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.

You May Like

Video Positive Messaging Helps Revamp Ethiopia's Image

In country once connected with war, poverty, famine, headlines now focus on fast-growing economy, diplomatic reputation More

Russian Activist Thinks Kremlin Ordered Nemtsov's Death

Alexei Navalny says comments of Russian liberals who think government wasn't involved are 'nonsense.' More

Video Land Disputes Rise Amid Uganda Oil Boom

Investors appear to be cashing in by selling parcels of land to multiple buyers More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments page of 2
 Previous    
by: Carlos from: US
July 16, 2012 5:18 AM
I have been to Syria and never bet a better people .. The cowardice of President Obama is disgusting and disgraceful .. March 28, 2011, President Obama said .. "when people were being brutalized in Bosnia in the 1990s, it took the international community more than a year to intervene with air power to protect civilians." www.whitehouse.gov/photos-and-video/video/2011/03/28/president-obama-s-speech-libya

“To brush aside America’s responsibility as a leader and — more profoundly — our responsibilities to our fellow human beings under such circumstances would have been a betrayal of who we are,” (Except in an election year?) “Some nations may be able to turn a blind eye to atrocities in other countries. The United States of America is different,” (Except in an election year?) 2011: “And as president, I refused to wait for the images of slaughter and mass graves before taking action.” 2012: Coward
In Response

by: Plain Mirror from: Abidjan
July 16, 2012 10:41 AM
Before you go further Carlos in promoting America and giving them infauliblity be careful for this status belongs to God only. A petition has just gone to the International Criminal Court demanding that U.S and its inclusive world power conspirators face war crime charges ranging from the one committed here in Ivory coast, then Libya etc. The crime committed in Ivory coast by France and UN helicopters last year in the pretest of protecting civilians is devilish. Can Obama and his men tell the world the truth of how many innocent civilians that were killed in Ivory coast by France and UN. I am an eye witness. With all these and more, I wonder where you are coming from.
In Response

by: Debra Lynn Carter from: USA
July 16, 2012 9:34 AM
hey "Carlos" you have been to Syria and have never "bet" a better people...???? yeah, we believe you without a doubt... no Islamic Arab would ever think of being a false witness... you malevolent Muslim
In Response

by: awbrynes from: US
July 16, 2012 8:57 AM
It is not Americas job to get militarily involved in every conflict that goes on. Such an attitude is reminiscent of our foreign policy during the cold war. We have to accept that we are not the only nation that matters and getting involved unilaterally is just stepping on the toes of the international community. If we do get involved we need to get involved like we did in Libya, as one part of a multinational effort.
In Response

by: Charles from: US
July 16, 2012 8:50 AM
Perhaps you've missed the many, many times we've tried to get the international community to come together on the issue. We would have already executed a plan to protect the civilians if Russia and China weren't blocking the action. Also, I find it appropriate that you swing to the "we aren't doing enough" side of the issue, and right after you Joseph is blaming the US for supporting the opposition. Unilateral military intervention doesn't sit well in the world and even though that may be the thing that should be done, we still have a diplomatic issue with the other nations of the world. NATO and the US are not unchecked throughout the world to the point they can just do as they please and walk over the rest of the nations, although it may seem like they do at times. China and Russia fear the world intervening in their own issues where they have breakaway factions that want to overthrow their governments or break from their countries. They will not give in on that without some serious changes in the situation. They care little for the civilians or even Assad himself, but they will not do anything that will set a precedence to act against their own behavior. I can understand the frustration of inaction, but we don't work in a vaccuum.
     

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Imagei
X
Marthe van der Wolf
March 03, 2015 9:03 PM
Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Cyber War Rages Between Iran, US

A newly published report indicates Iran and the United States have increased their cyber attacks on each other, even as their top diplomats are working toward an agreement to guarantee Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon and to free Iran from international sanctions. The development is part of a growing global trend. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.
Video

Video Land Disputes Arise Amid Uganda Oil Boom

Ugandan police say there has been a sharp increase in land disputes, with 10 new cases being reported each day. The claims come amid an oil boom as investors appear to be cashing in by selling parcels of land to multiple buyers. Meanwhile, the people who have been living on the land for decades are chased away, sometimes with a heavy hand. VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
Video

Video In Russia, Many Doubt Opposition Leader's Killer Will Be Found

The funeral has been held in Moscow for Boris Nemtsov, the opposition leader who was assassinated late Friday just meters from the Kremlin. Nemtsov joins a growing list of outspoken critics of Russia under the leadership of President Vladimir Putin who are believed to have been murdered for their work. VOA’s Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Simulated Astronauts Get Taste of Mars, in Hawaii

For generations, people have dreamed of traveling to Mars to explore Earth's closest planetary neighbor. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports that while space agencies like NASA are planning manned missions to the planet, some volunteers in Hawaii are learning how humans will cope with months in isolation on a Mars base.
Video

Video Destruction of Iraq Artifacts Shocks Archaeologists

The city of Mosul was once one of the most culturally rich and religiously diverse cities in Iraq. That tradition is under attack by members of the Islamic State who have made Mosul their capital city. The Mosul Museum is the latest target of the group’s campaign of terror and destruction, and is of grave concern to archaeologists around the world. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Smartphones May Help in Diagnosing HIV

Diagnosing infections such as HIV requires expensive clinical tests, making the procedure too costly for many poor patients or those living in remote areas. But a new technology called lab-on-a-chip may make the tests more accessible to many. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials have expressed concern over reports of a crackdown on Afghan refugees in Pakistan following the Peshawar school attack in December. Reports of mass arrests and police harassment coupled with fear of an uncertain future are making life difficult for a population that fled its homeland to escape war. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports from Islamabad.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Prepare to Defend Mariupol

Despite the ongoing ceasefire in Ukraine, soldiers in the city of Mariupol fear that pro-Russian separatists may be getting ready to attack. The separatists must take or encircle the city if they wish to gain land access to Crimea, which was annexed by Russia early last year. But Ukrainian forces, many of them volunteers, say they are determined to defend it. Patrick Wells reports from Mariupol.
Video

Video Moscow Restaurants Suffer in Bad Economy, Look for Opportunity

As low oil prices and Western sanctions force Russia's economy into recession, thousands of Moscow restaurants are expected to close their doors. Restaurant owners face rents tied to foreign currency, while rising food prices mean Russians are spending less when they dine out. One entrepreneur in Moscow has started a dinner kit delivery service for those who want to cook at home to save money but not skimp on quality. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Presidential Hopefuls Battle for Conservative Hearts and Minds

One after another, presumptive Republican presidential contenders auditioned for conservative support this week at the Conservative Political Action Conference held outside Washington. The rhetoric was tough as a large field of potential candidates tried to woo conservative support with red-meat attacks on President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress. VOA Political Columnist Jim Malone takes a look.
Video

Video Southern US Cities Preserve Civil Rights Heritage to Boost Tourism

There has been a surge of interest in the American civil rights movement of the 1950s and '60s, thanks in part to the Hollywood motion picture "Selma." Five decades later, communities in the South are embracing the dark chapters of their past with hopes of luring tourism dollars. VOA's Chris Simkins reports.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.

All About America

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