News / Middle East

Syrian Forces Turn to Air Power as Insurgency Gains

Syrian Forces Turn to Air Power as Insurgency Gains Groundi
|| 0:00:00
X
September 06, 2012 4:32 PM
Syrian government forces are coming in for fierce international criticism as they turn increasingly to air power to counter rebel strength on the ground. And as VOA's Peter Heinlein reports both sides are using ever more brutal tactics, pushing casualty levels to new highs.
Peter Heinlein
Syrian government forces are coming in for fierce international criticism as they turn increasingly to air power to counter rebel strength on the ground. And both sides are using ever more brutal tactics, pushing casualty levels to new highs.

Nearly a quarter of a million Syrians have fled their homes in recent weeks, as government bombs and mortar shells have begun targeting heavily-populated areas.

Last week, amateur video on a social website, which could not be independently verified, purported to show the aftermath of attacks on the town of Deraa. This week, government raids struck Syria's largest city, Aleppo.

Burying the victims is challenging authorities, as estimates of the death toll top 4,000 for August, the worst month since an opposition uprising began in March of last year.

As fighting rages, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon told the General Assembly civilians are increasingly the victims, as the conflict takes what he called "a particularly brutal turn."

"Syrian government forces continue indiscriminate shelling of densely populate areas with heavy weapons, tanks and air assets," said Ban.  "Opposition groups have stepped up military activity. Civilians bear the brunt of the violence."

Many experts see the increase in civilian casualties as a sign that the government of President Bashar al-Assad is growing desperate.

The director of Arab politics at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, David Schenker, says the bombing campaign is a last-ditch attempt to undermine morale and end the revolt.

"It's a scorched earth policy," said Schenker.  "Bashar Assad, the regime, understands that it cannot negotiate its way out of the problem."

Schenker says the tactical switch to targeting civilian areas will complicate efforts to rebuild Syria's religiously-diverse society.

"This is going to be a shattered society," said Schenker.  "It's a society that had a history of religious coexistence, 74% Sunni population getting along with the Druze, the Christians, the Alawites. That's going to be really hard to put this ethnic mosaic back together.

Syria's top government spokesman maintained a hard line this week. Spokesman Oman al-Zoubi told a news conference the armed opposition is "unfit for negotiations."  He described them as "foreign agents."

Al-Zoubi rejected suggestions that the government's bombing campaign is forcing civilians to flee, and said they are welcome back anytime.

"The Syrian government did not and will never kick anyone out," said Al-Zoubi.  "The government will never accept that anyone has to live outside the country."

The head of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) visited Damascus this week to secure permission to monitor the conflict.  President Assad was reported to have told him the ICRC could operate in Syria as long as it remained neutral.

You May Like

Polls Open in Scotland Independence Vote

As race to persuade undecided voters continues, 'No' voters say they believe life in Scotland will slowly improve, 'Yes' vote not worth the risk More

South Africa’s 'Open Mosque' Admits Everyone, Including Critics

Open Mosque founder plans to welcome gay worshipers and allow women to lead prayers More

Ukrainian Activist in Despair About Future of Her Country

IrIna Dovgan, accused of being a spy and tortured by pro-Russian separatists, is appealing to UN Human Rights Council to support her country More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Wateri
X
September 17, 2014 8:44 PM
Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid