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Syrian rebels abandon last positions in Homs

Homs was once the “capital of the revolution”. Now it is back in the hands of Bashar Assad.

Image: Apexchange

CARRYING THEIR RIFLES and small bags of belongings, hundreds of exhausted Syrian rebels withdrew from their last remaining strongholds in the heart of Homs, surrendering to President Bashar Assad a bloodstained city that was once the centre of the revolt against him.

For Assad, it is a powerful victory ahead of presidential elections. For the rebels, the dramatic exit after two years of enduring gruelling assaults and siege captures their sense of abandonment amid world reluctance to help shift the balance of power on the ground.

“We ate grass and leaves until there was nothing left for us to eat,” said opposition activist Abu Yassin al-Homsi, who was preparing to leave with the rebels.

“We kept urging the international community to lift the siege but there was no response,” he added.

The exit of some 1,200 fighters and civilians marks a de-facto end of the rebellion in the war shattered city, which was one of the first places to rise up against Assad’s rule, earning its nickname as “the capital of the revolution.”

Gaining virtually full control of Syria’s third largest city is a major win for Assad on multiple levels. Militarily, it solidifies the government hold on a swath of territory in central Syria, linking the capital Damascus with government strongholds along the coast and giving a staging ground to advance against rebel territory further north.

Politically, gains on the ground boost Assad’s hold on power as he seeks to add a further claim of legitimacy in presidential elections set for June 3, which Western powers and the opposition have dismissed as a farce.

“For those who want to believe that the regime is winning, it’s a powerful symbolic confirmation of that,” said Peter Harling, a Middle East expert at the International Crisis Group think tank. “But it really is about what the regime has to offer beyond years of such symbolic military victories,” he added.

“If you take a broader perspective, I think it’s an indication that this conflict is going to take years.”

Read: Two crucified, 60 killed, as chemical weapons watchdog launches fresh probe in Syria

Read: Egyptian TV claims The Simpsons predicted the Syrian civil war

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Associated Press

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