News / Middle East

Syrian Fighting Reaches Capital

This image made from amateur video released by the Ugarit News, July 15, 2012, purports to show Free Syrian Army soldiers clashing with government forces in Damascus. (AP cannot independently verify the content, date, location or authenticity of this mate
This image made from amateur video released by the Ugarit News, July 15, 2012, purports to show Free Syrian Army soldiers clashing with government forces in Damascus. (AP cannot independently verify the content, date, location or authenticity of this mate
VOA News
Syria moved armored vehicles into the capital Damascus as opposition fighters battled Syrian government forces in what residents described as the fiercest fighting yet inside the capital.

One Syrian rebel fighter told the French News Agency the fighting is the "turning point" in the 17-month uprising against President Bashar al-Assad.

Activists said Monday the fighting had spread to several neighborhoods and into the center of the city.

Residents are fleeing neighborhoods under attack and government armored vehicles line the roads leading into and out of southern Damascus.

The spread of fighting came as U.N. peace mediator Kofi Annan was going to Moscow to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has resisted Western calls to increase pressure on Assad.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Monday accused the West of using 'blackmail" to pressure Moscow into backing a stronger U.N. resolution against Syria.  Lavrov said that tying the threat of sanctions to a measure that would extend the U.N. observer mission in Syria is a "dangerous approach."

He also rejected suggestions that Russia is protecting the Syrian president.

"Of course you've heard the mantra many times that Moscow holds the key to the Syrian solution," Lavrov said. "When we ask them what they mean by that, they tell us, 'you should convince Assad to resign on his own will.'  But this is unrealistic, I've already said that."

"It is not a question of our allegiances, sympathies or dislikes," he said. "He will simply not go. Not because we defend him, but simply because he has a very, very substantial part of the population behind him.''

The U.N. Security Council is considering tough new sanctions on Syria, as a deadline looms for renewing its observer mission in the country. But Russia has threatened to once again veto any sanctions, saying it wants only to extend the observer mandate for three months.

"It is unacceptable to use monitors as a bargaining chip," Lavrov said.

UN fears crisis

Meanwhile, a top United Nations official warned Monday that many more Syrians will die if donors do not contribute added funds for humanitarian aid to Syria.
 
“We need more money," said John Ging, operations director for the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. "If we do not get more money, people will die and there will be more humanitarian suffering."  
 
Ging said the Syrian government is generally honoring an agreement it signed with the United Nations six weeks ago to expand humanitarian aid.
 
He said aid agencies delivered food to 500,000 people last month. Ging said he expects aid to reach 850,000 people this month. But he said the gap between the needs and the means is widening.
 
The United Nations has appealed for $180 million for its humanitarian operations inside Syria. In addition, it is asking for $193 million to assist a growing number of refugees in neighboring countries. Each of these appeals is only 20 percent funded.  
 
Humanitarian efforts are further hampered, Ging said, by the Syrian government's refusal to grant visas to international staff from nations its sees as hostile. He said the Syrian government will not issue visas to U.N. staff who are citizens of the United States, Canada, United Kingdom and France.

Civil war

The International Committee of the Red Cross says there is now a "non-international armed conflict" - or civil war - across more parts of Syria, widening its earlier designation.

  • This image made from amateur video released by the Ugarit News shows a Free Syrian Army solider firing his weapon during clashes with Syrian government troops in Aleppo, Syria, July 24, 2012.
  • Free Syrian Army soldiers at the border town of Azaz, 32 kilometers north of Aleppo, Syria, July 24, 2012.
  • This image from amateur video released by the Ugarit News shows a Free Syrian Army solider driving a Syrian military tank in Aleppo, Syria, July 24, 2012.
  • This citizen journalism image provided by Shaam News Network purports to show a helicopter gunship flying a bombing run in al-Qalmoun, Syria, July 24, 2012.
  • This image provided by Shaam News Network shows smoke rising from Juret al-Shayah in Homs, Syria, July 23, 2012.
  • This citizen journalism image provided by Shaam News Network purports to show damage from heavy shelling of the al-Qadam district of Damascus, Syria, July 23, 2012.
  • A member of the Free Syrian Army points his weapon through a hole in a wall as he takes up a defense position in a house in Qusseer neighborhood in Homs, Syria, July 16, 2012.
  • A woman holds a child in front of their destroyed home in Tremseh, Syria about 15 kilometers northwest of Hama, July 14, 2012.
  • Free Syrian Army soldiers aim their weapons in Idlib, northern Syria, July 13, 2012.
  • This image made from amateur video from Hama Revolution 2011 purports to show a funeral for victims killed in Tremseh, Syria, July 13, 2012. (AP/ Hama Revolution 2011)
  • This image made from amateur video from Hama Revolution 2011purports to show families gathered around bodies of victims killed in Tremseh, Syria, July 13, 2012.
  • Members of the Free Syrian Army walk through Qusseer neighborhood in Homs, Syria, July 15, 2012.
The group had previously said such conflict existed between government forces and opposition groups in the flashpoint areas of Homs, Hama and Idlib. But ICRC spokesman Hicham Hassan said Sunday that hostilities have spread to other parts of Syria.

