Rebel commander: ‘We will not allow the tragedy of Madaya to be repeated in northern Homs’

Since rebels left Old Homs in a deal brokered with the regime in the spring of 2014, the northern Homs countryside remains the only opposition-controlled territory in Syria's largest province.

Blockaded for over two years by regime forces, more than a quarter million residents have managed to survive there by relying on agriculture, as well as occasional shipments of food and fuel brought in through gaps in the regime's security cordon stretching from the northern Homs countryside into southern Hama.

The Syrian army closed one of two remaining gaps during its October offensive, the Tairmaala road that runs through an eponymous village under a truce with the regime. It closed the second gap on Monday, after launching a campaign on the village of Jarisa, Abu al-Baraa, a commander with the rebel Harakat Tahrir Homs brigade involved in the fighting tells Syria Direct's Osama Abu Zeid.

Faced with a total blockade, rebels cut off electricity to the regime-controlled village of Selemiya, using it as a bargaining chip to reopen supply lines into northern Homs, says Abu al-Baraa.

“Will not allow the tragedy of Madaya and other areas to be repeated in northern Homs.”

Q: How are you responding to these closures?

We're fighting regime forces in order to prevent them from implementing their evil plan to impose a siege and starve civilians, just as it happened in Old Homs and is happening currently in Madaya.

Q: If the regime continues its blockade, what will the fate of those inside the countryside be?

As of now the total blockade has been active for about two days. The regime is currently negotiating with us to restore the electricity to Selemiya and its surrounding villages, which we cut off Monday. Most of the regime militiamen (shabiha) in Selemiya have stopped fighting so that we restore their electricity. For our part, we're demanding that the regime lift its encirclement in return for restoring their electricity (we targeted high-frequency lines reaching Selemiya).

For quite a while, both civilians and we fighters have relied on agriculture in order to remain here. We will not allow the tragedy of Madaya and other areas to be repeated in northern Homs. There will be many options available so that civilians won't suffer from the encirclement.

Osama Abu Zeid

Osama Abu Zeid is a native of Homs, where he served as a media activist and founding member of the Homs Revolutionary Council after the Syrian uprising began in 2011.

Dan Wilkofsky

Dan Wilkofsky was a 2013-2014 fellow at the Center for Arabic Study Abroad (CASA) in Amman, Jordan, where he worked with Talal Abu Ghazaleh Translation and the Ministry of Social Development. He has a BA in Classics (Latin) and Middle East Studies from Brown University.