News / Middle East

Syrian Rebels Threaten to Target Shi'ite Villages in Aleppo

FILE -  Free Syrian Army fighter, Bashar al Hajji, points towards the besieged Shi'ite village of Zahra in Aleppo, Oct. 17, 2012.
FILE - Free Syrian Army fighter, Bashar al Hajji, points towards the besieged Shi'ite village of Zahra in Aleppo, Oct. 17, 2012.
Reuters
Syrian rebels in the northern province of Aleppo on Monday threatened to seize two Shi'ite Muslim villages that back President Bashar al-Assad unless they surrendered to the opposition.
 
Activists say both Nubl and Zahra villages had been reinforced by Assad's allies in the increasingly sectarian war, among them fighters from Iran and Lebanon's powerful Shi'ite guerrilla group, Hezbollah.
 
“We announce our intention to liberate Nubl and Zahra from the regime and its shabbiha (pro-Assad militia), and from the Hezbollah and Iranian elements,” the rebels said in an Internet video.
 
The 27-month-old conflict, which pits mostly Sunni insurgents against Assad, from an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam, has already killed more than 100,000 people and driven 1.7 million Syrians to seek refuge in neighboring countries.
 
Assad's forces, spearheaded by Hezbollah, have made a number of gains since they seized the border town of Qusair last month. There have also been heavy clashes in Aleppo and surrounding districts, fuelling expectations that Assad aims to re-establish control of Syria's largest city.
 
On Sunday rebels shot down a helicopter close to Nubl, which activists said had been carrying supplies to the villages. Authorities in Damascus said they were taking Education Ministry employees to supervise school exams. Seven employees and the helicopter crew were killed, they said.
 
A video released by activists a few weeks earlier showed an army officer apparently recruiting Shi'ite villagers in Zahra and Nubl to form fighting units to support the army against the rebels.
 
“Prevent a Single Drop of Blood”

“In order to prevent a single drop of blood from being spilled and to find a peaceful solution, we have set the following conditions,” the video statement by the rebels said.
 
Among the demands were the surrender of Assad's forces and their weapons, followed by a power sharing deal between the locals and the rebels.
 
“If there is no response [to rebel demands for surrender] there will be a major military operation on those two villages,” the statement said.
 
The sectarian nature of the conflict has set regional Sunni Muslim powers - notably Gulf Arab states and Turkey - against Assad's Shi'ite Iranian and Hezbollah allies in a deepening proxy war on Syrian soil.
 
Deputy U.S. Secretary of State William Burns, speaking at the end of a visit to neighboring Lebanon, condemned Hezbollah's military intervention in Syria.
 
“Despite its membership in the Lebanese government, Hezbollah has decided to put its own interests and those of its foreign backers above those of the Lebanese people,” Burns said. “We condemn in the strongest terms Hezbollah's actions in Syria. They ... stand in direct violation of Lebanon's disassociation policy [from Syria] and place the future of Lebanon at risk.”
 
Hezbollah's role in Syria, along with Sunni Islamist fighters smuggled over the border to fight for the Syrian rebels, has exacerbated sectarian tensions in Lebanon which is still scarred by its own 1975-1990 civil war.
 
Fighting has broken out in the Mediterranean cities of Tripoli and Sidon, while rockets have been fired at a Hezbollah district of southern Beirut and in the Bekaa Valley.
 
Saudi Arabia, which has accelerated armed support for the rebels according to Gulf sources, urged the European Union on Monday to arm Syrian rebels without delay.
 
Riyadh and its partners in the Gulf Cooperation Council also called on the United Nations Security Council to meet to prevent a massacre in the central city of Homs, where Assad's forces have been waging an assault on rebel-held districts.
 
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported heavy army bombardment and clashes with rebel fighters for a third day in the contested city, which sits on an axis connecting Damascus to the heartland of Assad's minority Alawite sect in the hills overlooking the Mediterranean.
 
It said neither side appeared to be gaining any ground.

You May Like

Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Seen as a potential driver of recovery, Cairo’s plan to expand waterway had been raising hopes to give country much needed economic boost More

Ebola Maternity Ward in Sierra Leone First of its Kind

Country already had one of world's highest maternal mortality rates before Ebola arrived, virus has added even more complications to health care More

Malaysia Flight 370 Disappearance Ruled Accident

Aircraft disappeared on March 8, 2014; with ruling, families of 239 passengers and crew can now seek compensation from airline More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Groundbreaking Hand-Painted Documentary About Van Gogh in Productioni
X
George Putic
January 29, 2015 9:43 PM
The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Groundbreaking Hand-Painted Documentary About Van Gogh in Production

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Super Bowl Ads Compete for Eyes on TV, Web

Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 1) is about more than just the NFL's American football championship and big parties to watch the game. Viewers also tune in for the world famous commercials that send Facebook and Twitter abuzz. Daniela Schrier reports on the social media rewards for America’s priciest advertising.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Freedom on Decline Worldwide, Report Says

The state of global freedom declined for the ninth consecutive year in 2014, according to global watchdog Freedom House's annual report released Wednesday. VOA's William Gallo has more.
Video

Video MRI Seems to Help Diagnose Prostate Cancer, Preliminary Study Shows

Just as with mammography used to detect breast cancer, there's a lot of controversy about tests used to diagnose prostate cancer. Fortunately, a new study shows doctors may now have a more reliable way to diagnose prostate cancer for high risk patients. More from VOA's Carol Pearson.
Video

Video Smartphones About to Make Leap, Carry Basic Senses

Long-distance communication contains mostly sounds and pictures - for now. But scientists in Britain say they are close to creating additions for our smartphones that will make it possible to send taste, smell and even a basic touch. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.
Video

Video Crowded Republican Presidential Field Off to Early Start for 2016

It seems early, but the 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign is already heating up. Though no one has officially announced a candidacy, several potential Republican contenders have been busy speaking to conservative groups about making a White House run next year. Many of the possible contenders are critical of the Obama administration’s foreign policy record. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid