June 6, 2013
By Abdulrahman Al-Masri and Ahmed Kwider
AMMAN: Corpses line the streets of the town of Qusayr in Homs province as a blockade by Syrian army soldiers backed by Hezbollah fighters trap an estimated 12,000 civilians who remain inside, say activists on the ground.
While Syrian state media called on Wednesday for citizens to return to their home after weeks of repeated airstrikes and bombardment from the ground, the government has not opened the roads leading in and out of the city to allow free movement.
“The people are waiting and praying for someone to take them out of this,” said Abu Jaafar al-Mugarbel, a pro-revolution activist via Skype. He spoke over the sounds of heavy shelling clearly audible in the background.
“The number of injured people exceeds 3,000 and most of them are elderly, women, and children. For now, bodies are being thrown on the road because no one can move to bury them,” he said.
The regime’s campaign extends into Homs. The opposition Local Coordination Council of Homs reported additional injuries on Thursday from air raids on residential neighborhoods of Syria’s third largest city.
“The regime and Hezbollah are on the Homs-Lebanon road and are trying to control the road to Tartous as well,” said Souhaib al Ali, a member of the FSA’s Qusayr Military Council.
Al-Ali said that the Islamist force Jabhat al Nusra is also fighting the government forces and their Lebanese ally.
Hezbollah TV station Al Manar aired pictures on Thursday showing what they claimed to be the captured media center of the FSA in Qusair. The video showed a mini-studio with communications equipment abandoned by the rebels.
“We have moved our media center to Al-Rastan, and there are operations underway around Qusayr,” al-Ali said, adding that “we have killed many regime and Hezbollah troops,” a claim that could not be verified.
Al-Mugarbel said calls have been made from the town to Sunni and Christian members of the Lebanese Parliament to try to sway Hezbollah leaders to allow safe passage for the 12,000 civilians left in Qusayr.
Neither Al-Manar nor Syrian state media commented directly on allowing aid groups access to Qusayr. The Syrian Coalition said in a statement on Wednesday that it reminds “the UN and major nations of the world that they have a responsibility to intervene and ensure humanitarian access to protect civilians.”
Also on Wednesday, the city’s field hospital was subjected to an airstrikes by Syrian Air Force MIG jets. Al-Mugarbel said the injured are increasingly being tended to in the battered homes that have withstood the assault.
While the International Committee of the Red Cross and its Syrian Red Crescent affiliate have called for access to Qusayr and evacuation of the wounded, the inability of the medical groups to reach the injured exacerbates the politicized perceptions around the charity which is under tight government supervision.
A Syrian Red Crescent administrator reached via phone in Damascus Thursday declined to provide any details of the organization’s plans to assist the wounded in Qusayr.
“Personally I am not satisfied by the [Red Crescent’s] work because of the diminishing assistance and their obedience to the regime,” said Rafiq Abu Amar, an independent physician who works in Homs.
Abu Amar said the Red Crescent medical facility in Qusayr had been destroyed and was not able to inspect or resupply its facility in the Old Quarter of Homs for the past 45 days.
“The Red Crescent has to coordinate with the regime in everything they do, and at the same time they come under fire by the regime even after they obtain permission from them,” the doctor said.