Terms of possible al-Waer truce would see thousands of locals evacuated
By Osama Abu Zeid and Justin Clark
Al-WAER, HOMS: Opposition negotiators in the last rebel-held neighborhood in Homs city reportedly agreed on Monday to a truce with the Syrian government that would see the area return to regime control, a member of the negotiations committee tells the Syrian Voice.
The truce does not include the release of 7,000 prisoners held in regime prisons that rebels had previously considered a necessary component to any evacuation agreement.
If the deal is finalized, rebel fighters and civilians in Homs’s al-Waer neighborhood will be given the choice of evacuating to opposition-controlled Idlib province in Syria’s north, or remaining in their homes to “reconcile” with the regime, says a rebel negotiator who requested anonymity for security reasons.
The regime regained control Homs city, Syria’s third largest urban area, in 2014, but several thousand rebel fighters remained in al-Waer, located northwest of the city. After three years of bombardment and an airtight siege, 40,000 civilians remain in al-Waer, which is about one-and-a-half times the size of Central Park.
The terms of the current agreement dictate that residents who wish to evacuate will be transported out of al-Waer in groups of 1,500 over the course of seven days. After the evacuation, Russian and Syrian Arab Army (SAA) troops will enter the neighborhood to retake control.
For those who wish to remain, they must give up their weapons and “reconcile” with the regime. Anyone who has been involved in “crimes” will be arrested and tried, the negotiator tells the Syrian Voice.
A “civil committee” will also be established inside the neighborhood in order to monitor the situation and ensure that the terms of the deal are being enforced.
Reacting to the agreement, al-Waer residents expressed a sense uncertainty regarding the choices offered by the possible truce.
“I feel paralyzed,” 50-year-old al-Waer resident Abu Waleed tells the Syrian Voice. “Do I stay or do I leave? How can I leave these streets, walls and years of memories behind me?”
The negotiator also warns residents to be cautious about remaining in al-Waer.
“Even if someone did not commit a crime, if he stays in the neighborhood the regime may fabricate charges against him and falsify evidence,” claims the negotiator. “The regime has been known for these kinds of behaviors both during and before the revolution.”
The negotiator adds that there are currently tens of thousands of Syrians detained by the regime and sentenced without trial, their fates remaining unknown.