News / Middle East

    Syrian Forces Carry Out Assault on Damascus

    Free Syrian Army fighters train a gun on a Syrian war plane in the Bustan Pasha neighborhood of Syria's northern city of Aleppo, Aug. 23, 2012.
    Free Syrian Army fighters train a gun on a Syrian war plane in the Bustan Pasha neighborhood of Syria's northern city of Aleppo, Aug. 23, 2012.
    Syrian government forces intensified efforts Thursday to seize control of parts of the capital and its surrounding areas from rebel fighters.

    The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the military bombed Daraya, on the edge of Damascus, and nearby Moadamiyeh.  The London-based group also reported house-to-house raids in Daraya and fierce clashes in the Hajar al-Aswad district of Damascus.

    The Observatory said about 100 people were killed in violence across Syria Thursday, including nearly 50 civilians in Damascus and its surrounding areas.

    The death toll also included more than 20 government troops.

    Fighting also continued in the northern city of Aleppo, where some foreign fighters are reported to have joined the opposition.

    Deaths Across Syria, map dated Aug 16, 2012Deaths Across Syria, map dated Aug 16, 2012
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    Deaths Across Syria, map dated Aug 16, 2012
    Deaths Across Syria, map dated Aug 16, 2012
    Fresh fighting between pro- and anti-Assad gunmen erupted for a fourth day Thursday in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli, leaving one dead and at least two wounded. The clashes breached a truce agreed to by political leaders less than 24 hours earlier in a bid to halt fighting fueled by tensions in neighboring Syria.

    Sunni Muslims have led the revolt against Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, whose minority Alawite sect has mostly stood with him. Sunni-Alawite tensions have been growing in parts of Lebanon as well, like Tripoli, where the two groups live in neighboring districts.

    "Operational planning" meeting in Turkey

    In Ankara, Turkish and U.S. officials are holding their first "operational planning" meeting aimed at bringing about the end of Assad's embattled regime. Thursday's deliberations are expected to coordinate military, intelligence and political responses to the Syrian crisis.

    A Turkish foreign ministry official, Halit Cevik, and U.S. Ambassador Elisabeth Jones are leading the delegations made up of intelligence agents, military officials and diplomats.

    Meanwhile, the rights group Amnesty International said artillery, mortar fire and airstrikes by Syrian government forces in the northern city of Aleppo are killing mostly civilians, including children.

    In a report released Thursday, Amnesty said air and artillery strikes against residential neighborhoods are indiscriminate attacks that seriously endanger civilians.
     
    Government troops and opposition forces have been fighting in Aleppo for a month after rebels took over several neighborhoods.

    Syrian reaction to Japanese journalist's death

    Speaking in Damascus, Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Miqdad expressed sorrow for the death of Japanese journalist Mika Yamamoto, who was killed earlier this week when she was caught in a gunfight between rebel and government forces in Aleppo.

    But Miqdad was also critical of the way Yamamoto entered the country, and he said Syria's government is not to blame for her death.

    "When a certain journalist acts in an irresponsible way he/she would expect all these hard probabilities," he said.  "But the Syrian government is definitely not responsible for this, and I guess some armed gangs committed levels of crime including killing such an innocent person and then accusing the government of it."

    Yamamoto was traveling with rebels at the time she was killed.  Two Alhurra TV journalists who were with her are still missing.   

    Alhurra's parent organization (BBG) - which also oversees the Voice of America - has urged the Syrian government to ensure the safety of the two journalists, correspondent Bashar Fahmi and cameraman Cuneyt Unal.

    U.N. sounds alarm on humanitarian situation

    In New York Wednesday, United Nations political chief Jeffrey Feltman told the Security Council the U.N. views the rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation in Syria "with growing alarm." He said about 2.5 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance while the number of displaced people in Syria and the flow of refugees to neighboring countries is growing.

    Feltman also accused Iran of supplying Syria with weapons, backing charges by Western officials that Tehran is providing funds, arms and intelligence support to Assad in his bid to crush the opposition. Syrian rebels also say the Islamic Republic has sent Revolutionary Guards and Hezbollah fighters to Syria.
     
