Tags: Syria | rebels | Homs | Assad

Syria Rebels Leave Homs, Ceding Key City to Assad's Army

Image: Syria Rebels Leave Homs, Ceding Key City to Assad's Army
Syrian government forces hang the national flag on top of a pole in Homs on May 8.

Thursday, 08 May 2014 10:37 AM

Syrian rebel fighters began withdrawing from the old city of Homs, under a cease-fire that will leave President Bashar Assad’s army in control of one of the bastions of the three-year uprising against him.

Two buses carried more than 200 rebel fighters, including some from Islamist groups, away from the besieged neighborhoods of Homs, in central Syria, and toward the town of Al-Dar Al- Kabira to its north, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on its Facebook page.

In return for the safe passage, rebel fighters in Aleppo and Latakia released 45 prisoners, including one Iranian woman, and have agreed to allow humanitarian aid to enter some mostly Shiite and pro-Assad towns they control, the U.K.-based Observatory said. The cease-fire was under negotiation since last week at meetings attended by United Nations representatives.

Homs has been the scene of some of the fiercest fighting in Syria’s civil war since 2011. Gaining control of its old city will mark the latest battlefield success for Assad, who has gained ground against an opposition divided into factions and unsure of its foreign backing.

The U.S. pulled back from proposed air strikes against Assad’s forces last year, and has cited concerns that al-Qaida allies are gaining prominence among the anti-Assad forces. Saudi Arabia, the main regional supporter of the rebels along with Turkey, has criticized the opposition factions backed by the U.S. and its European allies as ineffective.

UN-brokered peace talks between the Syrian factions collapsed earlier this year, with Assad’s role in a future government one of the main points of disagreement. The Syrian president will seek re-election on June 3.

Ahmad al-Jarba, the leader of the Syrian Opposition Coalition, the main grouping for the U.S.-backed rebels, is in Washington this week lobbying for more sophisticated weapons. U.S. military aid to the rebels has been restricted by concerns that it may end up in the hands of jihadists.

Barrel bombs dropped by Assad’s planes and helicopters are “making our life a nightmare,” al-Jarba said in a speech in the U.S. capital. “We want weapons that would be able to neutralize the air force.”

The Syrian war has killed more than 150,000 people and forced more than 6.5 million to flee their homes. Assad has received backing from Iran and Russia. The Observatory said that delegates from those two countries’ embassies were part of the negotiations that led to the Homs cease-fire.

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Syrian rebel fighters began withdrawing from the old city of Homs, under a cease-fire that will leave President Bashar Assad’s army in control of one of the bastions of the three-year uprising against him.
Syria, rebels, Homs, Assad
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2014-37-08
Thursday, 08 May 2014 10:37 AM
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