Al-Waer: Another case study why not to trust Assad

Julian Röpcke 2017-02-27 10:18:00

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For the past 17 days, Bashar Assad’s jets have been pounding al-Waer, the last quarter of Homs city not yet under regime control. Dozens have died in the brutal air strikes on civilian infrastructure inhabited by thousands who live in fear of the heinous attacks.

But why does the regime shell the tiny area of less than 3 square kilometers in which 60,000 to 75,000 are besieged and have nowhere to go? The answer is: Terror.

The negotiations for the withdrawal of the last rebels from the area have started in December 2015 – under the so-called “reconciliation agreements” of the Russian regime which has been bombing Syria for Assad since September 2015. And the opposition’s demand was not much: They wanted to know some details about the fate of more than 7,000 people, captured by the regime in the greater Homs area since 2011. In September 2015, rebels fulfilled their end of the bargain. Within one week, 223 “fighters and their families” – about 350 people in total – were “evacuated” – displaced – from the Homs quarter to Idlib province. Though these might not be all armed men in al-Waer, they made the largest share of possible defenders of the densely populated neighborhood. 

What happened then was another proof that any kind of “deal” with dictator Assad and his backers would only result in further suffering, not in any sort of progress. The regime allowed in some food and did not bomb the area for some months, playing nice in its malicious game of terror.

In early January, regime jets resumed bombing al-Waer – first with a couple of air strikes within two weeks, then nonstop from sunrise to sunset. Hezbollah forces on the ground did their part and fired mortars, self-made rockets and artillery shells into al-Waer, locking people into their homes, praying to survive the indiscriminate attacks on them and their families. 

What must be stressed – and condemned as nothing less than a war crime – is that neither the Shiite militia surrounding al-Waer nor what is left of the Assad regime army, tried to advance into the pocket. Hundreds of bombs from the air, which surely cost tens of thousands of Dollars every week, have only one aim: To terrorize the civilian population and punish them for not being submissive to the brutal dictator or his sectarian allies.

As only a couple of dozens of Syrian rebels – as good as none of them from internationally terrorist-labeled “Jabhat Fateh al-Sham” – remain in the town after September 2016, it would have been a matter of hours, maybe days, for thousands of regime-loyal militants to overrun al-Waer and re-establish full control over Homs city. Alone, they are not willing to end their dirty game of besieging and bombing tens of thousands of civilians in an area with the size of Aleppo International Airport. 

Hence, the town and its pitiful inhabitants remain another reminder that Assad cannot be trusted, no matter what he promises and no matter which nuclear power might bail for his claims, something many international organizations and countries have not even begun to understand so far.

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Julian Röpcke is a newspaper editor and political commentator, based in the German capital, Berlin. With a degree in Political Geography and Sociology, Mr. Röpcke started analyzing geopolitical conflicts after the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. He covered the “Arab Spring” as well as the evolving conflicts in Syria and Ukraine from their very beginning. Julian Röpcke works for BILD, the largest newspaper and leading online news portal in Germany (@JulianRoepcke).

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