Syria Army Enters Homs, Last Rebels Pull Out as U.S. Refuses to Arm Opposition

إقرأ هذا الخبر بالعربية W460

The last Syrian rebels left Homs' Old City Friday under an evacuation deal that hands the government a symbolic victory, as civilians began trickling back in to find neighborhoods in rubble.

The pullout leaves the rebels confined to a single district on the outskirts of the central city, once "the capital of the revolution" against President Bashar Assad.

As troops moved in to clear out explosives, hundreds of civilians began returning to see what remained of their homes in Hamidiyeh, a Christian district in the Old Town, which has been under nearly daily bombardment during a two-year siege.

Many were shocked, with tears in their eyes, as they climbed over debris to inspect the ruins, said an Agence France Presse journalist at the scene.

"My whole house is destroyed. I went to my in-laws' home, and that's destroyed too. Nothing, except a few objects, remains," said Wafa.

The final convoy of rebels withdrew after a day-long delay blamed on fighters in northern Syria blocking an aid convoy destined for two pro-regime towns besieged by opposition fighters in Aleppo province.

The aid delivery had been pledged as part of an exchange that eventually saw some 2,000 people, mainly rebels, leave the Old City with a guarantee of safe passage.

Homs Governor Talal al-Barazi said "we have completed the evacuation of armed men from the Old City of Homs," referring to the withdrawal, which began Wednesday.

Most left Wednesday and Thursday, but buses carrying the last 250 rebels were delayed till Friday because fighters not involved in the deal blocked the pledged flow of food supplies into the Shiite towns of Nubol and Zahraa, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

As the aid convoys entered Zahraa Friday, the last rebels in Homs were finally allowed to leave.

Barazi said negotiations were also well advanced for rebels to leave the Wael neighborhood, their only remaining holdout in Homs, in the coming weeks.

The governor said the fighters and some of the civilians evacuated with them had been bussed out to the opposition-held town of Dar al-Kabira, 20 kilometers (13 miles) north of Homs.

State news agency SANA quoted Barazi as saying government troops had entered the Old City on Friday and began clearing it of explosives planted by the rebels.

Jaqueline Fawwaz, aged 30, was also returning to her old neighborhood of Hamidiyeh.

"I had seen on Facebook that my home had been destroyed, but I couldn't believe it. I wanted to see it with my own eyes," she said.

A 45-year-old who returned with her husband and did not identify herself said: "I came to check on my house, but I couldn't find it. I didn't find a roof, I didn't find walls. I only found this coffee cup, which I will take with me as a souvenir."

The neighborhood was devastated. Shop windows were cracked, and the few walls remaining upright were riddled with bullets.

This is not the first deal between the government and the rebels, but is the first time rebel fighters have withdrawn from an area they controlled after an accord.

It is also the first time Syria's rebels and security agencies sign a deal after negotiations, supervised by the ambassador of key Damascus ally Iran.

U.N. Resident Coordinator Yaacub El Hillo, who was present in Homs, welcomed the deal.

"If the Homs operation... is the implementation of a political solution through understanding, this is encouraging," he told AFP, adding that the U.N.'s role had been restricted to help build "trust" between the two sides.

The government allowed the rebels to pull out with their personal weapons in return for the release of 40 Alawite women and children, an Iranian woman and 30 soldiers held hostage by rebels elsewhere in Syria.

The army has imposed many sieges in the three-year-old conflict but that of the Old City of Homs has been by the far longest.

Some 2,200 people were killed as near daily bombardment reduced the area to ruins, and people were reduced to surviving on little more than herbs.

A military source in Damascus told AFP that "the big event of today is that Homs is now a city empty of armed men and this is a victory for the people and the army."

The pullout comes less than a month before a controversial presidential election, described as a farce by Western governments and the opposition, that is expected to return Assad to office.

In Washington, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry stood side-by-side with Syrian opposition chief Ahmad Jarba in a public show of support on Thursday, but made no mention of the rebels' plea for heavy weapons to help end the war.

Jarba, head of the Syrian National Coalition, has said he would ask the U.S. administration for anti-aircraft weapons to battle daily barrel bombings unleashed by Assad's forces and help change the balance militarily on the ground.

U.S. officials privately acknowledged he made the request in talks with Kerry at the State Department, but they refused to be drawn on the response.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki meanwhile pointed to a series of new U.S. measures including an extra $27 million in non-lethal aid for the rebels on the ground, as well as Treasury sanctions against Syrian officials.

"I have nothing to announce in terms of any change in our position," said State Department Jen Psaki, referring to the long-standing policy of the U.S. administration to provide only non-lethal military support such as communications equipment, body armor and night-vision goggles.

"We're continuing to build the capacity of the moderate opposition, including through the provision of assistance to vetted members of the moderate, armed opposition," she said.

"I'm not going to outline that or detail that from here, but we continue to consider a range of options."

It is understood that Jarba will also meet with U.S. President Barack Obama during his eight-day trip to the US which ends on May 14.

Jarba "understands better than anybody, the stakes and the struggle and the fight against extremism," Kerry said as he welcomed him to the State Department.

"We are committed to do our part to support the moderate opposition in its efforts to provide a legitimate voice to the aspirations and hopes of the Syrian people," he added.

And he praised Jarba and the SNC for building "an inclusive and moderate institution" committed "to the protection of all people, all minorities, all rights within Syria."

Speaking in Arabic through a translator, Jarba thanked Kerry for Washington's support "for the struggle of the Syrian people, for freedom and democracy, and also to lift the injustice and fight oppression and dictatorship that Bashar Assad is engaging in. "

But he stressed the Syrian people were looking "to the superpower and country that plays a leading role in the world."

The United States Thursday also slapped more sanctions on six senior Syrian officials, including his strategic affairs adviser, Brigadier General Bassam al-Hassan, as well as on a Russian bank and state-owned oil refineries.

Comments 30
Thumb FlameCatcher 09 May 2014, 16:33

Return back to what @Southern ?

The Syrian refugees are fleeing you and Bashar ! Why do you think it's so "Easy" for you ?

Hezbollah, Iran's FRONTLINE on the MEDITERRANEAN, is a terrorist mercenary organisation and it's leader, Hassan Nasrallah and followers are all traitors !

Yalla, now that you kicked them out of SYria, I suggest you move to Syria and we will keep the 1M syrians here which are much better and honorable than Hezbollah !

Thumb cedre 09 May 2014, 17:23

HizbIran, Alawite army, pasdarans with planes, tanks, artillery, barrel bombs could not take Homs from this 2500 fighters. They used chemical weapons, siege, famine without results.
As they could not defeat them militarily, and with the elections coming, they had to negotiate with them. They left the city with their weapons. This shows the weakness of Khamenei's axis. These fighters can be compared to Leonidas' 300 spartians that blocked persian invasion at Thermopylae...

Thumb Mystic 09 May 2014, 17:50

The Syrian people will cheer with dignity, when they are rid of the likes of you cedre.

Thumb popeye 09 May 2014, 18:00

I await the day when I will read ONE meaningful post, ONE counter argument, ONE credible or mature info from you, -...flamethrower...- , but alas!

Thumb Mystic 09 May 2014, 18:16

Cedre are you insane? Those takfiris are in attack formation, if they were civilians as you claim, they wouldn't be moving like that.

Thumb cedre 09 May 2014, 18:53

mastic, stop ur taqiya, please its friday...

Thumb cedre 09 May 2014, 18:55

saddam was a criminal, but not a sectarian one, he killed sunnis, shias, arab, kurds, christian, yezidis, chebeks, assyrians, anybody opposing him....

@popeye : +1

Thumb Mystic 09 May 2014, 19:00

You are saying Assad are secterican? Wrong, most of the government are sunni, and the Mufti Hassoun of Syria is a sunni. So once again you fail cedre.

Thumb Mystic 09 May 2014, 19:04

Takfirism, will not triumph any longer cedre, you had your chance. You lost it

Thumb Mystic 09 May 2014, 22:41

I've heard that story, even so it is arab vs arabs in Syria. You seem to keep the Farsi/Iranian idea, which is Israels agenda. Westernes such as yourself, are blind sheep. Watching Western propaganda zionist TV, wake up.

Thumb Mystic 09 May 2014, 22:42

Even on the opposition side in Syria, many of them are not even Arabs, they are Chechens, Afghans, Pakistanis, you name it. Actually the only Arab identity is the Syrian Government fighting against these foreign backed mercenaries.

