April 9, 2014
On Monday and Tuesday of this week, pro-regime Syrian media reported that dozens of rebel fighters inside the besieged Old City of Homs had “surrendered themselves and their weapons,” agreeing to relocate to civilian areas and renounce armed struggle in exchange for safe exit out of Old Homs, which has been encircled by government troops for more than 670 days. The agreement came one day after a car bomb killed some 30 opposition fighters near a rebel operations center in Old Homs.
Some rebel fighters who left besieged Old Homs this week attributed their decision to deteriorating dynamics among opposition forces. “We also had no knowledge of the fate that our leaders were steering us toward, and felt that they had failed to save Homs,” says Ra’id, 28, an opposition fighter who left Old Homs earlier this week. He tells Syria Direct’s Osama Abu Zeid that he surrendered himself to regime forces, and, after a period of questioning, “they released me after I signed a pledge that I would live in a residential area.”
Madrasat al-Andalus in Homs’ a-Dablan neighborhood has served as a gathering point for evacuees from besieged Old Homs.
Q: What was the main reason you decided to leave Old Homs and surrender?
There are a number of reasons, among them the fact that we had begun to encounter great injustices from some leaders inside Homs as a result of the difficult circumstances there. You can stay alive by joining one of the military branches, all of which have their own distinguishing characteristics. We also had no knowledge of the fate that our leaders were steering us toward, and felt that they had failed to save Homs.
Q: How did you leave the blockade? Did you coordinate with regime forces beforehand?
I did not coordinate with regime officials directly, but through a mediator in exchange for a sum of money that my family paid him to complete the terms of the settlement. Basically, I went to one of the checkpoints and surrendered myself at a determined time. The mediator was waiting there, and I went with them to a school, [now] one of the security branches. They asked some questions, and from there I went to al-Andalus School in the a-Dabalan neighborhood. After a number of days, they released me after I signed a pledge that I would live in a residential area.
Q: How do you envision Homs’ future now that a large number of rebels have surrendered?
The situation in Homs has gone from bad to worse in light of the complete blockade around the neighborhoods, in addition to the lack of security and trust that has followed multiple assassinations. The lack of food makes people act like animals, behaving without thinking.
Q: Can you talk a little bit about Father Francis’s assassination?
As I told you, we have lost our security, and what happened with Father Francis has happened to a number of people under the siege. There are people carrying out assassinations for the sake of the regime.
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