Hassan told VOA last month that a civil war designation is based on the intensity of the conflict and the organization of the armed groups and that it aims to give potential victims "the best protection possible."

He said international humanitarian law applies to any area where there is fighting between government forces and the opposition. That law spells out protections for civilians, saying they "shall not be the object of attack." Violations could lead to war crimes prosecutions.  

Assad said last month his country was in a "state of war."

But the head of the opposition Syrian National Council, Abdul-Basset Sayda, told VOA's Kurdish service that anti-government groups are working to avoid a civil war and would like to see an internationally-backed peace plan work.  

But those efforts so far, Dayda said, have been ineffective.

Lisa Schlein in Geneva and Jessica Golloher in Moscow contributed to this report.  Some information was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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by: Jerusalem Center from: Israel
July 17, 2012 8:34 AM
The Free Syrian Army has shifted to an offensive in Damascus and Aleppo, intending to induce an attitudinal change in the Syrian army and cause the quick collapse of the regime. In a video uploaded to YouTube on Monday, Free Syrian Army commander Riad al-Asaad ordered rebel forces in southern
Syria and the rural part of Damascus to wage the final battle against Assad's forces in the capital. Rebel forces in the northern and eastern parts of the country were told to go to Aleppo, the economic capital of Syria. http://jcpa.org/moment-of-truth-approaching-in-damascus/

by: muslim with chin up not.. from: Ageria
July 17, 2012 5:34 AM
even I am not used of laughing, all your coments especially christian and brad's one have made me laugh... you are saying usa shouldn't interfere with the arabic wars, good comment! but should'nt also interfere and leave the arab countries calm and transquil alone with their policies??? hahah why are you staying in our countries stealing our wealth of oil.....? shouldn't also stop interfering in this issues? answer me ! havn't you realized yet that the only cause of the arabe wars ever is the usa and uk and israel?? can you read about the account edited by the american his self person scandaling the europeen countries to be the sole cause of terrosim? you idiot go see the documentary scandaling the 11 september explosion and how the usa could sacrify a huge number of it's citizens for the long perpective of iraq palestine ... and the rest arab countries

by: Mario from: UK
July 16, 2012 4:44 PM
Basically, it's not just the US that's coward, but the whole world is. Afraid of Russia and China, simple as that. This is end of political and cold ward with Russia being the winner.

by: Anonymous
July 16, 2012 2:40 PM
Lavrov Says: "It is not a question of our allegiances, sympathies or dislikes," he said. "He will simply not go. Not because we defend him, but simply because he has a very, very substantial part of the population behind him.''

So Mr Lavrov why not show us the current numbers of those who back Assad? Where do you get your numbers from? Certainly not the Syrian population. Lets call you on the numbers shall we?

by: Brad from: USA
July 16, 2012 12:19 PM
Being a Christian American, and having many Muslim pals over the years - I fail to see why America should always be the first country to be involved in stopping war crimes, and halting civil war in other countries. These military activities are not usually successful in preventing civilians from being killed as is promoted by the press. Usually there is a sustained period of resentment much like a parent spanking one child for punching his smaller brother. The truth is the brother wants to do this act of revenge himself. This is not in our best interest to fight other peoples war, nor to become known as the worlds policeman. I believe that the world must locally let those either make peace or fight fiercely the small scale wars which it must do. All men seem to have this need to band together and fight. God or the act of saying God wants this or that , gives them nothing but the smell of blood and the creed to kill the flesh of the enemy, who usually are unjust brothers - rarely foreign men. Brothers - make peace and live and let live. To fight over power and politics and wealth is the root of this Satan in all our lives.
In Response

by: MGR
July 17, 2012 12:16 AM
To Christian:

If you actually want to sound like a Christian fundamentalist, don't refer to the person trolling as "sir." The "sir" is unnecessary and makes you sound like a college student new to trolling.

