News / Middle East

Syrian Attacks Continue as Mass Protests Spread

U.N. observers from China at at hotel in Damascus before heading to areas where protests against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad have been taking place, May 18, 2012.U.N. observers from China at at hotel in Damascus before heading to areas where protests against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad have been taking place, May 18, 2012.
U.N. observers from China at at hotel in Damascus before heading to areas where protests against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad have been taking place, May 18, 2012.
U.N. observers from China at at hotel in Damascus before heading to areas where protests against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad have been taking place, May 18, 2012.
Edward Yeranian
Syrian government troops pounded the rebel stronghold, Rastan, and parts of the flashpoint city, Homs, Friday, amid widespread anti-government protests across the country. Meanwhile, the head of the United Nations observer forces urged both the government and the opposition to engage in dialogue to end the violence.

Witnesses say Syrian security forces fired tear-gas and live rounds to break up a student protest in Aleppo Friday. The demonstration was billed as the largest of its kind in Syria's northern commercial hub since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began in March 2011.

The protests come after Syrian security forces disrupted a student demonstration in Aleppo on Thursday. Video taken from a U.N. vehicle in Aleppo Thursday showed security forces beating student protesters.

On Friday, Syrian state television showed an empty boulevard in front of Aleppo University's medical college, saying there were “no significant demonstrations.” But video posted by opposition groups on the Internet showed large crowds gathering in the streets.

Arab satellite channels also broadcast large protests in parts of Idlib province, Homs, Daraa and the capital, Damascus. Signs held up by the protesters called for “solidarity” with the student demonstrators in Aleppo.

Syrian government troops fired heavy artillery at Rastan Friday. Several videos showed shells hitting parts of the city. Other videos showed government troops shelling parts of nearby Homs.

In Damascus, the head of the joint U.N.-Arab League observer team, Norwegian Gen. Robert Mood, told reporters that 260 observers are in Syria out of the expected 300. He said he was “worried” about fresh violence, but says his men were having a positive effect on the situation:

“We are seeing in the areas where we are deployed that we have both a calming effect on the ground and we are seeing that we are having a good dialogue and the dialogue is expanding both with the authorities and with the opposition elements,” Mood said.

Mood called for a “dialogue” between the opposition and the government, saying his team was incapable of bringing about a “permanent end to the violence” absent of “the commitment to give dialogue a chance.”

Khattar Abou Diab, who teaches political science at the University of Paris, said that it will be impossible to hold a dialogue without a way to force the Syrian government to comply with a cease-fire and peace plan developed by international envoy Kofi Annan. The month-old cease-fire has been marred by repeated government attacks and rebel strikes.

Diab says Mr. Annan's plans should be declared a failure, forcing the international community to develop a new Syria strategy.   He says, otherwise violence will escalate.

Also on Friday, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he believes al-Qaida was behind twin bombings in Damascus, last week, that killed 55 people.  He says such involvement would create "very serious problems."

A group calling itself the "Nusrat Front" claimed responsibility earlier this week for the blasts.  However, many analysts say claims of al-Qaida involvement have yet to be proven and may not be credible.

You May Like

Tired of Waiting, South Africans Demand Change ‘Now’

With chronic poverty and lack of basic services largely fueling recent xenophobic attacks, many in Rainbow Nation say it’s time for government to act More

Challenges Ahead for China's Development Plans in Pakistan

Planned $46 billion in energy and infrastructure investments in Pakistan are aimed at transforming the country into a regional hub for trade and investment More

Audio 'Forbidden City' Revisits Little Known Era of Asian-American Entertainment

Little-known chapter of entertainment history captured in 80s documentary is revisited in new digitally remastered format and book More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Anonymous from: America
May 19, 2012 10:24 AM
No matter how many children that are tortured or women raped or families burned to death or Syrians murdered by the Assad Gangster Regime it will not change this reality. It is a matter of time before the brutal rule of the Assad family will come to an end. Whether by running away to another country, being hung from a gallows or dragged out of a sewer, the Assads will meet their end. Fake elections will not change this fact. You can’t pay hired killers when you run out of money. The cost of the uprising is draining the Syrian economy. When the money is gone, so will the power Assad has over the Syrian population.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs