News / Middle East

Demonstrations Flare, Refugees Flee as Syrian Crackdown Intensifies

A group of Syrians wait next to a Turkish ambulance at the Syria-Turkey border inside Syria as they wait for the authorization to cross the border near the Turkish village of Guvecci in Hatay province, Turkey, June  9, 2011.
A group of Syrians wait next to a Turkish ambulance at the Syria-Turkey border inside Syria as they wait for the authorization to cross the border near the Turkish village of Guvecci in Hatay province, Turkey, June 9, 2011.
Elizabeth Arrott

The Syrian government says it has begun an assault on the western town of Jisr al-Shughour.  Officials say they are liberating the town from "armed gangs" who killed 120 soldiers, while residents are fleeing what they fear will be a massacre of civilians. Meanwhile, demonstrations flared in several locales as Syrian forces reportedly killed at least two protesters.

Syrian state television says the government is responding to the call for help by citizens of Jisr al-Shughour and is pursuing "organized armed groups" and making arrests.

The town, normally home to some 50,000 people, is said to be largely deserted as residents fled ahead of the assault, a response to the disputed killing of security personnel.

Witnesses say remaining residents have set up barricades to slow the advance of dozens of tanks and armored vehicles converging on the town.  Gunfire has been reported in villages on the approach.  

Details are hard to confirm, as phone and Internet service to the area has been largely cut off.  Many in the area have sought safety elsewhere in Syria and across the nearby border with Turkey. Abdulkerim Haji Yousef is among the some 2000 Syrians who have crossed the border.  

The refugee says President Bashar al-Assad is killing his own people to stay in power.  Assad has faced months of anti-government protests, at first a call for reform. But as the crackdown on demonstrators has escalated, his opponents want him out.

Amateur video has emerged of a protest said to be from last week in Jisr al-Shughour that prompted troops to move in during the days that followed. The government says its forces were ambushed and killed.

Residents refute the claim, saying the victims included soldiers who refused to open fire on civilians and were then killed by loyalist troops.  The Syrian governments crackdown against protesters across the country has been condemned by human rights groups.

The United Nations Security Council is considering its own censure of Syrian actions, but the Western-backed move is being resisted by Russia. Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has tried to improve relations with Syria in recent years, says he has been in contact with President Assad and is urging him to enact reforms.

Erdogan called the crackdown "unacceptable" and referred to some of the actions of Syrian security forces as an "atrocity."

In the interim, Turkish relief workers have been setting up refugee camps to shelter those fleeing the violence.  And the International Committee for the Red Cross Friday called for access to those areas of Syria where the violence has occurred.

Rights groups say 1,300 people have been killed in the unrest, mainly civilians. The government rejects those numbers and says hundreds of its own security have been killed.

Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter
and discuss them on our Facebook page.

You May Like

Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Seen as a potential driver of recovery, Cairo’s plan to expand waterway had been raising hopes to give country much needed economic boost More

Ebola Maternity Ward in Sierra Leone First of its Kind

Country already had one of world's highest maternal mortality rates before Ebola arrived, virus has added even more complications to health care More

Malaysia Flight 370 Disappearance Ruled Accident

Aircraft disappeared on March 8, 2014; with ruling, families of 239 passengers and crew can now seek compensation from airline 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.
Groundbreaking Hand-Painted Documentary About Van Gogh in Productioni
X
George Putic
January 29, 2015 9:43 PM
The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Groundbreaking Hand-Painted Documentary About Van Gogh in Production

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Super Bowl Ads Compete for Eyes on TV, Web

Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 1) is about more than just the NFL's American football championship and big parties to watch the game. Viewers also tune in for the world famous commercials that send Facebook and Twitter abuzz. Daniela Schrier reports on the social media rewards for America’s priciest advertising.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Freedom on Decline Worldwide, Report Says

The state of global freedom declined for the ninth consecutive year in 2014, according to global watchdog Freedom House's annual report released Wednesday. VOA's William Gallo has more.
Video

Video MRI Seems to Help Diagnose Prostate Cancer, Preliminary Study Shows

Just as with mammography used to detect breast cancer, there's a lot of controversy about tests used to diagnose prostate cancer. Fortunately, a new study shows doctors may now have a more reliable way to diagnose prostate cancer for high risk patients. More from VOA's Carol Pearson.
Video

Video Smartphones About to Make Leap, Carry Basic Senses

Long-distance communication contains mostly sounds and pictures - for now. But scientists in Britain say they are close to creating additions for our smartphones that will make it possible to send taste, smell and even a basic touch. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.
Video

Video Crowded Republican Presidential Field Off to Early Start for 2016

It seems early, but the 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign is already heating up. Though no one has officially announced a candidacy, several potential Republican contenders have been busy speaking to conservative groups about making a White House run next year. Many of the possible contenders are critical of the Obama administration’s foreign policy record. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid