Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat –Syria’s “al-Watan” newspaper yesterday published a report that Homs may be declared a “secure area” in the coming hours or days in light of the qualitative progress achieved by the regime’s military in the city and its surrounding area. Meanwhile, field activists speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat comprehensively denied the validity of these claims, stressing that “the regime’s army has made no progress in recent days despite heavy shelling and its attempts to penetrate the city, through the districts of al-Khalidiya and Bab Hud in particular”.
At the same time, Syria’s “al-Baath” newspaper – the mouthpiece of the ruling party in Syria – has reported that the regime’s forces managed to ambush and eliminate “a large number of terrorists who were attempting to escape from the al-Khalidiya area to the areas of Jouret Shiyah and Ghouta…utilizing the sewer system”.
Likewise, the state-owned “al-Thawra” newspaper referred to the “cleansing” of the streets of al-Khandaq in the Bab Hud district of Homs, and the elimination of a number of terrorists “of various nationalities”.
Yesterday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported heavy bombardments in districts controlled by the opposition in the city of Homs, which have been besieged for months by the regime’s forces. It also reported renewed shelling in the districts of al-Khalidiya, Jouret Shiyah and the old town, carried out by the Syrian regime’s forces who are trying to break into these districts and regain control.
Asharq al-Awsat spoke to Abu Khaled, a field activist in Homs, who denied what he described as the Syrian newspapers’ “claims” about districts in the city of Homs. He asserted that “elements of the Free Syrian Army [FSA] are fighting valiantly against the regime’s forces who are trying to penetrate some vulnerable districts, as is the case in Bab Hud”.
Abu Khaled also pointed out that “the regime’s forces have not made any progress in al-Khalidiya district, they are still stationed at its entrance”, adding “more than 800 families are still trapped inside the old town district, and they are suffering adverse humanitarian conditions”.
Along the same lines, deputy FSA commander Colonel Malik al-Kurdi, strongly rejected the claim that “al-Assad’s forces have seized control of districts in Homs”, pointing out that “they are advancing in some districts and retreating in others.”
He told Asharq Al-Awsat that “the newspapers’ allegations are an attempt to cover up the losses suffered by the regime’s army in several areas in Idlib, after it withdrew from more than 15 border villages”.
Al-Kurdi said that “the talk about the storming of al-Khalidiya district is similar to the talk about the storming of the Salahuddin district in Aleppo”, stressing that “al-Assad’s forces are able to do nothing more than storm the entrance of a district and then immediately withdraw, despite the magnitude of the destruction they are causing.”
He firmly believes that “the regime’s army does not dare to spend even one night in any district of Homs or other uprising cities”.
With regards to developments on the ground yesterday, local coordination committees in Syria reported “heavy bombardments with artillery shells and rockets upon city of al-Rastan” in addition to “the discovery of six bodies inside a missile battalion in al-Ghanto village in Talbiseh”.
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, al-Khalidiya district has been exposed to heavy shelling from the regime’s forces, accompanied by violent clashes between al-Assad’s troops and fighters from rebel battalions, after al-Assad’s troops attempted to storm the district. The Observatory pointed out that 4 members of the regime’s forces were killed. Likewise, the village of Jussia on the outskirts of Homs has been subjected to heavy shelling as the regime tries to gain a foothold in rural Homs, which is currently outside of its control.