In Response

by: Christian from: USA
July 16, 2012 2:36 PM
I have never call a Muslim a "brother" of mine... and I am sir am a true Christian... not an Arab imposter hiding behind false names and bearing sinister intention... it is a war... and in the coming war you have to take a side. Either you are with the Judeo/Christian God or you are with the Satanic Islam... take your choice and stand by your decision pall...

by: Anonymous
July 16, 2012 10:50 AM
Assad leave power? LOL? No way, he has to be killed. He has inflicted atrocities on his own people, he has his army to protect him. If he gave up power nobody would be able to fully protect him, and he would be killed. He can't even leave his own country now in fear of being killed, he can't stay in his own country without being killed either. It's just a matter of time and the FSA will likely have guns pointed at his forehead.

by: Anonymous
July 16, 2012 10:43 AM
I will be the happiest when Assad is captured by FSA. It's not a matter of if, it is a matter of when... I hope Assad gets the best treatment, which would be the way he treated his people :). You don't know what is coming Assad, and it will most definately wipe the smile off your face :).

by: billy from: arlington, tx
July 16, 2012 10:34 AM
Let them fight it out....
In Response

by: rgw1946 from: usa
July 16, 2012 2:20 PM
pull out>>every where<<..NO aid no nothing..except >we will sell arms..to either side..may the force be with you..have a nice day..
In Response

by: Plain Mirror from: Abidjan
July 16, 2012 11:29 AM
Let them fight it out! That is the only language. No supply of weapons to the rebels, no waging of war by Assad. Infact, Assad cannot afford to see his able soldiers and citizens being urinated upon by the U.S soldiers nor have them burnt at 2a.m as was the case in Afghanistan. America should practice what they preach and do not put itself above prosecution or else divine wrath would befall it. Syria rebels drop guns and Assad would drop guns, then negotiation, good to better and finally best with end product "democracy".

by: Michael from: USA
July 16, 2012 9:22 AM
Syrian government forces must be a living hell to fight, so we outsiders ask how these men and women prevent themselves from projecting invulnerability on these government troops? Courage? No, we are witnessing, ladies and gentlemen, the fact on this planet earth today in Syria the demonstration of strict modal principles! Truth is alive in 2012

by: Joseph Zrnchik from: Highland, IN
July 16, 2012 7:10 AM
This is not a civil war. This is a war being waged by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Turkey, the rest of Nato and the U.S. against Syria. The "lightly armed activists" have been destroying Syrian tanks. If one Googles "Faked Syrian Atrocities" there are dozens of videos of imported jihadi fighters being filmed faking footage of atrocities. Then there are the actual slaughters by imported al Qaeda fighters the U.S. was supposed to be fighting for the last ten years. Russia should begin striking terrorist support camps inside Turkey. Turkey is violating international law by providing terrorists with logisitcal bases. The U.S. is saying it wants peace and deanding that Assad stop fighting while at the same time arming jihadi imported Sunni fighters.
In Response

by: Plain Mirror from: Abidjan
July 16, 2012 11:36 AM
Joseph, truth is known and said only by few people with excellent spirit like you. Keep it up! U.S would be very bold to tell us that as Assad was ruling Syria and training his soldiers, bying weapons, opposition was also running its old state, training its soldiers and bying iys weapons. Lol!!!
In Response

by: Nikos from: Greece
July 16, 2012 9:27 AM
excellent analysis "Joseph"... The foul turkies are the source of evil betrayal and treachery... they are hiding behind the "protection" of NATO while committing atrocities against the Armenians, Azeris, Kurds and Syrian refugees... it is Islamic degeneracy on full display...
In Response

by: Insider from: North Indiana
July 16, 2012 8:53 AM
If you go back 16 months and look at the start of the conflict you may change your opinion on this. Also, can you find a single statement from the government admitting ANY mishandeling of this conflict at any point !? Russia clearly does not want to loose this tiny and only foothold in the middle-east. This Seems like Afganistan all over again. They had army on the ground and still lost eventually.
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