News / Middle East

Syrian Army Launches Air Assault on Homs

Buildings damaged by what activists said was shelling by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Al-Khalidiya neighbourhood, Homs June 28, 2013.
Buildings damaged by what activists said was shelling by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Al-Khalidiya neighbourhood, Homs June 28, 2013.
Reuters
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces launched a major offensive on Saturday against rebels in Homs, a center of the two-year-old uprising, in their latest drive to secure an axis connecting Damascus to the Mediterranean.
 
Activists said jets and mortars had pounded rebel-held areas of the city that have been under siege by Assad's troops for a year, and soldiers fought battles with rebel fighters in several districts.
 
"Government forces are trying to storm [Homs] from all fronts," said an activist using the name Abu Mohammad.
 
There were no immediate details of casualties but video footage uploaded by activists showed heavy explosions and white clouds of smoke rising from what they said were rebel districts. Loud, concentrated rounds of gunfire could also be heard.
 
One clip showed thick black smoke rising from a mosque identified as the 13th-century Khalid ibn al-Walid mosque, on the edge of the Khalidiyah neighborhood.
 
Syrian state media said the army was "achieving great progress" in Khalidiyah but the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an anti-Assad monitoring group, said there were reports that rebels had destroyed an army tank as troops tried to penetrate the Old City in the center of Homs.
 
The attack on Homs follows steady military gains by Assad's forces, backed by Lebanese Hezbollah militants, in villages in Homs province and towns close to the Lebanese border.
 
Three weeks ago Hezbollah spearheaded Assad's recapture of the border town of Qusair, a former rebel bridgehead for smuggling in guns and fighters. Last week the rebels lost another border town, Tel Kalakh.
 
Those gains have consolidated Assad's control over a corridor of territory that runs from the capital Damascus through Homs to the traditional heartland of his minority Alawite sect in the mountains overlooking the Mediterranean.
 
They have also alarmed international supporters of the rebels, leading the United States to announce that it will step up military support. Saudi Arabia has accelerated deliveries of sophisticated weaponry, Gulf sources say.
 
Deraa victory
The interventions by Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabia, a staunch backer of the mainly Sunni rebels, and Shi'ite Hezbollah highlight how the 27-month-old uprising has divided the Middle East along sectarian lines.
 
Gulf Arab States, Turkey and Egypt all support the rebels while Shi'ite Iran and Hezbollah are actively helping Assad whose Alawite community — an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam — has dominated Syria for more than four decades.
 
Sunni Islamist fighters from countries across the Middle East have also flocked to Syria, fighting for the rebels in a war that has killed more than 100,000 people, driven 1.7 million refugees abroad and displaced another 4 million within Syria's borders.

 
Hopes of holding a U.S. and Russian-backed peace conference have faded, with rebels reluctant to negotiate while they are on the defensive militarily and tensions between Moscow and Washington exacerbating their deep differences over Syria.
 
The violence has spilled over frontiers and stirred sectarian violence in neighboring Iraq and Lebanon. Two people were killed in Lebanon's northern city of Tripoli on Saturday, one in an explosion and another in sniper fire between the Alawite district of Jebel Mohsen and adjacent Sunni areas.
 
Despite losing ground around Damascus and Homs, rebels registered a symbolic victory on Friday when they overran a major military checkpoint in Deraa, the southern city where the uprising first erupted.
 
Rami Abdulrahman, head of the Syrian Observatory, said the fall of the army post was strategically significant and could change the balance of power in Deraa, where rebels control most of the old city.
 
The province of Deraa, on the border with Jordan, has been a conduit for arms supplies to the rebels.

You May Like

For Lebanon-based Refugees, Desperation Fuels Perilous Passage

In a war that has caused an estimated three million people to flee Syria, efforts to make perilous sea journey in search of asylum expected to increase More

South African Brewer Tackles Climate Change

Mega-brewer SAB Miller sent delegates to climate summit in Peru, says it is one of many private companies taking their own steps to fight climate change More

Indonesia Reports Increase in Citizens Joining Islamic State

Officials say more than 350 of its citizens are now in Syria or Iraq to fight with Islamic State - 50 more than last month More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?i
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
December 17, 2014 11:54 AM
The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?

The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video Turkey's Authoritarianism Dismays Western Allies

The Turkish government has been defiant in the face of criticism at home and abroad for its raids targeting opposition media. The European Union on Monday expressed dismay after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at Brussels for criticizing his government's action. Turkey's bid to be considered for EU membership has been on hold while critics accuse the NATO ally of increasingly authoritarian rule. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video US-China Year in Review: Hong Kong to Climate Change

The United States is pushing for a code of conduct to resolve territorial disputes in the South China Sea as it works to improve commercial ties with Beijing. VOA State Department correspondent Scott Stearns reports on a year of U.S. policy toward China from Hong Kong to climate change.
Video

Video Japanese Leader’s Election Win Raises Potential for Conflict with Neighbors

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his allies easily won a two-thirds majority in parliament Sunday, even though the country has slipped into recession under his conservative policies. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Seoul, that the prime minister’s victory will empower him to continue economic reforms but also pursue a nationalist agenda that will likely increase tensions with Japan’s neighbors.
Video

Video Nuba Mountain Families Hide in Caves to Escape Aerial Bombings

Despite ongoing peace talks between Sudan's government and the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North, or SPLM-N, daily aerial attacks continue in South Kordofan province’s Nuba Mountains. Adam Bailes was there and reports for VOA that government forces are targeting civilian areas, rather than military positions, with their daily bombardments.

All About America

AppleAndroid