News / Middle East

Syrian Government Forces Gain Ground in Rastan Assault

Syrian Government Forces Gain Ground in Rastan Assault
Syrian Government Forces Gain Ground in Rastan Assault

Witnesses say that Syrian government forces, backed by tanks, have gained ground inside the rebel town of Rastan. The military operation against hundreds of defectors, backed by residents of the town, began five days ago, amid heavy artillery bombardment.

The battle by Syrian government forces to retake Rastan - near the country's third largest city of Homs - entered its fifth day Saturday with intermittent reports that rebel military units defending the town had lost ground, amid a fierce ground assault, backed by intense shelling.

Communications to the besieged town remain cut off, but several residents told al-Jazeera TV by satellite phone that conditions inside the town were becoming desperate, with food and medicine running short.

The battle to retake Rastan has taken on symbolic importance for the government, anxious to contain the mutiny by rebel soldiers calling themselves the “Free Syrian Army.”  Experts say close to 10,000 soldiers have defected, out of an army of 400,000.

Khattar Abou Diab, who teaches political science at the University of Paris, explains the strategic importance of the battle for Rastan.

He says that Rastan is the home town of Syria's former Defense Minister Mustapha Tlass and his son, who were once staunch supporters of the government. He adds that while Rastan is a small town of 45,000 people, and home to hundreds of (Sunni-muslim) army officers - as opposed to President Assad's Alawite sect. He argues that the government wants to crush the rebellion in Rastan, before it spreads to other parts of the country.

Elsewhere, anti-government protesters skirmished with security forces in several suburbs of the capital Damascus, Saturday, amid reports of several deaths in the Qadam neighborhood.

Opposition sources also claim that government security forces attacked the flashpoint town of Sanamein, near Diraa, and that army tanks entered Talbisa, near Homs, amid heavy shelling. Firefights were also reported between security forces and defectors near the northern city of Hama.

The former general prosecutor of Hama, Adnan Bakkour, who resigned in August to protest the brutal government crackdown, urged the West to come to the rescue of the Syrian people:

He says that the Syrian opposition is urging the embassies of the Western world to support the opposition for their own interests, the interests of the region and Syrian interests.

Veteran Syrian opposition leader Haitham Maleh told al-Arabiya TV that over 5,000 protesters have been killed since the popular uprising began in March, more than 100,000 have been arrested, and 20,000 have fled to Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon.

Maleh also said that opposition leaders were meeting in Istanbul Saturday to choose what he called a “shadow government” in exile. Al-Arabiya TV reported that a 24-member executive committee would be chosen from both inside and outside the country.

Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter
and discuss them on our Facebook page.

You May Like

Sunni-Shi’ite Divide Threatens Stability of Middle East

Ancient dispute that traces back to the Islamic Revolution fueling modern day unrest More

Shifting Demographics Lie Beneath Racial Tensions in Ferguson

As Missouri suburb morphed from majority white to majority black, observer say power structure remained static More

Video Artists Shun Russia's Profanity Law

Restriction is toughest since Soviet era, though critics reject move as patronizing and ineffective act of censorship in line with a string of conservative morality laws 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.
Native Bees May Help Save Cropsi
X
Deborah Block
August 22, 2014 12:23 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video Native Bees May Help Save Crops

U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video US Defense Officials Plan for Long-Term Strategy to Contain Islamic State

U.S. defense officials say American air strikes in Iraq have helped deter Islamic State militants for the time being, but that a broad international effort is needed to defeat the extremists permanently. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned Thursday that the group formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, is better organized, and financially and militarily stronger than any other known terrorist group. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Drug-Resistant Malaria Spreads in Southeast Asia

On Thailand’s border with Myanmar, also known as Burma, a malaria research and treatment clinic is stepping up efforts to eliminate a drug-resistant form of the parasite - before it spreads abroad. Steve Sandford reports from Mae Sot, Thailand.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid