Rebels in blockaded Old Homs lunch on leaves


April 1, 2014

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STARVATION NATION: In the 661st day of Syrian government encirclement of the 13 besieged neighborhoods of Old Homs, a photograph shows three rebel combatants eating mulberry leaves, as food provisions in the town remain scarce, nearly two months after the United Nations World Food Program was last able to deliver aid to the town.

“There is intermittent shelling and a humanitarian crisis, as many families still live under the choking blockade,” Bebers a-Telawi, a prominent citizen journalist in Homs, told Syria Direct on Tuesday.

The Syrian army and National Defense Forces are encircling the town, not allowing food, medical supplies or people in or out in a collective punishment that rebels say is an attempt to force a surrender.

“Everyone has abandoned the blockade people,” al-Telawi said. “We don’t see any  advancement outside the blockade, or any political solution aiming to save those who cling to life,” he said.

In February, a United Nations-brokered deal between the Syrian government and rebel groups in Old Homs allowed thousands of citizens to evacuate and permitted the entry of some medical and food supplies.

Since then, Old Homs has seen a return to the status quo: Syrian forces continue to pressure rebels to surrender themselves by blocking the entry of food into the neighborhoods. Many rebels have, citing unbearable conditions.

For months, rebels have touted a battle they title “Qadimoun” as progressing toward “the liberation” of Old Homs’ besieged neighborhoods. Instead, government forces have slowly isolated them into the northern Homs suburbs.

Pro-government news channel Sama reported Monday that Syrian army units had “foiled a terrorist attempt to sneak from the village of al-Ghasibiya to the village of a-Dweir in northern Homs province.” The two villages sit near the rebel-held neighborhood of al-Waer in Homs’ new city, where many who were evacuated from Old Homs in early February chose to flee.

The Syrian government has intensified its shelling on al-Waer and the northern Homs suburbs, activist Hassan Abu al-Zein told Syria Direct on Tuesday, in order to prevent rebel groups from breaking the Syrian blockade on Old Homs.

A number of besieged rebels have surrendered themselves on a daily basis to the Syrian government, exhausted from conditions of starvation and receiving residency in regime-controlled areas. 

Photo courtesy of Homs Field Photos.

-By Osama Abu Zeid and Elizabeth Parker-Magyar on April 1, 2014

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