Syria Daily: 1000s to Be Forcibly Removed from Northern Homs

Residents gather around buses for removal from Rastan, Homs Province, Syria, May 7, 2018

Thousands of fighters and civilians will be removed from Syria’s northern Homs Province, in the latest forced displacements after capitulation agreements to pro-Assad forces.

Buses took the first groups of displaced to other parts of northern Syria on Monday from the Rastan pocket, which had been held by the opposition since October 2011. The convoy was accompanied by RUssian military police.

After overrunNing East Ghouta near Damascus last month, a pro-Assad offensive — enabled by Russian airstrikes — stepped up attacks on the towns of Rastan, Talbiseh, and Houla and surrounding villages. The Free Syria Army finally capitulated last week, fearing an even more intense bombardment after the devastation of East Ghouta over the past three months.

“They left rebels with no option after bombing civilians and giving them no choice either to submit or obliterate their areas and make civilians pay the price,” said Abul Aziz al-Barazi, one of the civilian opposition negotiators.

Local sources said many people are likely to remain in Rastan and Talbiseh; however, more than half of the population of Houla — where more than 100 people, most of them women and children, were massacred by pro-Assad fighters in May 2012 — will be removed.

Men who remain in the pocket, which has more than 300,000 residents, have six months before they can be conscripted into the regime’s military.

Rebels said they received assurances that Russian military police will man checkpoints around the enclave, preventing attacks on the mainly-Sunni civilians from surrounding villages which are mostly Alawite, the group to which Bashar al-Assad and most of the ruling elite belong.

Meanwhile, fighters and civilians moved from an opposition pocket south of Damascus are reportedly having difficulties in finding camps for shelter.

Thousands of people were transferred last week after the Free Syrian Army capitulated in Yalda, Babila, and Beit Sahm.

See Syria Daily, May 2: Swap Deal for Removals Near Damascus and in Northwest

They join almost 160,000 people pushed out of East Ghouta. Last week the UN’s Office of the Coordinator for Humanitarian Affairs warned about the camps in northwest Syria, “There is an urgent need to decongest the sites, allow for freedom of movement, and to scale up aid to people that have left the sites.”

See Syria Daily, May 4: UN Warns of Pro-Assad Offensive on Idlib, Criticizes Forced Removals

Displaced residents from the Damascus suburbs in Azaz in the northwest, near the Turkish border:


Residents Refuse to Leave Regime Enclaves in Idlib Province

Thousands of residents have refused to leave two regime towns in opposition-held Idlib Province, part of a swap deal with fighters and civilians who left areas south of Damascus.

Empty green buses returned from al Fu’ah and Kafraya on Monday night.

Last week, 20 buses took sick and injured residents from the enclaves, but remaining residents have refused to board, saying they want to be evacuated in one group.

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Scott Lucas is Professor of International Politics at the University of Birmingham and editor-in-chief of EA WorldView. He is a specialist in US and British foreign policy and international relations, especially the Middle East and Iran. Formerly he worked as a journalist in the US, writing for newspapers including the Guardian and The Independent and was an essayist for The New Statesman before he founded EA WorldView in November 2008.


  1. [And Beyond: Today In Afghanistan Edition]

    When the Taliban Are at the Gates, a City Has One Choice: Pay Up

    “The residents of Ghazni, a provincial capital of 280,000 about 110 miles south of the capital, Kabul, on a main highway, can hardly tell anymore who’s in charge, and fear has become an everyday companion. With the Taliban controlling some of the road network around Ghazni, citizens have long felt vulnerable. But during a recent visit, I kept hearing an even greater sense of defenselessness. Many here fear a full-on effort by the Taliban to seize the city could come at any time. ”

    “Not content to merely control access to the city, the insurgents have begun attacking police posts within it. The Taliban methodically extort money — they say it is taxation — from businesses in the city center, including those near the government headquarters, and an increasing number of insurgents live openly in the city. Their fighters regularly kill officials, security personnel and even traffic police officers. A Taliban court claims jurisdiction over the city and its outskirts, and carries out floggings, and even, sometimes, stonings.”

    “To get a better sense of the security, I drove with a senior police official into the heart of the city. The commander, who asked not to be named because he was not authorized to brief the news media, climbed a hill with me to survey the area. “The Taliban are present in the city,” he said, pointing out a particular neighborhood where they were most prevalent. “They have their homes here and can do whatever they want to.” “Most of them have guns in their homes,” he continued, “and we can’t do anything because we do not have the ability. Even if we arrest them, they will be out of jail soon and will come after the police to seek revenge.” He suggested that they had reached an accommodation with the insurgents there to keep his men from being targeted. He did not specify the nature of the arrangement because of the sensitivity involved.”

    • Tragic. No good solutions for Afghanistan. And any solution, will be decried by the Left as “colonialism” and “wanting to pull a pipeline”. Damn if you do, damn if you don’t.

      • In Kabul – a city that now averages a little bit over one mass-casualty attack every two weeks – one of the most profitable businesses one can get into in spite of an otherwise ailing economy is coffin manufacturing. A very succinct encapsulation of the tragedy.

        But the status quo is unsustainable, and it doesn’t favor any peace agreement. As bad as it is now, it’s only going to get worse.

        • I can only think of one easy solution and that is to have an Uzbekistan type or Kadirov style dictatorship. Give Afghanistan to Putin. 😀

          • I think the Russians’ memory of their own war is still too fresh for them to involve themselves with this tar baby.

            The last king of Afghanistan died in 2007. Maybe reinstating the monarchy would have been a better choice, it being a form of government Afghans were more acquainted with.

  2. “Rebels said they received assurances that Russian military police will man checkpoints around the enclave, preventing attacks on the mainly-Sunni civilians from surrounding villages which are mostly Alawite, the group to which Bashar al-Assad and most of the ruling elite belong.”

    And the Russians are going to hold back the swarm of Shiites seeking to loot, or take over the homes and lands of the Sunnis?

    Like asking the fox to protect the chicken coop.

  3. Russia throwing in the towel. I think Syria has been Russia’s Vietnam – or is it Afghanistan revisited?

    “Russian military spending fell by 20 percent last year, the first major decrease in two decades. While critics dispute the amount and suggest there may be budgetary machinations at work, most analysts agree that the share of military spending as a percentage of GDP is set to fall, from 6.6 percent in 2016, to 5 percent this year and to 3 percent by the end of Putin’s current term in 2024.”


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