News / Middle East

Syrian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Defects; UN Pulls Staff

Syrians cross the border from Ras al-Ain to the Turkish border town of Ceylanpinar after an air strike by Syrian government forces, December 3, 2012.
Syrians cross the border from Ras al-Ain to the Turkish border town of Ceylanpinar after an air strike by Syrian government forces, December 3, 2012.
VOA News
Syria's foreign ministry spokesman reportedly has resigned from President Bashar al-Assad's government, while the United Nations says it is pulling its "non-essential international staff" from the country due to the worsening security situation.

Diplomatic and opposition sources say Jihad Makdissi quit and left Syria. As spokesman, he staunchly defended Assad's crackdown on the 20-month anti-government uprising. But news agency reports say Makdissi, a member of Syria's Christian minority, had been criticized recently by others in the government for some of his media appearances.

In a separate development, U.N. humanitarian officials said a quarter of the 100 foreign staff working for their agencies in Syria could leave this week and the United Nations is restricting remaining aid workers to the capital.

  • Damaged buildings along a street in the al-Khalidiya neighborhood of Homs, December 5, 2012.
  • Syrians walk past damaged homes during heavy fighting between Free Syrian Army fighters and government forces in Aleppo, Syria, December 4, 2012.
  • Free Syrian Army fighters with weapons stand guard at the frontline against forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the Al-khalidiya neighborhood of Homs, December 4, 2012.
  • Buildings in Aleppo, Syria, December 4, 2012.
  • Syrians cross the border from the town of Ras al-Ain to the Turkish border town of Ceylanpinar, December 4, 2012.
  • Buildings damaged after a Syrian Air Force fighter jet fired missiles at Houla, near Homs, December 3, 2012.
  • Free Syrian Army fighters are seen at Houla, near Homs, December 3, 2012.
  • Residents flee their homes after shelling by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in Houla, near Homs, December 3, 2012.
  • This citizen journalism image provided by Lens Young Homsi, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, shows anti-Syrian regime mourners carrying victims of shelling in Homs, Syria, December 3, 2012.
  • Residents walk past buildings damaged in heavy fighting between Free Syrian Army fighters and government forces in Aleppo, Syria, December 2, 2012.

Two U.N. convoys en route to the Damascus airport were hit by gunfire last week, and officials said more armored vehicles were needed after similar attacks in recent weeks and the hijacking of goods or vehicles.

Earlier Monday, Syria said it would not use chemical weapons against its own people, after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned the issue remains a "red line" that would prompt direct American intervention.

Speaking to reporters in Prague, Clinton said the United States was "certainly planning to take action" if "credible evidence" surfaced that Syria had used chemical weapons against its own people.

US Urges UN Action Against SyriaUS Urges UN Action Against Syria
x
US Urges UN Action Against Syria
US Urges UN Action Against Syria
The diplomatic sparring came as Syrian government forces bombed rebel positions in the border town of Ras al-Ain, killing at least 12 people and prompting Turkey to scramble fighter jets along the border.  

Meanwhile, the leaders of Russia and Turkey downplayed differences over the Syrian civil war, saying they shared the common goal of trying to end the humanitarian crisis there.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said he understands Turkish concerns about border security, but warned Turkey's request for NATO to deploy Patriot interceptor missiles on the border with Syria could escalate fears of a wider conflict.

Turkey and its Western and Arab allies are calling for the ouster of Assad, who counts Russia as one of his remaining allies.

You May Like

Video China Investigates Powerful Former Security Chief

Analysts say move by President Xi is an effort to win more party support, take step toward economic reforms, removing those who would stand in way of change More

South Africa Land Reforms Still Contentious 20 Years Later

Activists argue that the pace of land reform is slow and biased; legal experts question how some proposed reforms would be implemented More

In Vietnam, Religious Freedoms Violated, UN Finds

Beliefs reportedly prompt heavy surveillance, intimidation and travel restrictions More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelteri
X
Scott Bobb
July 30, 2014 8:16 PM
Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelter

Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Rapid Spread of Ebola in West Africa Prompts Global Alert

Across West Africa, health officials are struggling to keep up with what the World Health Organization describes as the worst ebola outbreak on record. The virus has killed hundreds of people this year. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are watching the developments closely as they weigh what actions, if any, are needed to help contain the disease.
Video

Video Michelle Obama: Young Africans Need to Embrace Women's Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama urged some of Africa's best and brightest to advocate for women's rights in their home countries. As VOA's Pam Dockins explains, Obama spoke to some 500 participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative, a six-week U.S.-based training and development program.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.
Video

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos. Elizabeth Lee reports for VOA from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video A Summer Camp for All the World

VIDEO: During workshops and social gatherings, the Global Youth Village summer camp encourages young people to cooperate and embrace their differences, while learning to communicate with people from other countries. VOA's Deborah Block has more.
Video

Video From Cantankerous Warlock to Incorruptible Priest, 'Harry Potter' Actor Embraces Diverse Roles

He’s perhaps best known as Mad Eye Moody, the whimsical wizard in the Harry Potter franchise. But character actor Brendan Gleeson's resume includes dozens of films, and he embraces all the characters he inhabits with equal passion. In an interview with VOA’s Penelope Poulou, Gleeson discussed his new drama "Calvary" and his secret to success.

AppleAndroid