Al-Waar region in Homs strayed by force from its residents on the brink of leaving to North Syria
Enab Baladi- Homs
The evacuation agreement’s first steps have begun in al-Waar neighborhood in Homs with the exit of the first batch of fighters and civilians to the agreed areas in north Syria. This move will end the “The capital of Revolution” story and burn the Syrian opposition’s last chances.
The evacuation comes along with political quirks in the “Astana” political settlement meetings. “Geneva4” tried to ignore the neighborhood’s fate and purge attempts, like the other regions, especially in the western suburbs of Damascus.
On Saturday, March 18th, 40 buses evacuated the first convoy of al-Waar’s residents. The first convoy carried out about two thousand people including 400 fighters and 200 wounded, after being gathered by the Assad forces at the “Furn” barrier, in the nearby of the neighborhood.
On the Sho’oun barrier, the buses stopped for three hours. The civilians and fighters witnessed a thorough inspection and have been taken, one by one, in picture by the Syrian official and Russian media. After these “security guaranteeing measures”, as the Syrian regime called them, the buses carried their road to Jarabulus city, the last agreed station, crossing Salamiyeh city, in the eastern countryside of Hama, as well as Khanaser then Dabaq city, in the northern countryside.
In addition to buses, the first convoy was accompanied with special vehicles, transporting the wounded civilians. The operation was led by “Red Crescent” and backed by the Russian delegation. According to information obtained by Enab Baladi, the United Nations and its teams have missed this initiative.
Al-Assad media is covering the Evacuation in their way
Since the first hours of the agreement’s running, the official and the regime-affiliated media has devoted a large coverage space, starting with filming the neighborhood’s civilians at the starting point (the Furn barrier) and ending with interviews with “active” personalities from al-Assad security institutions and some of the Russian delegation’s officials, who were backing this operation.
Unlike what’s been said by the civilians and activists in the neighborhood before their departure, Talal al-Barazi, Governor of Homs city, said that “The number of residents in al-Waar neighborhood reaches 40.000, and they will continue to live there.”
However, according to Enab Baladi, the number of people who tend to leave the neighborhood is between 25 and 30 thousand, over two months.
“The Syrian army will manage the areas in al-Waar neighborhood and open all the crossings to bring back normal life to the neighborhood”, he pointed out. “Russia is protecting the process everywhere, and the armed groups are accepting this supporting role”, he added.
Al-Barazi’s statements included his outlook on the coming phase that will follow the residents’ departure, stressing that “we will reestablish all State institutions in the neighborhood, assess and repair the damages”, while Russian officials affirmed, at the neighborhood borders, that “the Syrian cities will return safe”.
According to the agreement terms, the settlement process for those who want to stay in the regime controlled areas starts after six days after the signing. The settlement mentioned above involves weapon surrender, arresting and prosecuting the offenders, after a specific limited period of time.
Furthermore, the Syrian and Russian police enters the neighborhood in this period and forms a committee to follow up the negotiations. This also include the presence of 300 fighters in the neighborhood in order to ensure the security, in coordination with the regime.
Jarabulus is Preparing to Welcome the Residents
All local events in Jarabulus city have started in the eastern countryside of Aleppo to welcome the residents, before their arrival to the last station in north Syria.
Enab Baladi correspondent in Jarabulus local council’ media office reported that the council members have met in the past few days with the local civil and relief organizations and decided to provide al-Waar residents with the necessary support.
The local office explained that this support will be achieved through preparing an equipped camp for them and providing relief packages and aids.
Particularly, a source in the local council affirmed that the Turkish organization “Afad” will be in charge of the special camp construction, in the next few days. In addition, it pointed out that the council may turn to prepare special shelters for al-Waar residents to stay in, until the completion of the camp’s construction.
Jarabulus was not the only destination; the agreement signed by the al-Waar residents committee and the regime delegation mentioned also Homs northern countryside cities and Idlib’s cities, regions and countryside as new settlement areas when leaving Al Waar.
Al-Waar throughout the Siege Years
The western neighborhood of Homs went out of the Syrian regime’s control in 2013, after two years from the beginning of the anti-Assad movement, established by the former free army’s sleeper cells.
In the early events, it turned into a shelter for the wounded civilians coming from Homs old neighborhoods as well as for dozens of families, who fled the regime bombings and security campaigns in the old neighborhoods.
After getting it under control, the Free Army cells used the regime’s affiliated operating institutions, such as the Environment Building, Post Office, El-Berr Hospital, Justice Palace and al-Saraya, to detain the regime’s elements they found in the neighborhood as “disclosed prisoners”, in a move to ensure the neighborhood’s security from shelling.
However, al-Assad removed them gradually after months and started his well-known siege in October 2013 and the famous military operation, launched with the “Seventh Island” battle, during which he took control of most of its parts. A large number of people had left their homes fleeing the bombings.
Moreover, the Assad forces cut off some of the roads that linked the neighborhood with the controlled neighborhoods in Homs city and maintained just one passage that links it with the “Insha’at” neighborhood, which was also cut of days later.
Al-Waar neighborhood is surrounded, from the north and east, with a large number of military buildings, mainly the military command and staff college which played the biggest role in the daily Al Waar Mortar targeting and snipers’ shouts.
On the other hand, the neighborhood was surrounded in the northern part by a small forest which used to be a park for Homs residents and al-Basateen area in the south and witnessed the largest military battle between the Syrian opposition and the Assad forces during which the regime lost dozens of fighters and vehicles.
In 2015, the neighborhood started the “al-Hadan Trip”, which led to the departure of a group of fighters and their families to Idlib. Besides, many crossings had been opened, such as al-Muhandeseen passage, to allow the departure of families who wanted to move to the other neighborhoods in Homs. In September 2016, other families moved towards these neighborhoods, but they were confined in the northern countryside of the city.
Al-Waar was divided into two sections; the old and the new. The new section is composed of eight islands with towers ranging from 9 to 13 floors, in addition to the newly established infrastructure and centers, like the exhibitions and garden city.
Over the siege previous years, the neighborhood witnessed all types of bombings from Assad’s artilleries and helicopters, from mortars to explosive cylinders and on a daily basis. Late in 2016, the regime forces added Napalm and space rockets, which caused dozens of casualties and injuries among civilians, lacking medical and relief items.
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