December 16, 2014
A regime delegation led by Major General Mohammed Deeb Zeitun met a council of rebels in Homs’s embattled Al-Waer neighborhood earlier this month to discuss a truce proposal.
Al-Waer, the last rebel-held district in Homs city, has witnessed many previous attempts at reconciliation, all of which have failed.
In a recent example, a budding truce was aborted on October 1 after twin car bombings struck a school in Akrama, an Alawite-majority neighborhood in Homs.
The latest truce negotiations, spearheaded by Zeitun on the regime’s side, seem headed for a similar fate.
On Tuesday, regime warplanes and helicopters struck Al-Waer more than 15 times, leading to 12 dead and many more wounded, with “civilian body parts everywhere,” reported pro-opposition Al-Waer News Network.
Some residents, however, are holding out hope for a settlement, believing that war fatigue and the regime’s fear of the Islamic State could push both sides to come to the negotiating table.
“The neighborhoods are looking forward to any initiative to end their suffering,” Muatasem, a former FSA fighter and current Red Crescent volunteer in Al-Waer who requested his full name not be disclosed, told Syria Direct’s Mohammed Shamdin.
Even the pro-regime Shiite militias in the neighboring town of al-Mazra, who have been staunchly opposed to any political solution, “agreed to sign an agreement,” fearing the Islamic State’s growing presence.
“The regime is passing through a hysterical phase because of IS…[it] is trying to reduce tension in those areas that is fears IS might reach.
Q: There have been a number of truce initiatives by opposition and regime forces in Waer—what makes this initiative different from the previous ones?
The regime is passing through a hysterical phase because of the Islamic State’s progress in Syria. IS has become one of the largest powers in the Syrian conflict, and as a result the regime is trying to reduce tension in those areas that it fears IS might reach.
What makes this particular initiative different is that Shiite militias located in the Shiite village of al-Mazra, located south of Al-Waer, agreed to sign an agreement. Previously, these groups had striven to abort any truce or agreement, but today they are subject to the facts on the ground, and fear IS presence.
A bombed out building in Waer Tuesday. Photo courtesy of Homs Media Center.
Q: What was the neighborhood’s response to this initiative, especially considering that all previous initiatives failed?
Roughly 500,000 civilians live in Al-Waer. The neighborhood has been encircled for more than a year, and it lacks the most basic necessities like baby formula, medicines and food supplies. People are looking forward to any initiative slated to end their suffering, because right now people are in a state of fear out of what events might lead to.
Q: What are the points agreed upon between Mohammed Deib Zeitun and the regime’s delegation?
Previous agreements contained a number of items, the most important:
- Opening the Misyaf and al-Mazra road crossing to people and goods.
- Hiding military sites in the neighborhood, and the al-Bir hospital and the national hospital, and the formation of a committee from both sides to follow the situation of the kidnapped.
- Remove heavy weapons from the village of al-Mazra and the ninth island, and allowing civilians and original residents to return gradually to Al-Waer.
- Granting special amnesty to those wanted [by the regime], and the dismissal of army deserters located in the neighborhood.
As for this particular initiative, the regime agreed to a number of items including:
- Allowing rebel brigades in the neighborhood to keep their weapons.
- Re-opening the al-Majisteek electricity generation and distribution station, the only in the neighborhood.
- Re-opening government offices, and raising the regime flag above these offices.
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