News / Middle East

Activists: Syrian Rebels Control Strategic Northern Town

Free Syrian Army fighters with opposition flags ride a truck, which they say was captured from the Syrian army loyal to President Bashar al-Assad, in Saraqeb near Idlib, October 15, 2012.
Free Syrian Army fighters with opposition flags ride a truck, which they say was captured from the Syrian army loyal to President Bashar al-Assad, in Saraqeb near Idlib, October 15, 2012.
Edward Yeranian
Syrian activists said rebel forces have taken control of a strategic northern town that is crucial link for the government's military campaign inside Syria's largest city, Aleppo. The rebel victory in the town of Saraqeb will make it extremely difficult for government forces to bring in reinforcements and armor to defend their positions inside Aleppo.

The capture of Saraqeb by rebel forces is a major blow to the government. Both the rebels and the government have been fighting over the two main highways leading to Aleppo for days.

Rami Abd al-Rahman of the opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the rebels have now put a strangle-hold on the government's ability to resupply its positions in Aleppo.

He said that Saraqeb sits on the crossroads from Damascus and Latakiya (along the coast) into Aleppo and that rebel control will choke government supply lines leading to Syria's largest commercial hub. He added that the government must use long and dangerous detours to re-supply Aleppo.

Al-Rahman also said at least 28 soldiers were killed in the attacks on government checkpoints in the area Thursday, battles that led to the rebel control of Saraqeb.

Shortly after the attacks, a video began circulating Thursday on the video-sharing website YouTube that appears to show Syrian rebels killing soldiers execution-style. The killings allegedly occurred after soldiers' surrendered.

The video could not be independently authenticated, but is causing an international outcry among human rights groups.

The United Nations human rights body said the video is likely evidence of a war crime. Rights groups including Amnesty International have condemned the alleged attack.  

There was no immediate response from the Syrian government or from state-controlled media.

Al-Rahman said the soldiers were captured at a checkpoint along the Latakiya-Aleppo highway.

Former United Nations peacekeeping spokesman Timor Goksel, who teaches at the American University of Beirut, said summary executions are not unusual in the Middle East. But, if true, this one appears especially brazen.

"In Lebanon, during the civil war, we saw so many massacres like this," he said. "But, nobody went out and said 'hey look what we did.' These guys seem to be so proud of what they did. So, you are dealing with some very dangerous group of people who are capable of doing anything."

Several rebel leaders have accused an al-Qaida affiliated group, which calls itself the "Nusrat Front," of responsibility for the alleged execution. But Goksel said fighters in civil conflicts can be unrestrained.

"It doesn't have to be al-Qaida people. It could be any of these guys who have guns in their hands and feel that they can rule the world," Goksel said. "I mean this is a civil war mentality we have seen all too often. It doesn't matter what is their religious or political affiliation."

The French news agency reported that main opposition Syrian National Council on Friday urged rebels be held accountable for what the video shows.

Earlier, in an interview with Radio Sawa, council head Abdulbaset Sieda criticized the proposed establishment of an enlarged opposition umbrella group proposed by U.S. Secretary of State Clinton.

Sieda called the proposal "an example of foreign meddling," adding that his group remains the "voice of the [Syrian] revolution."

You May Like

Turkey: No Ransom Paid for Release of Hostages Held by IS Militants

President Erdogan hails release of hostages as diplomatic success but declines to be drawn on whether their release freed Ankara's hand to take more active stance against insurgents More

Audio Sierra Leone Ends Ebola Lockdown

Health ministry says it has reached 75 percent of its target of visiting 1.5 million homes to locate infected, educate population about virus More

US Pivot to Asia Demands Delicate Balancing Act

As the tumult in the Middle East distracts Obama, shifting American focus eastward appears threatened More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Towni
X
Deborah Block
September 21, 2014 2:12 PM
A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Town

A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Difficult Tactical Battle Ahead Against IS Militants in Syria

The U.S. president has ordered the military to intensify its fight against the Islamic State, including in Syria. But how does the military conduct air strikes in a country that is not a U.S. ally? VOA correspondent Carla Babb reports from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Alibaba Shares Soar in First Day of Trading

China's biggest online retailer hit the market Friday -- with its share price soaring on the New York Stock Exchange. The shares were priced at $68, but trading stalled at the opening, as sellers held onto their shares, waiting for buyers to bid up the price. More on the world's biggest initial public offering from VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York.
Video

Video Obama Goes to UN With Islamic State, Ebola on Agenda

President Obama goes to the United Nations General Assembly to rally nations to support a coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He also will look for nations to back his plan to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. As VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports, Obama’s efforts reflect new moves by the U.S. administration to take a leading role in addressing world crises.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
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.


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