June 10, 2014
On June 3rd, rebels stormed the Homs village of Um Sharhsouh, 10 kilometers north of the city of Homs and two kilometers west of the M5 highway, seizing the village’s high point, Um Sharshouh Castle, from pro-Assad militias.
Since then, the rebels, led Jabhat a-Nusra, the Islamic Front’s Ahrar a-Sham and a slew of localized battalions, have gained control of 60 percent of the village, seizing a number of weapons caches from the pro-Assad National Defense Forces and shabiha, who had been defending the village.
Caption: Um Sharshouh lies two kilometers west of the M5 National Highway, Syria’s main north-south artery.
The battle for Um Sharshouh is part of a wider rebel campaign for northern Homs, where rebels retain pockets of control in the Homs suburbs of a-Rustan and Telbisa and the western towns of al-Houla and Dar al-Kabira, where rebel groups were evacuated after surrendering Old Homs in early May.
As rebels attempt to consolidate control over a sliver of northern Homs, Yaroub Abu al-Ezz, a 23 year-old media activist in northern Homs, tells Syria Direct’s Osama Abu Zeid about why some of Old Homs’s rebels are sitting this battle out.
Q: What is the significance of Um Sharshouh?
It’s geographical location on a hill overlooking the rest of the villages that we want to liberate. It has a fortress, Um Sharshouh Castle – if [rebels] take control of it they will benefit decisively in the battles for other villages.
The greatest number of shabiha, loyal to the regime, were inside the castle.
Q: Are these brigades seeking to regain control of the city of Homs? Is that a long-term goal?
What is happening in the north has no connection [with the battle regain Homs], to the point that not all of the battalions that left Homs are participating. These battalions have been preoccupied with unifying their ranks in order to regain control of the city.
Q: What is the goal of the battle for Um Sharshouh, and what has happened as of now?
[The aim is to] liberate a group of villages controlled by the regime: Um Sharshouh, Kufr Nan, and Jabourin. Those villages separate [rebel-held] Telbisa and a-Rustan from [rebel-held] Houlwa.
If these villages are captured, the Free Syrian Army will be on the cusp of controlling the regime supply route from Homs to the coast: the Homs-Tartous highway.
As of now, [rebels] have gained control over a part of Um Sharshouh, including the town’s castle. That was considered a big part of the battle.
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