Rebels leave Homs in regime hands
An estimated 222 rebel combatants from Old Homs were transported under United Nations supervision into the rebel-held northern suburbs of Homs on Wednesday. while a convoy of humanitarian aid entered the rebel-encircled, Shiite pro-regime towns of Zahra and Nubl.
“Caravans entered the besieged neighborhoods [of Old Homs] to transport the rebels to the northern suburbs,” opposition activist Hassan Abu al-Zein told Syria Direct Wednesday. “The first round of besieged people reached the [rebel-controlled] village of Dar al-Kabira,” Abu al-Zein said.
The evacuation began five days after rebels and government troops agreed to a truce whereby between 2,200 and 2,400 rebels, wounded people and civilians will leave Old Homs and hand it back to the government.
A rebel combatant kissed the ground in Old Homs before departing the city in a United Nations-supervised evacuation Wednesday. Photo courtesy of @eldorar1.
Rebels show video of arrested Syrian colonel disqualified from presidential race
Opposition fighters broadcast video footage Tuesday purporting to show Colonel Muhammad Hussein al-Kana’an—a Syrian army officer and recently disqualified candidate for Syria’s June presidential elections—confessing that he entered the presidential elections under orders from the Syrian Army.
The Free Syrian Army-affiliated Tbarak a-Rahman Brigade claimed to arrest al-Kana’an this week, with fighters displaying the colonel’s military identity card for the camera. Al-Kana’an says he submitted an application to run for president after receiving threats from army brass when the orders were not obeyed. The colonel also says that he was arrested by opposition forces while traveling on the Damascus-Dar’aa highway, perhaps in a sign that the regime does not have the tight control over the vital artery leading to Jordan that it claims to.
In the video, the colonel calls the election process in Syria “a political game and media fabrication, adding that that all other candidates were subjected to the same pressures and threats. Syria’s Supreme Constitutional Court announced Sunday that it had disqualified all but three presidential candidates—among them current President Bashar al-Assad—of the 23 who originally applied.
Iran state media deletes IRGC comments on Syrian presence
Iran’s Fars News Agency deleted comments made by a commander in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (ICRG) on May 4th that Iran has a military presence in Syria, Radio Free Europe reported Tuesday.
“Today we fight in Syria for interests such as the Islamic Revolution,” the Fars agency, which is close to the ICRG, reported Commander Hossein Homedani as saying. Within hours, the report was deleted from the Fars website, which also quoted Hamedani as saying the Syrian government is no longer “at the risk of collapse.” The cached version of the original Fars report is available here.
Iran has officially denied its soldiers are fighting for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad despite numerous reports in its own state media. This week, official Iranian news outlets reported that at least four IRGC members were killed in recent weeks defending the Shiite Sitt Zaynab shrine outside Damascus. The recent agreement between Syrian rebel groups and government troops in Old Homs included a provision whereby Syrian rebels would release a female Iranian prisoner.
On Wednesday, Iranian media cited a recent study by an Iranian parliamentarian that credits “Iran’s transfer of experience to Syria on organizing public forces and training more than 150,000 Syrian voluntary young forces,” as key in turning the tide of the Syrian conflict in favor of Bashar al-Assad’s government.
Al-Nimah confesses ‘foreign powers’ sabotaged Daraa battles
The Jabhat a-Nusra-affiliated Sharia Court in Syria’s southern Daraa province released video footage Tuesday showing Amhed a-Nimah, the controversial former head of the FSA’s Daraa’s Military Council, confessing to having undermined the rebel campaign in Daraa while conspiring with foreign countries.
In the video, a-Nimah, who was abducted by Jabhat a-Nusra in an unknown location earlier this week, claims responsibility for the fall in mid-2013 of the strategic town of Khirbet al-Ghazalah to regime forces. Al-Nimah says that he refused to cooperate with Jabhat a-Nusra in the battle for the town based on orders from Jordan and other foreign powers, who were concerned about the al-Qaeda affiliate’s growing popularity in the area.
By refusing to cooperate with a-Nusra, al-Nimah says, the result was “one failure after another, all because pro-rebel states are controlling us and imposing their policies on us; they don’t want an Islamic project to succeed here, or for there to be an Islamic power.”
During his tenure as military chief in Daraa, a-Nimah faced frequent accusations of being a puppet for Jordanian, Saudi, Israeli and American intelligence. “We hold the FSA’s military leadership, and especially the traitor Ahmed a-Nimeh, responsible for the fall of Khirbet al-Ghazaleh,” said the Khirbet al-Ghazaleh Media Office in a May 2013 statement.
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