    The U.N. emergency relief coordinator, Valerie Amos, who was in Syria last week, said U.N. agencies last month provided food for more than 820,000 people across Syria. She said the humanitarian situation there has worsened since a previous visit in March.

    Meanwhile, British Prime Minister David Cameron and U.S. President Barack Obama warned Wednesday they would be forced to consider a new course of action if Syria threatens to use chemical weapons on rebel fighters.

    The two leaders agreed during a telephone call that "the use - or threat - of chemical weapons was completely unacceptable and would force them to revisit their approach so far."

    Some information for this report provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

    Photo Gallery: Latest Images from Syria

    • Free Syrian Army fighters run to take cover from fire from regime forces in the Seif El Dawla neighborhood of Aleppo, Syria, August 24, 2012.
    • Buildings that were damaged after an exchange of fire between Free Syrian Army fighters with regime forces in the Seif El Dawla neighborhood Aleppo.
    • A Free Syrian Army fighter runs to take cover from fire from regime forces in Seif El Dawla, August 24, 2012.
    • A Syrian man takes refuge at the Bab Al-Salameh border crossing in Azaz, August 23, 2012. Thousands of Syrians who have been displaced are struggling to find safe shelter while shelling and airstrikes continue.
    • A Syrian girl who fled her home with her family due to fighting in Syria sleeps by her family's belongings at the Bab Al-Salameh border crossing in Azaz, in hopes of entering one of the refugee camps in Turkey, August 23, 2012.
    • Members of the Free Syrian Army clash with Syrian army soldiers in Aleppo's Saif al-Dawla district, August 22, 2012.
    • Sunni gunmen sit on a street where clashes erupted between supporters and opponents of the Syrian regime in Tripoli, Lebanon, Aug. 22, 2012.
    • Members of the Free Syrian Army take cover inside a house during clashes with Syrian army soldiers in Aleppo's Saif al-Dawla district, August 22, 2012.
    • Children play on a swing in the center of Aleppo city, August 22, 2012.
    • A Syrian rebel fighter stands guard in Saif al-Dawla district of Aleppo city, August 22, 2012.


    Timeline of Syrian Conflict
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    Mark Snowiss

    Mark Snowiss is a Washington D.C.-based multimedia reporter.  He has written and edited for various media outlets including Pacifica and NPR affiliates in Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter @msnowiss and on Google Plus

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    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: PEACE LOVER from: VIETNAM
    August 24, 2012 1:35 AM
    Syria was a peaceful country and all sects lived in peace and harmony until the USA and its followers have instigated sectarian hatred and their deceitful freedom and democracy. Now Syrians are killing each other and the whole country has been dectructed. The wicked foreigners are trying to intervine to exploit the chaostic situation. Lets see what are going on in Iraq, Lybia, Afganistan...Only destruction, hatred, every day killings. Can you see the so-called "Democracy" there?
    In Response

    by: Plain Mirror from: Ivory Coast
    August 24, 2012 8:22 AM
    The mirror is simply plain in this comment. The US democracy bears an opposite manifestation to the definition now clearly as "Demonic craziness". The US is destablising the world especially arab nations. Oh what a wicked world of hypocrisy being lead by the US! When would the US stop all these acts of wickedness? However, it is no surprise as the satan is currently ruling the world. Whoever that rules the world is no exception, and also bears the name. We await the time of God's rule to come. God bless the rightous, Amen!

    by: Anonymous
    August 23, 2012 11:48 PM
    It seems like the FSA needs to create an group, to topple Assad or this may take a while and lots of bloodshed. Instead of Assad taking the fight to the streets of Civillians. They take the fight to Assads doorstep. How many Syrian troops would it take to Arrest Assad?

    by: Matt from: Arkansas
    August 23, 2012 7:46 PM
    Damascus is one of the oldest cities in the world. I pray history is not being destroyed regardless of political ideology
    In Response

    by: Bene
    August 24, 2012 3:19 AM
    Actually, It supposidly has the distinction of being THE oldest continuously inhabited city in the world! It would be ironic if the end of the world would spark there.

    by: Tom from: Canada
    August 23, 2012 3:53 PM
    Party up in Syria. Drink some beer and snort some cocaine and shoot off RPGs. Wooooooot?

    by: Rick from: Tulsa, OK
    August 23, 2012 11:46 AM
    We all know who is pushing this, Saudi Arabia, the United States. If the USA was truly interested in democracy, then why does it militarily support the despotic governments in Yemen and in Bahrain. Both nations have open rebellions.

