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

Nigeria Incumbent in Tight Spot as Poll Nears

Muhammadu Buhari is running a strong challenge to Goodluck Jonathan, amid a faltering economy and Boko Haram security worries More

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo tells VOA that despite her fame, life is still a struggle as she waits for government's promise of support to arrive More

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

At least seven different indigenous groups in Ratanakiri depend mainly on forest products for their survival, say they face loss of their land, traditional way of life More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

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