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Al-Waer: Homs’s last rebel holdout

THINGS FALL APART: Children play in front of a destroyed […]

12 May 2014


THINGS FALL APART: Children play in front of a destroyed building in al-Waer, the last remaining rebel-held district in Homs as regime forces and rebels fought Monday on the outskirts of the densely packed neighborhood.

“There is concentrated, violent mortar and tank shelling on al-Waer, coinciding with clashes with rebels on the Jazeerat a-Sabaa front,” pro-opposition activist Hassan Abu a-Zain told Syria Direct on Tuesday.

“Government forces attempted to seize the area, resulting in two martyrs [killed] and a number of wounded,” Abu a-Zein said.

“Very little food enters the neighborhoods, and what does is not enough for the families living there,” Bebars al-Telawi, an activist in Waer, told Syria Direct Tuesday. “Food prices are very expensive compared to their prices outside.”

Al-Waer, just three square kilometers, is now home to home to hundreds of thousands of displaced Syrians, with estimates suggesting 200,000 have taken refuge in the neighborhood. If those estimates are correct, al-Waer’s population density is 250 percent that of Manhattan’s.

The area has witnessed daily shelling since last Thursday, May 8th, when rebels in the 13 neighborhoods of Old Homs completed their surrender after nearly 700 days of government siege, agreeing to free dozens of rebel-held prisoners in exchange for safe passage to the rebel-held northern Homs province village of Dar al-Kabira.

Government troops encircled neighboring al-Waer, located two kilometers west of Old Homs, on October 10, 2013. Along with al-Waer, rebels retain control of a swath of northern Homs province.

As the evacuation of Old Homs took place last week, the government and rebels in al-Waer agreed on a truce that allowed the entry of some humanitarian aid into the neighborhood. But the negotiations quickly fell apart, said activist Abu a-Zain.

“Once the combatants from Old Homs left, and the rebels surrendered the regime prisoners, the regime blew the truce and shelled al-Waer,” a-Zain said.

Last week, Homs province’s governor, Talal al-Barazi, expressed hope that the truce in Old Homs could be a model for further settlements between the government and rebel groups, including al-Waer.

“Attention is now being given to al-Waer in order to find an appropriate solution as quickly as possible and to create the correct conditions for [al-Waer’s] return to the arms of the nation,” he said, as quoted by official government news agency SANA.

Photo courtesy of Lens Young Homsi.

-May 12, 2014

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