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Homs is under siege- Syrian Activist | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Homs is under siege- Syrian Activist

By Saheeb Auob

Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat- Syrian security and military forces have been besieging the Al-Khalidiya district in Homs since Wednesday morning.

In a statement to Asharq Al-Awsat, an activist on the ground said: “The siege is not the first since the uprising erupted. The district has been totally ravaged. Tanks and other armored vehicles entered the district in the early hours of the morning and began indiscriminate shelling of the residential homes most of which have turned to rubble. Snipers are deployed on the rooftops of houses, schools, and clinics to kill anyone that opens a window”.

The activist who spoke to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity out of fear of reprisals from the Syrian government added: “The residents of Al-Khalidiya are suffering from food shortages after businesses like the bakeries have had to close their doors, while a curfew has been imposed”. The activist said that the main reason for targeting the Al-Khalidiya is “to encircle it tightly and prevent any access to Homs” in view of its strategic location since it is one of the old quarters of Homs and a crossroads for neighboring quarters. The Al-Khalidiya district is encircled by 45 checkpoints and many other smaller checkpoints in the city. The district has been divided into smaller sectors by these checkpoints in order to comb it and apprehend the activists. Al-Khalidiya was targeted several times by the tanks of the security forces. The schools and clinics within the district have been occupied and turned into security detention centers. At least 1000 residents of Al-Khalidiya have been detained and about 400 have been killed since it was targeted”.

With a tone of defiance the activist gave details to Asharq Al-Awsat regarding, “the acts of violence that accompany each siege” in the Al-Khalidiya district. “The violence has been prevalent since the start of the uprising but it became worse after Al-Khalidiya turned into a center for the protesters in Homs. The square of the large Al-Uluw Park in the center of the district was a gathering place for the demonstrators emerging from the mosques and calling for the overthrow of the regime. Before it was occupied by the thugs of the regime and the regime’s security elements, this square was a center for the live transmission of the Arab satellite channels that covered the demonstrations. The Al-Dunya satellite channel of Rami Makhluf, one of the henchmen of the regime, took over the square and confiscated all the audio equipment in it. This channel began to transmit and tell the world that everything is under control in the district and that there are no protest movements”. The activist goes on to say: “When a child who was interviewed on television said that he is on strike from his school until the regime falls, one of the thugs accompanying the camera crew beat him up. The Al-Khalidiya district has turned into a target and used to convey messages to the protesters. The regime’s tanks are entering Al-Khalidiya and intimidating the populace with indiscriminate shelling of their houses and apartments. Several neighborhoods of Homs, such as Kabab Amr and Bab al-Siba, are being penalized by preventing fuel oil to reach them despite the cold weather. The families are suffering from miserable conditions due to the lack of heating in their homes. Electricity has been cut off for two nights and there is no water in most of the homes”. The activist described the siege imposed by the regime as “contemptible” and added “The fear of the security organs from the people and their demonstrations has driven them to blockade them although they are unarmed. They do not have arms and all they have is their determination. The district was blocked several times but the regime could not isolate it because it is located in the center of Homs thus each time forcing the regime to end the siege after two days”.

The activist did not sound optimistic. He affirmed to Asharq Al-Awsat that “this time, the regime may enter the district and settle in it. It seems that a full combing operation will begin shortly accompanied by arrests and killings”. The activist said: “Hundreds of women and a number of children have been detained, beaten, and orally abused. Youths are being arrested and taken to the jails of the air intelligence department on the road to Hamah and to the security service’s central prison in the Al-Maydan district. The prisoners leave prison only impaired or killed; their bodies are not handed over to their families except after the families sign papers saying that their loved ones were killed at the hands of unknown gangs. A number of detainees from the district died during the investigation after they were electrocuted. The activists recounted the case of a detainee “who was viciously tortured until his neck broke”. He pointed out that the district’s residents are giving food and blankets to the soldiers that are defecting from the army and joining the citizens. He added that about 30 soldiers have defected in the past few days.