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
TEXT SIZE - +

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

Analysts Warn of Regional Proxy Conflict in Afghanistan

Analysts warn if Kabul’s neighbors do not start to cooperate, competing desires for influence could deteriorate into a bloody proxy war in the country More

Saudi Intelligence Chief Replaced

Bandar bin Sultan came under criticism for supporting al Qaida, prompting King Abdallah to wrest Syria operations away from him in February, handing them to Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef More

Poetry Magazine editor Don Share talks what makes a good poem with VOA's David Byrd

What makes a good poem? And is poetry as viable an art form as it once was? To find out, VOA's David Byrd spoke to Don Share, the editor of Poetry Magazine. 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.
Google Buys Drone Companyi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
George Putic
April 15, 2014
In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ray Bonneville Sings the Blues and More on New CD

Singer/songwriter Ray Bonneville has released a new CD called “Easy Gone” with music that reflects his musical and personal journey from French-speaking Canada to his current home in Austin,Texas. The eclectic artist’s fan base extends from Texas to various parts of North America and Europe. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin.
Video

Video Millions Labor in Pakistan's Informal Economy

The World Bank says that in Pakistan, roughly 70 percent work in the so-called informal sector, a part of the economy that is unregulated and untaxed. VOA's Sharon Behn reports from Islamabad on how the informal sector impact's the Pakistani economy.
Video

Video Passover Celebrates Liberation from Bondage

Jewish people around the world are celebrating Passover, a commemoration of their liberation from slavery in Egypt more than 3,300 years ago. According to scripture, God helped the Jews, led by Moses, escape bondage in Egypt and cross the Red Sea into the desert. Zlatica Hoke reports that the story of the Jewish Exodus resonates with other people trying to escape slave-like conditions.
Video

Video Police Pursue Hate Crime Charges Against Kansas Shooting Suspect

Prosecutors are sifting through the evidence in the wake of Sunday’s shootings in a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri that left three people dead. A suspect in the shootings taken into custody is a white supremacist. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, he was well-known to law enforcement agencies and human rights groups alike.
Video

Video In Eastern Ukraine, Pro-unity Activists Emerge from Shadows

Amid the pro-Russian uprisings in eastern Ukraine, there is a large body of activists who support Ukrainian unity and reject Russian intervention. Their activities have remained largely underground, but they are preparing to take on their pro-Moscow opponents, as Henry Ridgwell reports from the eastern city of Donetsk.
Video

Video Basket Maker’s Skills Have World Reach

A prestigious craft show in the U.S. capital offers one-of-a-kind creations by more than 120 artists working in a variety of media. As VOA’s Julie Taboh reports from Washington, one artist lucky enough to be selected says sharing her skills with women overseas is just as significant.
Video

Video UN Report Urges Speedier Action to Avoid Climate Disaster

A new United Nations report says the world must switch from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources to control the effects of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the report (Sunday) following a meeting of scientists and government representatives in Berlin. The comprehensive review follows two recent IPCC reports that detail the certainty of climate change, its impacts and in this most recent report what to do about it. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble has the details.
AppleAndroid