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

Photogallery Pistorius Sentenced, Taken to Prison

Pistorius, convicted of culpable homicide in shooting death of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, will likely serve about 10 months of five-year sentence, before completing it under house arrest More

UN to Aid Central Africa in Polio Vaccinations

Synchronized vaccinations will be conducted after Cameroon reports a fifth case of the wild polio virus in its territory More

WHO: Ebola Vaccine May Be in Use by Jan.

WHO assistant director Dr. Marie Paule Kieny says clinical trials of Ebola vaccines are underway or planned in Europe, US and Africa 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.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid