Syria: Regime Forces Retakes Rebel Stronghold Homs


The Syrian regime says its troops recaptured a rebel district of Homs, a key symbol of the country’s revolt, after a relentless one-month offensive.

Activists on the ground told AFP government troops now controlled 90 per cent of Khaldiyeh neighbourhood.
The takeover is the second military success for President Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Homs province in two months, after troops took over the former rebel bastion of Qusayr in June.

The full recapture of Homs, dubbed by rebels “the capital of the revolution,” would be a strategic win for the regime.

The city straddles a route linking Damascus to the Mediterranean coast and the Alawite hinterland of Assad’s minority community.

“The armed forces have restored security and stability across the neighbourhood of Khaldiyeh,” one of the largest rebel bastions in the central city, state television said.

“Collapse of the terrorists’ ‘citadel’ in Khaldiyeh – we’re going from victory to victory.”
The army, backed by fighters from Lebanon’s powerful Hezbollah militant group, launched the assault on Khaldiyeh a month ago bolstered by the capture in June, also with Hezbollah help, of the Homs province town of Qusayr.

Several neighbourhoods in the Old City remain in rebel hands, but troops, who have a foothold in that part of town too, appear determined to dislodge them.

“The capture of Khaldiyeh will make it easier (for the army) to retake the Old City and other (rebel) districts like Qussur,” Homs-based activist Mahmud al-Lowz told AFP via the internet.

“If Homs city falls, the north of Syria will be cut off from the south.”
An army officer, interview on state television, said regime forces hope to “cleanse the whole of Syria” after the Khaldiyeh victory.

“We dedicate this victory to Bashar al-Assad,” he added, standing next to a pile of rubble.
State television also showed a group of soldiers chanting “we sacrifice our soul and our blood for you, O Bashar.”

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said fierce early morning battles preceded the recapture of Khaldiyeh, calling the fighting “the most violent since the offensive was launched.”

The neighbourhood had endured near-daily air and artillery bombardments and a suffocating siege that prevented not only weapons but also food and medical supplies from being brought in.

“The (rebel) retreat is the result of the heavy air and artillery bombardment,” Homs-based activist Abu Rami told AFP by internet, adding the army now controls “90 per cent” of Khaldiyeh.

“Khaldiyeh may have fallen, but Homs has not.

“We have lost this round, but we haven’t lost the war … We hold the international community and the Syrian opposition responsible for what is happening in Homs.”

It is the most important military victory for the regime in Homs city since the March 2012 capture of Baba Amr district, another symbol of the rebellion, following an offensive that killed hundreds.