October 23, 2014
Rebels in the holdout neighborhood of Al-Waer in Homs city were negotiating a truce with the regime when two car bombings in front of a school in an Alawite-majority neighborhood on October 1 in Homs abruptly scuttled the talks.
In the aftermath of the school bombings in Akrama, for which many regime supporters blamed Al-Waer residents, the regime replaced the head of the military security branch in Homs and began a new wave of bombings and air strikes against Al-Waer.
The purpose of the campaign, says Mohammed al-Homsi, the alias of an activist with the Homs Media Center in Al-Waer, is to “make the rebels accept the [truce] terms that they refused earlier; the most important of which is handing over heavy weapons.”
The Syrian army has chosen the “military solution,” but rebels in Al-Waer “are able to repulse the regime and its militias,” said Mohammed al-Homsi.
As it does elsewhere, the regime is trying to bomb [Al-Waer] into submission, al-Homsi tells Syria Direct's Osama Abu Zeid. There is no other choice, because if government forces could take over Al-Waer, “it would not resort to the use of heavy, sustained firepower from a distance.”
Q: How have the rebels in Al-Waer responded to the regime once again targeting the area [militarily]?
Rebels inside the neighborhood responded by striking pro-regime neighborhoods in Homs, and launching mortars on the Shiite villages of al-Mazraa and a-Zarzuriya [adjacent to Al-Waer].
But this response was not sufficient, and provoked an escalation.
The escalation was in part to prove the [regime] soldiers’ loyalty to their high command and reinforce the idea that they are able to impose a military solution [on Al-Waer] and make the rebels accept the terms that they refused earlier—the most important being handing over heavy weapons.
Al-Waer neighborhood, Homs province. Photo courtesy of @homs_l_m.
Q: Are the rebels able to withstand regime assaults on the neighborhood? Which revolutionary brigades are fighting inside the neighborhood?
On a military level they are able to repulse the regime and its militias. As proof, look to all the battles during which the regime tried to storm the neighborhood—they all met with failure. If the regime were able to storm Al-Waer, it would not resort to the use of heavy, sustained firepower from a distance.
There are many brigades inside the neighborhood. There is the al-Baraa bin Malik brigade, which is loyal to the al-Haq battalion, and the Islamic Jihad brigade. They are considered the largest brigades in terms of weapons and fighters.
You also have Jabhat a-Nusra, Ahrar a-Sham, and the Islamic Front in general.
Q: From which axes is the regime is trying to storm the neighborhood?
Al-Waer is contested on more than six fronts. The most violent is the front in the seventh island district, which is adjacent to pro-regime villages [the seventh island district is located in the west of Waer, and contains high rise buildings that allow snipers to reach targets across the entire neighborhood].
The battle for this front has been called the Battle of the High Towers, and the regime is trying with all the weapons at its disposal to gain control of this front—in order to secure surrounding pro-regime villages and close off Al-Waer totally with firepower.
Q: Are you [rebels] prepared to return to negotiations surrounding a truce?
Of course we are, but under one condition that everyone agrees upon—Al-Waer cannot be emptied of rebels, and rebels will not hand over heavy weapons. Aside from that, we're ready to take any step which will help protect civilians from the grip of war.