    Syria has had a long history of religious and ethnic tolerance. This is why it has a large Christian and Shia community as well as its Sunni majority. Now the Sunni extremists want the whole country, and they're already killing Christians and even doing forced conversions of foreign journalists they've captured.

    To have Obama and Clinton supporting such terror groups in Syria such as Al Qaeda, Ansar Al Sunnah, Libyan Islamic Brigades, Soldiers for Jihad in The Two Rivers and so on, is very disappointing to this democrat. I expected better, but it seems Obama is yet another president who does what he's told by the wealthy, who want control of Syria's pipelines and want all those reconstruction contracts that Russia and Iran will lose.
    In Response

    by: American Traveler from: NYC
    August 23, 2012 7:14 PM
    I totally agree...US Gov is supporting the same gang criminal terrorists who killed us on sept 11 unless was someone else who did it ..
    In Response

    by: NS from: US
    August 23, 2012 6:37 PM
    thanks Rick from OK for showing the reality to those who are ignorant of whats going on.
    In Response

    by: Anonymous
    August 23, 2012 3:57 PM
    AHMED is 100% correct. There are people from the Syrian army posting propaganda on this site, and many others, especially youtube. I comment on youtube videos and the comments get deleted only to favour the persons agenda posting propaganda videos. Assad will fall.
    In Response

    by: Andy from: USA
    August 23, 2012 12:36 PM
    Rick – Your theories are so far out in left field they are not even close to reality, to what is really going on. Where did you conjuror up these brazier thoughts?
    In Response

    by: Anonymous
    August 23, 2012 12:15 PM
    Wrong, the west values human rights, Assad started this war by killing protesters, which has spiraled. Every day we are seeing atrocities inflicted by the Assad thugs. The west and other caring countries cannot just sit back and sip tea while this is going on. Let the people of Syria decide their own fate by voting. Assad is a tyrant and so was his father, they both added together have killed tens of thousands of people on their own soil, of their own kind, indiscriminately. It isn't fair to the Syrian people. God bless the people of Syria, and to hell with Assad. I hope he ends up with a taste of his own medicine, so the people of Syria can live in peace forever.
    In Response

    by: AHMED from: UAS
    August 23, 2012 12:13 PM
    HIGHLY DOUT YOU ARE A NEUTRAL HERE. SOUNDS LIKE SOMEONE IS PAYING you TO POST FOR THE INTEREST OF THE SYRIAN KILLING MACHINE. i see comments like this in a lot of places shame on you

    by: Bryan from: USA
    August 23, 2012 10:53 AM
    John McCain knows what to do .. he and a few others are the only ones who cared enough to be there with the Syrian people .. go to his Senate website and listen to his interview with CNN .. "no boots on ground" .. drones .. safe zones .. weapons against tanks and aircraft .. Obama knows it but he is a afraid to do the right thing ..
    In Response

    by: in Response to anonymous
    August 23, 2012 4:30 PM
    Mr. Anonymous why the west can not see the human rights violations and and killings of the palestinians at the hands of IDF thugs? Why are they silent while millions are in a virtual jail who are only using tunnels to keep themselves alive? What a hypocracy you present here while crying for Syrians.
    In Response

    by: T from: usa
    August 23, 2012 2:27 PM
    Look at tunisia,Libya,Egypt,Barain.Iraq,Afghan,Pakistan our enemy becomes our freind,I dont think so.Look what replaced these Goverments, Our enemy. America is and has made deals with Devil.The people of the Middle East,Once they hate you,They will always hate you for the rest of the planets existence.Were damned if we or dont .S F A freind or foe . America stepped right in . Russias putin says stay out of it ,I think he is right. We didnt stop Judgement day we only postponed it, Judgement day is enevidable...
    In Response

