Waer truce deal goes into effect with limited access to the outside world

AMMAN: Women, children and men over the age of 40 are now allowed to leave the last rebel-controlled district in Homs city in order to visit relatives or receive medical aid, as regime authorities and opposition negotiators implement the first phase of a truce deal brokered last week.

An estimated 4,500 of Waer’s 60,000 civilians have already registered to leave on “72-hour authorized visits,” Abu Jaafer al-Homsi, a citizen journalist in Waer, told Syria Direct Thursday.

Those who leave “can bring back what they can carry, which is usually not very much because they have walk three kilometers on foot through the orchards that surround Waer,” al-Homsi said.

Earlier this week, a UN-dispatched aid convoy delivered humanitarian aid to Waer, pro-regime Syria News reported on Tuesday, but did not add how much.

“A few trucks of food carrying, potatoes, onions, tomatoes and yogurt—but no meat—were allowed to enter the district,” al-Homsi said.

 Copy of ‘sign-in sheet’ filled out by Waer residents leaving the district to visit family or receive medical care. Photo courtesy of Abu Jaafer al-Homsi.

The truce is the second to be implemented in Waer. [Syria Direct obtained a copy of the regime’s most recent proposal for a ceasefire; the full translated text is here]. A previous truce framework, brokered last December, fell apart over number of detainees to be released from regime prisons.

Opposition negotiators demanded the release of more than 7,000 prisoners while the regime offered a list of 137 names, an opposition negotiator told Syria Direct in March.

The second phase of the current deal, slated to begin after the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, stipulates that 300 rebel fighters leave Waer in exchange for the release of 140–200 detainees held in government prisons.

Two residents who spoke with Syria Direct on Thursday about the truce said they had “very little confidence” that the regime would abide by the agreement, but had been compelled to agree by months of siege and shelling.

“We have very little confidence in the regime,” Abu Walid, a Waer resident. “This wouldn’t be the first time they rescinded a truce agreement.”

“The residents [of Waer] were driven to accept these truce terms by the regime’s military escalation,” Abu Jaafer, one of the residents, told Syria Direct.

Throughout August, intense regime shelling killed 21 people and destroyed one of Waer’s two remaining hospitals, All4Syria reported.

But the regime’s bombing of Waer last weekend stopped when opposition representatives agreed to return to the negotiating table and provisionally agreed to a regime proposal, that went into effect on Monday.

Noura Hourani

Noura Hourani studied English Literature at Tishreen University and previously worked as a private English tutor. She left Syria at the beginning of the conflict.

Orion Wilcox

Orion Wilcox was a 2014-2015 CASA fellow in Amman, Jordan where he interned with the UNRWA Jordan Field Office. He received his BA in Economics and Arabic language from the University of Mississippi. Following the CASA program, Orion worked as a freelance translator and interpreter in Amman.