How a Syrian rebel stronghold fell into regime hands

Screenshot of amateur video showing Syrian Army offensive in Khalidiya. Posted on YouTube, Monday July 29.
 
Syrian Army soldiers have won control of the Khalidiya district in Homs, crushing one of the last rebel bastions in the central city that sits on the route linking Damascus with the coastal heartland of President Assad’s Alawite sect.
 
The district had been surrounded by regime troops for a year, but in the last month they stepped up their assault, launching air attacks on a daily basis. With diminishing weapons supplies, the rebels were no longer able to maintain their near 2-year hold on Khalidiya.
 
It is the most strategically important prize for the Syrian Army in Homs since they took back the Baba Amr neighbourhood, following a bloody offensive in March 2012. In a symbolic blow to the opposition, last week army shelling severely damaged a 13th century mosque housing the tomb of Khaled Ben Walid, a companion of the Prophet Mohammed.
 
 
Amateur footage showing fighting in Khalidiya. Filmed and posted on YouTube by a sympathiser of the regime on July 28.
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“It was a miracle we were able to hold on for more than a year, faced with the regime’s onslaught”

Abu-Rami Al-Qosour is from a communications centre in Homs linked to the Free Syrian Army (FSA).
   
Since the siege against areas controlled by the FSA started a month ago, the army, with the support of Hizbollah from Lebanon, was able to take control of almost half of Khalidiya. On Saturday, the regime launched an extremely violent offensive, which meant, unfortunately, it was able to overcome those who were resisting inside Khaled Ben Walid Mosque. For the fighters, it was a very strategic place because it linked the old Homs neighbourhoods with other areas controlled by the FSA, like al-Qossour, Jour al-Chiyah and al-Qarabis.
 
Amateur footage showing fighting in Khadiliya. Posted on YouTube on July 29.
 
After a short-lived respite, the army launched another attack at dawn on Monday. It was the most violent so far, and meant the army took control of almost all of Khalidiya. FSA fighters had to pull back into the neighbourhoods of Jour al-Chiya, al-Qarabis et old Homs. These areas make up the new front line.
 
                   “We weren’t able to get weapons or reinforcements”
 
Capturing Khalidiya wasn’t difficult because the army had prepared the terrain well. From 6am onwards on Monday, it launched a series of air raids, and then it attacked with mortar and ground-to-ground missiles, before it sent troops in. It is too early to know how many were killed. My comrades and I pulled the body of a dead fighter from the rubble, and we also pulled out a wounded fighter. Given the strength of the regime’s attack and the flagrant imbalance between the two sides, the fall of Khalidiya was inevitable. It was a miracle we were able to hold on for more than a year, faced with the regime’s onslaught.
 
We weren’t able to get weapons or reinforcements so we could hold onto our positions. The fall of Qusayr, in the south of Syria, was a fatal blow for us because that was where our arms, and also our fighters, came from. Also, in the north of the province, some brigades linked with the FSA have worked out a cease-fire with the regime [Editor’s note: our Observer declined to say which brigades]. For six months, these brigades have not sent us any help at all: no arms, no fighters, no medicine.
 
                     “We have no other choice but to stay and fight. Until the end”
 
The leaders of the opposition are responsible for our disappointment. The Major Chief of the FSA’s Supreme Military Council, Salim Driss, promised a month ago that he would send us enough high-performance arms so we could avoid defeat. But we didn’t see anything arrive. The opposition coalition is going to evermore international conferences, but to no avail. Worse, the coalition is in the middle of giving in to Western pressure to put in place a political solution. We are against this. From now on, in the areas still controlled by the FSA, we have no other choice but to stay and fight. Until the end.
 
  

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