    by: Anonymous
    August 23, 2012 12:17 PM
    Will is right, it is unfortunate that the Russians and Chinese are defending a terrorist leader killing his own people. The only reason they are defending it is because someday the same revolution will be on their own soil due to lack of free speach, and proper legal voting. The world should stop doing business with Russia and China... Boycott!
    In Response

    by: Will from: USA
    August 23, 2012 11:37 AM
    Obama is taking the right course of action. The US involment could send the world into WW3. Russia said there not going to stand by and let the US enter the county and China is backing them. With those countrys in the picture North korea and Iran who already have a beef with the US will use that opportunity to join the fight. You cant just run in with guns blazing, its very sad that people are dieing and in need of help but acting without discussions with these other countrys could have disastrous consequences.

    by: Nikos Retsos from: Chicago, USA
    August 23, 2012 9:20 AM
    Of course the Syrian humanitarian crisis intensifies, because the Syrian rebels advances are intensified. There were reports on Al Jazeera that Muslims fighters from Muslim countries are pouring into Syria to help overthrow Assad. Other reports have a German Navy Intelligence Gathering ship anchored outside Syria's territorial waters, and it is monitoring Syrian government communications and passing pertinent information to the Syrian rebels. Plus, foreign help from the U.S., Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Europe is increasing, as do the arms supplies to the rebels.

    There is an adage in the war parlance: "If the government is not winning a war, it is losing it!" Assad is on the chopping block, and the rebel's cleavers are getting sharper and
    more effective. The end is near for Assad, but the humanitarian crisis in Syria will get worse after Assad's downfall as Syrian rebels will start fighting among themselves for control of the new government! History has established that in many instances "the rebels of today become the tyrants of tomorrow!" Nikos Retsos, retired professor
    In Response

    by: Plain Mirror from: Ivory coast
    August 24, 2012 8:37 AM
    May you live long and may your comments continue to be plain. The truth is the only thing that is plain. Destroy it, burn it, burry it, truth must always remain plain! Oh, I weep for Syria. The enermy has come into Syria to still, kill and to destroy... Oh, oh, oh! Obama and the forgotten Sarkozy, why? why? I repeat WHY?
    In Response

    by: Derek from: Nova Scotia, Canada
    August 23, 2012 12:44 PM
    As an unbiased, non- American, I disagree with the prior comment that Obama is "a coward" because of US un-involvement in Syria. I find this comment without basis, especially in the theory that un-involvement has opened the doors for radicalism in Syria. We've seen what happened in Afghanistan when the US supplied billions in weapons, intelligence and training to the Mujahadin. Since then, that country has been a hotbed for radicalism.
    That being said, there is no easy sollution for Syria. Kudos to Obama for not acting outside of the UN as past presidents have done (Iraq...ahem!). While I sympathize with all those caught in the crossfire, we still have lots to learn about the sectarian rifts and complexity of the situation over there. The sollution is best left to their Islamic counterparts. They may have a better sollution, as opposed to Western countries being left to fail in finding a sollution to Mideast crisis'.
    In Response

    by: John Woodrow from: Toronto, Canada
    August 23, 2012 11:56 AM
    Did it ever occur to you that your view of the events in Syria is totally skewed by the western media and you are getting only one side of the story? You look at the map and see the size, population, economy, history, etc. of those countries you just mentioned Russia, China, etc.

    The events in Syria are totally orchestrated by the West and Saudi Arabia. Classic geopolitical games where ordinary people die in the process.
    In Response

    by: Carlos .. from: California
    August 23, 2012 10:48 AM
    I have been to Aleppo .. President Obama is a coward who should have been helping the Syrian people 462 days ago when the dictators in Damascus started shooting demonstrators .. it is his abandonment of them that has given an opening if any to the radicals .. but the vast majority of Syrians are not radicals .. check out who voted against UN General Assembly resolution to help them twelve votes "No" .. Russia, China, Syria, Iran, Belarus, Bolivia, Cuba, Myanmar, Nicaragua, North Korea, Venezuela and Zimbabwe.

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