkish boys look through a shattered window after an anti-aircraft shell fired from Syria hit a health center across the border in Reyhanli, Hatay province, Turkey, October 23, 2012.
    • A building that anti-government sources said was destroyed by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces is seen in Saqba, Damascus, Syria, October 22, 2012.

    You May Like

    Mother of IS Supporter: Son Was Peaceful, 'Role Model'

    Somali-American Abdirizak Mohamed Warsame pleaded guilty Thursday to charges of conspiring to provide material support to Islamic State militants

    Factions Shift as Civilians Die in Syrian War

    Scenario likely only to further confuse military situation on ground and potentially worsen humanitarian crisis that already has grown to epic proportions

    Presidential Hopefuls Woo Minorities, Evangelicals

    Four GOP candidates to speak at forum at Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: kannan mahathevan
    October 23, 2012 7:52 PM
    The banner they are holding on the picture is a prediction!. This so called ceasefire issue is exactly what the world powers worked-out hand handed over to the Genocidal regime in Sri Lanka in 2009, that gave the perpetrators more time to prepare for chemical attack and so on. Mr. Assad is already in possession such dangerous weapons, so the Powers and the UN is simply giving him enough time to prepare for the launch. When everything is over Mr. Ban Ki Mon will be asked fly over the are to asses the damage. Justice may come at a later time, but what's the point), half of Syria would have perished by then. Prevention is better than the forthcoming cure!, may be the world powers want to reduce the number of Syrians?

    by: Sunny Enwerem from: Nigeria
    October 23, 2012 4:13 PM
    Only if Assad knows the fight is beyound a sieze fire,he had his chance from his fellow Arab members but instead followed Putin Russia's call not to,and now let's see how Putin keeps him in power against the daily grown resentment,am just waiting to see.

    by: Orhan Fazlioglu from: İstanbul, Turkey
    October 23, 2012 10:38 AM
    Almost everyone claims that Esad's days are numbered because he has been cornered somehow.Even Russia is in favour of an agreement on which parties will probably come to terms with. I believe if this meaningless war goes on it will take such a heavier tolls that noone can foresee.In the end, those involved in this carnage will feel deep remorse.Whereas, a democratic Syria will be more prosperous and independent in the region.An agreement on a prosperous and democratic Syria doesn't seem too far because no one can stand against the tide of people's demands to build more democratic and prosperous country.

    Today Syria gives an image of a country whose people are rather tired of false commitments and long for a new spirit to build a nation in harmony with modern human rights.Syrian people will make this come true despite Esad's resistance.Esad should care about his people's demands and allow the democratic attempts to flourish,otherwise, not only he but also his country will pay the bill with more destruction.We saw the same picture in Iraq. Saddam Husein allowed his country to turn into shambles because of his greed for an absolute power.I hope Esad will not repeat the same mistake and let his country fall into ruins.In the eve of Edha,I hope the clashes will stop, no more tears and blood will be shed.My sincere prayers are with all who commit themselves to this sublime effort.May Allah help those who strive to stop this ugly war taking the lives of innocent babies and elderly people.Let's pray together if we have no further means except for prayers.

    by: Michael from: USA
    October 23, 2012 9:43 AM
    Peacekeeping takes the first chance that comes along. It is freedom to have the Eid feast. This freedom is the first talk I have heard about a chance at cease-fire

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortagei
    X
    February 12, 2016 7:31 PM
    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortage

    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Gateway to Mecca: Historical Old Jeddah

    Local leader Sami Nawar's family has been in the Old City of Jeddah for hundreds of years and takes us on a tour of this ancient route to Mecca, also believed to be the final resting place of Adam's wife, Eve.
    Video

    Video New Technology Aims to Bring Election Transparency to Uganda

    A team of recent graduates from Uganda’s Makerere University has created a mobile application designed to help monitor elections and expose possible rigging. The developers say the app, called E-Poll, will make Uganda's democratic process fairer. From Kampala, VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video Russia Bristles at NATO Expansion in E. Europe

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is meeting Friday with the head of NATO after the Western military alliance and the United States announced plans for the biggest military build-up in Europe since the Cold War. Russia has called NATO's moves a threat to stability in Europe. But NATO says the troop rotations and equipment are aimed at reassuring allies concerned about Russia as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.