March 26, 2013

By Ahmed Kwider and SAS News staff

Syrian state forces scored a victory by regaining the entire district of Baba Amr in Homs after two weeks of heavy fighting as opposition sources repeated prior allegations that government missiles contained chemical materials.

Regime forces reportedly used warplanes and rocket launchers to win back the rebellious district, considered one of the flash points of the revolution, according to activists on the ground and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

“The government sent reinforcements and heavily bombed the district with rocket launchers and surface-to-surface missiles, some missiles containing chemical material," said Abu al-Huda al-Homsi, a Homs-based activist and journalist. “I think the fall of Baba Amr means a new siege on the old city,” he added.

A combination of heavy regime weaponry and rebels not being backed up led to their defeat, al-Homsi said. “The information that I have is that they didn’t receive any help,” al-Homsi said.

State-run news agency SANA reported continued pursuit of “armed terrorist groups in Homs and its countryside” claiming heavy opposition losses.

Mahmoud al-Bikai, 27-year-old resident of the city, said the combined air and ground assault left the neighborhood without medics to treat the wounded and local fighters lacked support from the FSA’s central command.

“But as they withdrew, the rebels took the nearby neighborhoods of Jobar and Soultaniye, destroyed six army checkpoints and gained vehicles and ammunition,” al Bikai said.

Jobar and Soultaniye have a strategic importance for the FSA since they have clear supply routes straight to Lebanon.

Al-Bikai confirmed reports that the Islamist al-Hak brigade joined the FSA in the failed attempt to break the blockade on Homs’s old city. But some accounts indicate that a lack of coordination between Islamist factions and the FSA contributed to the defeat in Homs.

“We are now at a new stage where the battle depends on attacking and retreating. The rebels didn’t have any supply routes to Baba Amr, so their operation was suicidal," said Muhammad Abo Al-Fida, a 22-year-old Economics major at Aleppo University who volunteers as an activist from Homs.

“The jihadists withdrew after causing losses in lives and weapons to the government forces who the entered the neighborhood,” said al-Fida, an Islamist supporter who added “no one should be held responsible for the opposition loss because the rebels know best how to evaluate their strategies.”