News / Middle East

Syrian Army Advances on Strategic Town Near Lebanon

A tank belonging to the forces of Syria's President Bashar al-Assad is seen at Al-Sahl town, about 2km (a mile) to Yabroud's north, after the soldiers took control of it from the rebel fighters, March 3, 2014.
A tank belonging to the forces of Syria's President Bashar al-Assad is seen at Al-Sahl town, about 2km (a mile) to Yabroud's north, after the soldiers took control of it from the rebel fighters, March 3, 2014.
VOA News
Syrian government forces have solidified their grasp on the last major town held by Sunni Muslim rebels near the Lebanese border.

Government troops, backed by Lebanese Shi'ite Hezbollah fighters and local paramilitaries, bombarded areas around Yabroud on Tuesday.

A successful push into the town would help President Bashar al-Assad's military seal a link between Mediterranean coastal bastions of his minority Alawite sect and the capital, Damascus.

Syrian forces have been on the offensive in the mountainous Qalamoun region where Yabroud is located since December, attempting to sever rebel supply routes from Lebanon.

Thousands of people fled the town, about 60 kilometers north of Damascus, after it was bombed and shelled last month ahead of the assault.

Hezbollah leaders in Lebanon would like to have the region across the border in Syria cleared of Sunni Muslim rebels trying to topple Assad's government.

The Shi'ite militant group claims several cars used in recent bombings in Beirut were rigged in Yabroud and smuggled into Lebanon for attacks on Hezbollah strongholds.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said rebels fighting in Yabroud mostly belong to hard-line Islamist groups, including the al-Qaida linked Nusra Front and the breakaway Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
  • This SANA photo shows supporters of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad attend a rally in Salkha, Sweida, southern Syria, March 4, 2014.
  • Forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad stand near a road in Al-Sahl town, north of Yabroud, March 4, 2014.
  • This SANA photo shows a Syrian government in Al-Sahl town, north of Yabroud, Syria, March 3, 2014.
  • A general view of damaged buildings are seen in the besieged area of Homs, March 3, 2014.
  • This picture provided by the anti-government activist group Coordination Committee In Kfar Takharim shows a Syrian man running as flames rise from buildings which were attacked by a Syrian air strike in Kfar Takharim, March 1, 2014.

Also Tuesday, the Dutch diplomat leading the international mission to dismantle Syria's chemical weapons program said nearly one-third of the country's chemical weapons stockpile has been removed or destroyed.

Sigrid Kaag, head of the joint U.N.-Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons Mission, said the pace of removing chemical agents is accelerating and an end-of-June deadline for the program's total destruction is achievable.

The OPCW cited the Syrian government as saying it had now handed over six consignments of declared toxic agents as part of a Russian-U.S. deal struck last year.

The group said it has confirmed two more shipments are headed for the northern Syrian port of Latakia where they will be transferred to a U.S. ship fitted with special equipment that will destroy hundreds of tons of toxins.

The OPCW said Syria has submitted a revised plan to remove all chemicals from its territory by the end of April.

Damascus missed deadlines in December and February to hand over chemicals, and diplomats are concerned it will also miss a final, politically significant deadline of mid-2014 to completely relinquish its chemical stockpile.

You May Like

Hong Kong Democracy Calls Spread to Macau

Macau and Hong Kong are China’s two 'special administrative regions' which gives them a measure of autonomy More

After Nearly 2 Years, Pistorius Remains Elusive

Reporter Anita Powell reflects on her experience covering the Olympic athlete's murder trial More

Kenyan Coastal Town Struggles With Deadly June Attacks

Three months after al-Shabab militants allegedly attacked their town, some Mpeketoni residents are still bitter, question who was really behind the assaults More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Obama to Ramp Up Anti-Ebola Efforts in Africai
X
Luis Ramirez
September 15, 2014 11:01 PM
President Barack Obama on Tuesday will unveil his plan to ramp up efforts against the spread of the Ebola virus in Africa. VOA White House Correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Obama to Ramp Up Anti-Ebola Efforts in Africa

President Barack Obama on Tuesday will unveil his plan to ramp up efforts against the spread of the Ebola virus in Africa. VOA White House Correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.
Video

Video Washington DC Mural Artists Help Beautify City

Like many cities, Washington has a graffiti problem. Buildings and homes, especially in low-income neighborhoods, are often targets of illegal artwork. But as we hear from VOA’s Julie Taboh, officials in the nation's capital have come up with an innovative program that uses the talents of local artists to beautify the city.
Video

Video US Muslim Leaders Condemn Islamic State

Leaders of America's Muslim community are condemning the violent extremism of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. Muslim leaders say militants are exploiting their faith in a failed effort to justify violent extremism. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Americans' Reaction Mixed on Obama Strategy for Islamic State Militants

President Barack Obama’s televised speech on how the United States plans to “degrade and destroy” the group known as the Islamic State reached a prime-time audience of millions. And it came as Americans appear more willing to embrace a bolder, tougher approach to foreign policy. VOA producer Katherine Gypson and reporter Jeff Seldin have this report from Washington.
Video

Video Authorities Allege LA Fashion Industry-Cartel Ties

U.S. officials say they have broken up crime rings that funneled tens of millions of dollars from Mexican drug cartels through fashion businesses in Los Angeles. Mike O'Sullivan reports that authorities announced nine arrests, as 1,000 law enforcement agents fanned out through the city on Wednesday.
Video

Video Bedouin Woman Runs Successful Business in Palestinian City

A Bedouin woman is breaking social taboos by running a successful vacation resort in the Palestinian town of Jericho. Bedouins are a sub-group of Arabs known for their semi-nomadic lifestyle. Zlatica Hoke says the resort in the West Bank's Jordan Valley is a model of success for women in the region.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid