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

Missouri Town Braces for Possible Racial Unrest

Situation in Ferguson hinges on whether white police officer will be indicted for August shooting death of unarmed black teen; decision could come Monday More

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of 1930s Deadly Famine

President Poroshenko compares Soviet-era ‘genocide’ to current tactics of pro-Russia rebels in Ukraine's east More

S. Philippines Convictions Elusive 5 Years After Election-related Killings

Officials vowed to deliver justice as the nation marked the anniversary of the country's worst political massacre that left 58 dead, more than half media 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.
Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Faminei
X
Daniel Schearf
November 23, 2014 4:32 PM
During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video Law Enforcement, Activists in Ferguson Agree to Keep Peace

Authorities in Ferguson, Missouri, say they have agreed with protest leaders to maintain peace when a grand jury reaches its decision on whether to indict a white police officer in the shooting death of a black teenager. Ferguson, a suburb of St. Louis, has been the scene of intermittent violence since the August 9 shooting intensified long-simmering antagonism between the police and the African-American community. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Gay Evangelicals Argue That Bible Does Not Condemn Homosexuality

More than 30 U.S. states now recognize same-sex marriages, and an increasing number of mainline American churches are blessing them. But evangelical church members- which account for around 30 percent of the U.S. adult population - believe the Bible unequivocally condemns homosexuality. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender evangelicals are coming out. Backed by a prominent evangelical scholar, they argue that the traditional reading of the bible is wrong.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid