Hundreds of residents in the pro-regime a-Zahraa neighborhood in Homs city pitched tents and burned tires for the second day on Thursday of a sit-in demonstration. Protestors demanded the resignation of the provincial governor and other regime and security officials, reported pro-regime and pro-opposition media on Thursday.

The demonstrations follow a car bomb and a suicide attack at a regime checkpoint in the neighborhood that killed 24 people and injured more than 100 others on Tuesday, reported the regime affiliated Organization of Syrian Arab Radio and TV (ORTAS) on Wednesday. The media outfit reported that “terrorists” with the Islamic State (IS) were behind the bombings.

IS did in fact claim responsibility for the attack via its media affiliate Amaq on Tuesday.

The latest Islamic State attacks even on the periphery of the locked-down district of a-Zahraa has rattled residents. The twin bombings this week are the latest in a string of unclaimed car bombings that have rocked pro-regime neighborhoods in Homs over the past two years. In one infamous October 2014 incident, two explosions directed at a school killed more than 40 children.

While regime sources blame “terrorists” for the previous attacks, some residents of the heavily patrolled neighborhoods told Syria Direct in June 2015 that they believe pro-regime militias are behind the attacks.

“There is no confidence [in the security forces] after Homs has been the target of bombings for more than two years,” a reporter with the pro-regime Assad Homs News Network who requested anonymity, tells Syria Direct’s Mohammad al-Haj Ali.

Q: What is the situation in a-Zahraa? How many protesters are there? Who are they?

There is a general mood of outrage emanating from the intensity of the last round of explosions in the neighborhood. Beginning on [Thursday] morning around 4 a.m., angry demonstrators began burning tires and erecting tents, refusing to leave. [Wednesday] there were around 1,000 protesters. Their numbers have since dwindled to between 350 and 400 now. The majority of them are family members of victims, whose numbers will likely increase. There are no government employees among the protesters.

 “Screw the security committee,” reads one sign. Photo courtesy of pro-regime Damascus Now.

Q: What are the most significant demands the protesters have?

They are demanding that the governor, the security committee and Subhi Harb Ameen, the head of the Baath Party branch in Homs, be removed.

Q: Do the demands of the protesters stem from a lack of confidence in security officials’ abilities?

Absolutely, there is no confidence [in the security forces] after Homs has been the target of bombings for more than two years. Security officials haven’t undertaken a single investigation.

Q: How has the government responded so far to the demonstrators’ demands?

They have responded negatively, in every sense of the word. They sent a group of security officers to hear the protestors’ demands, but they tried to disband the crowd verbally and they were kicked out. They tried to convince us of the same lies they always do, trying to avoid the protestors demands, but we are tired of it. It’s all just empty words. 

Reporting contributed by: Sherien al-Nasser