News / Middle East

Syrian Activists Say 23 Soldiers Killed in Fighting

Image made from amateur video purports to show a Syrian rebel helping an injured man in Rastan, Homs, Syria.
Image made from amateur video purports to show a Syrian rebel helping an injured man in Rastan, Homs, Syria.
Edward Yeranian
CAIRO - Syrian activists say rebels killed 23 soldiers in battles near the flashpoint city of Homs - one of the deadliest days for Syrian forces in a 14-month, anti-government uprising.

Rebel soldiers fought sporadic battles against troops loyal to President Bashar al-Assad in the past 24 hours, claiming heavy casualties on government troops. Opposition videos showed rebel fighters behind earth berms, defending their positions with automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades.

Ibrahim Ayoub, a rebel officer in Rastan, told al Arabiya television that rebel forces had fought off an attempt by government troops to storm the town. He urged members of a joint U.N.-Arab League observer force to visit the town to witness what he says are violations of a shaky cease-fire.

One U.N. observer told residents in northern Idlib province he was doing his best to help end the violence.  Nearly 200 observers are in Syria.

Timor Goksel, a former spokesman for the U.N. observer mission in Lebanon, says he thinks the U.N. presence in Syria should help.

"We should not expect these guys to solve the problem or to blame (them) if it doesn't. I think they are doing a quite credible job within their very limited ways and I think they will get even better the more they get on the ground, the more they get used to the place,” Goksel said.

Goksel does not believe, however, that the observer mission will solve the root cause of the violence in Syria. “The only real solution,” he says, “is the resumption of a dialogue between the government and the opposition.”

Analyst Nadim Shehadi of Chatham House in London believes that such a dialogue is no longer useful and will only profit the government:

“The principle of having dialogue with the regime is wrong, because if you have dialogue, the regime will gain time and will continue suppressing the opposition and do more damage. The SNC has tried dialogue with the regime and part of the problem that the SNC is going through now is caused by former dialogue with the regime,” Shehadi said.

Shehadi says divisions within the exiled opposition Syrian National Council were made worse when its leader, Burhan Ghalyoun, accepted a dialogue with internal opposition figure Haitham Manah, which according to Shehadi, "set a trap for him, leaking a draft agreement, and sowing discord.”

Meanwhile, Ghalyoun told reporters in Rome that his opposition council has agreed to restructure to be more viable in opposing the government:

He says the performance of the council has been poor, but that restructuring will improve its work in defending the revolution and the poor citizens of Syria.  

He adds that the SNC is still not using weapons but that some states have offered to supply them, if it decides to do so.

Meanwhile, Syria's conflict continues to spill into neighboring Lebanon. Sporadic clashes continued into Monday in the Lebanese city of Tripoli following violence on Sunday.  Lebanese supporters of the Syrian opposition clashed with their pro-Syrian Alawite neighbors.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.


Join the conversation on our social journalism site - Middle East Voices. Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter and discuss them on our Facebook page.

You May Like

Multimedia Brussels Schools, Metro Reopen Under Heavy Guard

City remains under the highest threat alert level due to what authorities have described as a 'serious and imminent' threat of attack

Video Debt-ridden Refugees Await Onslaught of Lebanese Winter

Aid agencies are attempting to reduce potentially devastating consequences of freezing conditions and snowstorms that killed eight last year, including three Syrian refugees

Americans Think About Strange Stuff at Thanksgiving

Millions of Americans are celebrating Thanksgiving, but they’re not necessarily thinking about turkey and stuffing

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against ISi
November 24, 2015 3:04 AM
The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs