August 12, 2013
Hassan Qarrah, a 28-year-old activist living in the Old City of Homs, tells Nuha Shabaan about the “systematic destruction” that the city has been subject to over the past year. As the Syrian military intensifies its efforts to conquer the remaining rebel-held neighborhoods of Homs, Qarrah says that Assad’s forces have employed barrel bombs, fighter planes, tanks, and even chemical weapons as part of a comprehensive “scorched-earth tactic” to pound Homs into submission. Qarrrash says he believes that Homs is being targeted because the regime wants to pressure the opposition, and its sponsor states, into negotiating a solution at the much-discussed, but as of yet unscheduled, Geneva II conference.
Q: From which side is there the most pressure on Homs?
A: The fact is that there is pressure on Homs in a number of ways, the most important of which is the regime’s use of heavy weapons in its fight against the opposition. Another pressure point being [exploited] by the regime are the thousands of fleeing families that have gathered in the Wa’er area, Inshaat, and Ghouta, where [the regime] is applying pressure in order to paralyze the movement of the rebels. The regime is also applying pressure on Homs so that the Arab and Western states set to meet at Geneva II will [in turn] pressure the opposition to attend the conference and negotiate for a solution with the regime.
Q: What is the regime’s latest strategy in Homs?
A: In its attempt to take over Homs, and especially the blockaded neighborhoods, the regime is using a dirty, scorched earth tactic. It is incurring systematic destruction by employing weapons of mass effect, such as explosive barrels, which are filled with C4 and TNT. It is also using the Air Force as another destructive element in order to displace the citizens of Homs and force them out.
Q: Talk more about the weapons used by the regime.
A: [In addition to the] explosive barrels, it is using fighter planes in a brutal and violent way, as well as helicopters and T72 and Shilka tanks. Other weapons include rocket launchers and mortars, surface-to-surface missiles, vacuum bombs and chemical weapons, which have already been used twice in Homs.