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

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. More

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

Dropout rate at an all-time high in South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during 3-year civil war More

Tennessee Songbirds Fly Coop Long Before Tornadoes Arrive

Researchers say birds apparently alerted to danger by sounds at frequencies below range of human hearing 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.
US: Response to Sony Hack Will Be Proportionali
X
Aru Pande
December 19, 2014 1:45 AM
The White House says President Barack Obama considers the cyberattack on Sony Corp. a serious national security matter and that the U.S. will counter with an "appropriate response." VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video US: Response to Sony Hack Will Be Proportional

The White House says President Barack Obama considers the cyberattack on Sony Corp. a serious national security matter and that the U.S. will counter with an "appropriate response." VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
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.

All About America

AppleAndroid