News / Middle East

27 Dead After Syrian Government Forces, Defectors Clash

Men retrieve a body, in a rubbish-strewn street in Homs, Syria  December 15, 2011.
Men retrieve a body, in a rubbish-strewn street in Homs, Syria December 15, 2011.

Reports from Syria say military defectors killed at least 27 soldiers Thursday in intensifying bouts of armed resistance against embattled President Bashar al-Assad.  At least a half dozen anti-government protesters also were killed across the country on the fifth day of an opposition-led general strike.

An escalating insurgency pitting growing bands of Syrian Army defectors against their former comrades has left several Assad loyalists dead.  The heaviest fighting took place outside the southern city of Dara'a, where an anti-government rebellion first began in March.

Similar clashes were reported both Tuesday and Wednesday in the northern border province of Idlib, as well as the besieged central city of Homs, and in towns surrounding Dara'a.  A group calling itself the “Free Syrian Army” has been spearheading the growing number of clashes.

Syrian opposition sources put the number of defectors at anywhere from 5,000 to 20,000 soldiers, out of a military force of 400,000 men.  Middle east analyst Peter Harling of the International Crisis Group said there are small but growing numbers of defectors:

"You have a steady flow of low-level defections," said Harling. "The numbers are gradually picking up.  Now, you don't see units defecting, and that would make far more of a difference on the ground.  So, you have this trickle of defectors feeding into what now is a nascent insurgency across the country.  Armed groups are being formed on a local basis, most often out of civilians.”

Meanwhile, an 88-page report by Human Rights Watch describes “direct and standing orders” by Syrian military and secret police commanders to “use lethal force” against protesters during the uprising.

The report, which includes the testimony of soldiers and officers who defected from Syria's security forces, said that violence was “directly ordered, authorized, or condoned at the highest levels” of the regime.  Nadim Houry of HRW in Beirut details those orders:

“Contrary to what President Bashar al-Assad has stated in his recent interview with Barbara Walters [of ABC News in the United States], there were orders to shoot at unarmed protesters and there were orders to detain arbitrarily many of the protesters, and there were orders to torture," said Houry. "It's no accident.  It's not the act of a few rogue officers that more than 5000 people have been killed and tens of thousands have been detained.”

Houry said witnesses told Human Rights Watch that commanders handed out live ammunition to soldiers and ordered them to disperse protests “by any means possible.” He added that defectors described instances where intelligence officers shot “soldiers who refused to open fire or who fired in the air.”

Analyst Harling said, however, that growing ranks of defectors are now often inflicting casualties on government forces that “exceed the number of victims among protesters.”  He added that the “dynamics on the ground appear to be shifting in favor of the insurgency.”

Harling insists that he sees “ominous trends” pointing to “regionalization of the Syrian conflict.”  Despite those trends, though, he argues there is “no strong, tangible evidence that a regional proxy war has started yet.”  Syrian forces, meanwhile, continue to target defectors whom they see as a growing threat.

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

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

Secret Service Chief Under Fire for White House Security Breach

Julia Pierson faces tough questions from lawmakers after recent intrusion at White House, says: 'It is clear that our security plan was not executed properly' More

Frustrated, Liberian Students Want Ebola Fight Role

Thousands have volunteered to go to counties, rural villages to talk to people in their language about deadly virus 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.
Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihadi
X
Mahi Ramakrishnan
September 30, 2014 2:16 PM
Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid