AMMAN: The 80,000 besieged residents of Waer say they fear that the regime is moving towards a military solution to forcibly remove them after two days of intense airstrikes across Homs city’s last remaining rebel district, civilians and opposition officials told Syria Direct on Monday.
“Assad’s regime aims to drive all residents from Waer as it did in Old Homs, al-Qazhal and Um al-Qasb in the west Homs countryside, and Darayya in Outer Damascus,” said Mohammed, a citizen journalist in Waer, referring to other areas that were emptied of their populations, most recently Darayya.
The airstrikes—the first air attacks on the district in more than a year—damaged a women and children’s clinic, a pharmacy, two educational centers and the only operating hospital in the Homs city suburb.
The strikes were followed by local, opposition-media reports on Monday that a ceasefire agreement was reached. At the time of publication, Syria Direct could not confirm that a Waer ceasefire was in place.
One of the members of the opposition’s negotiating committee told Syria Direct earlier in the day on Monday that the regime has made it clear that all armed rebels must leave Waer.
“The regime delegation told us, verbatim: Armed rebels and everyone associated with them must leave,” said Abu Waleed, referring to a meeting on August 24 with regime officials to come to a truce. The regime delegation, Abu Waleed said, refused to negotiate. Syrian state media has not commented on Waer in recent days.
Pharmacy destroyed in Sunday’s airstrike. Photo courtesy of Mohannad Alkhalidiya.
The opposition Homs Provincial Council denounced what it called the regime’s “siege policy” in a statement on August 28 to the UN special envoy to Syria, Steffan de Mistura.
“It is very clear that the regime is implementing their ‘siege policy’ which aims to use basic human needs as leverage to force civilians to evacuate their homes and pressure freedom fighters to leave their land.”
‘One syringe on more than 25 people’
One of the weekend airstrikes hit the al-Waleed public hospital, already under strain from a shortage of medical staff, supplies and fuel since the regime tightened its siege in March. On Monday, doctors struggled to treat critically injured patients from the strikes who arrived with vascular and bone injuries along with severed limbs, one of the hospital’s doctor’s told Syria Direct.
Local news sources circulated photos of severely burned children on Sunday, claiming that they were struck by incendiary weapons.
Lacking an alternative, doctors treated patients with severe burns and disfigured skin with mud. Medical personnel reused syringes and sterilization materials for multiple patients.
“We used one syringe on more than 25 people,” said Abu Majd al-Homsi, a doctor at Waleed hospital.
Syria Direct was not able to verify the use of incendiary weapons during this week’s attack, although earlier this month Human Rights Watch documented 18 incendiary weapons attack on opposition-held areas in Aleppo and Idlib governorates.