Syria negotiator says Homs once again a 'theater of death'

BEIRUT Thu Apr 17, 2014 10:19am EDT

People gather around wreckage after two car bombs at Karm al-Louz neighborhood in Homs city, April 9, 2014, in this handout released by Syria's national news agency SANA. REUTERS/SANA/Handout via Reuters

People gather around wreckage after two car bombs at Karm al-Louz neighborhood in Homs city, April 9, 2014, in this handout released by Syria's national news agency SANA.

Credit: Reuters/SANA/Handout via Reuters

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BEIRUT (Reuters) - International mediator Lakhdar Brahimi said on Thursday that a deal between trapped fighters and civilians in Homs city and the Syrian authorities had broken down, as government forces appeared close to retaking the besieged opposition area.

Homs, a religiously-mixed city, was the scene of early protests against President Bashar al-Assad in 2011 and has become a symbol of the destructive nature of Syria's civil war, with many of its neighborhoods leveled by army shells.

Hundreds of people remain trapped in the old part of the city, surrounded by government forces and pro-Assad militia. A deal agreed at peace talks in Geneva this year allowed some civilians to leave but further negotiations broke down following heavy fighting this week.

"It is a matter of deep regret that negotiations were brutally stopped and violence is now rife again when a comprehensive agreement seemed close at hand," Brahimi said in a statement.

"It is alarming that Homs, whose people have suffered so much throughout these past three years is again the theatre of death and destruction."

In recent months, government forces have recaptured several rebel-held areas and border towns, closing off rebel supply routes from Lebanon and securing the main highway leading north from Damascus towards central Syria, Homs and the Mediterranean.

The opposition National Coalition, a political body in exile, warned of a massacre if Assad's forces were to push through into the small pocket of rebel-held Homs.

"We warn the international community of a potential massacre in Homs. The Old City has been besieged by regime forces for 676 days," it said in a statement.

Monzer Akbik, spokesman for the group, said it was "critical that the eyes of the world remain fixed on Homs at this crucial time. The regime has reduced what was the soul of the revolution to rubble and ruin."

More than 150,000 people have been killed in the civil war, which began as peaceful protests against Assad's rule, a third of them civilians, according to the anti-Assad Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Millions have fled the country.

(Reporting by Oliver Holmes in Beirut, Dasha Afanasieva in Istanbul and Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

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Comments (5)
TruWorldPeace wrote:
“The opposition National Coalition, a political body in exile, warned of a massacre if Assad’s forces were to push through into the small pocket of rebel-held Homs.”

Don’t we have an irony here? Is a “massacre” of Al Qaeda mass murderers really a massacre? I don’t think so. There can never be true peace as long as terrorist cells are allowed to continue existing in Syria. It is in the best interest of the Syrian people that the army clear all the remaining cannibals in Homs.

Apr 17, 2014 11:19am EDT  --  Report as abuse
jerber wrote:
The Syrian Army is doing a good job terrorism is a very dangerous & is causing a lot of death in many part of the world
Terrorism is a cancerous thing

Apr 17, 2014 5:17pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
kivan wrote:
Reply to The World peace: why do you equate all syrians who are fighting the thugish regime in syria with Al Qadae? is not this a cheap argument propagated by assad and ayatolah lovers? please remove the word peace from your nickname. you do not deserve to be represented by this word

Apr 17, 2014 11:28pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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