Thumb FlameCatcher 09 May 2014, 17:23

PS: If Bashar was strong, Hezbollah would not need to help him in SYria. He would be able to protect Lebanon from your fake invasion of takfiris !

Thumb Mystic 09 May 2014, 17:44

Alawi thugs? texas, you begin more and more to sound like Al Nusra's spokesperson, keep it up habibi.

Thumb Mystic 09 May 2014, 17:45

Victory is near my friends, the takfiris and their little minions here on Naharnet, will be filled up with humiliation and shame.

Thumb Mystic 09 May 2014, 19:01

Actually, I do know that the Syrian people wanted the reforms promised to them, and the Resistance supported these reforms. But the takfiris from the outside, very fast emerged and turned the whole thing into a massive insurgency.

The Syrian people just wants to go back to their old lives. People like you, destroys it for them. Let their country heal and reform, and eradicate the takfiris.

Thumb Mystic 09 May 2014, 22:39

That's for the Syrian people to decide their faith, which you may probaly disagree with Mr. Texas cowboy, there are presidential elections going on in Syria, and we must all respect what they want, even if it means the removal of Assad or not.

Missing mohammad_ca 09 May 2014, 17:56

This is FAR from a victory for ASSad...after a seige lasting 700 days the revolutionaries exit Homs with their weapons in tact and with the city completely leveled by ASSad forces.

Thumb popeye 09 May 2014, 17:57

does your brain comprehend that being against Assad doesn't mean one is pro ISIL or Nusra. but, what can one say except the you go:

I await the day when I will read ONE meaningful post, ONE counter argument, ONE credible or mature info from you, -...flamethrower...- , but alas!

Thumb chainsaw 09 May 2014, 18:09

Nusra, Hezbollah, Or Isil. They are all killers, I don't see why either side should be supported.

Missing peace 09 May 2014, 18:09

the fact that pro assad M8ers claim that the war in syria is over proves only 2 things: they are brainwashed by assad's propaganda and don't understand that this war won't finish that quickly! LOL

Thumb chainsaw 09 May 2014, 18:09

Mystic come on dude, you can't say that. You are all fundamentalists in the end!

Thumb chainsaw 09 May 2014, 18:39

If we are dangerously uncertain of the outcome and are led into war by a Commander-in-chief who can’t recognize that this conflict is pitting Islamic extremists against an authoritarian regime with both sides shouting “Allah Akbar” at each other, then let Allah sort it out.
- Sarah Palin

Missing coolmec 09 May 2014, 19:19

Replying to your comment above you stated let Allah solve it. Well ask him to solve Lebanon's problems first...
Oh wait maybe you use your chain saw and eliminate the bad

Thumb chainsaw 09 May 2014, 18:48

I don't know man.. All i can say is - Let "Allah" sort it out.

PEACE out!

Default-user-icon Hanoun (Guest) 09 May 2014, 19:05

the Syrian regime is a monster few heroes fought him Lebanon others fought with him against these heroes
if I have to choose in Syria between a monster I know and exterminators takfiries I want think twice and you ..
btw refugees from homs can go back it alleviate lebanons burden and its better for all Lebanese

Default-user-icon Hanoun (Guest) 09 May 2014, 19:11

and with respect to the Syrian mou3arada and wise guys that support nousra and isil why the USA is refusing arm the mou3arada ?
takfiries and extremists and their funders blew up the best dream of true Lebanese and that is to get rid of the Syrian regime by a true genuine secular democracy

Missing peace 09 May 2014, 19:49

don't forget that the West need a syrian government that PROTECTS the israeli borders like assad does.
.. and M8 support LOL
a gvt that would fight israel is inconceivable for the WEST and hezbollah LOL

Thumb chad 09 May 2014, 21:49

Victory at last, learn how loyalty and perseverance pays off you salafi brainwashed losers!
We gave you several opportunities to settle a deal. But you prefered to join your terrorist allies. Now go and cry!

Thumb Mystic 09 May 2014, 22:44

chad, they are indeed crying and whining. Even more than they did before, because they indeed know & realize they've lost this war.

Thumb Mystic 10 May 2014, 00:34

Not true m11er, after the war broke out, more and more people are starting to rally behind Assad, they see the people that wants to remove him, are no better than he is. Now the Syrian people wants to go back to their old lives, before this forsaken conflict that ruined it for them. Ask Syrian refugees they will tell you, they wish everything would go back as it used to.