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NOW

Regime to Homs rebels: Surrender
or face destruction

Rebels were given a 24-hour ultimatum to surrender and be granted amnesty.

An explosion rocks Hirbnafsah. (YouTube/Khaled Zaher)

BEIRUT – The Syrian regime has dropped leaflets over rebel-held areas north of Homs warning of further destruction amid an uptick of airstrikes conducted by Russian and regime jets.

 

The ominous leaflets that were delivered on Wednesday morning by helicopters overflying the pocket of opposition-controlled territory offered an amnesty to local fighters willing to hand over their weapons and force out foreign combatants from the flashpoint region.

 

Rebels were given until Thursday to accept the offer, or else "combat will resume, causing great losses that can be avoided," according to the leaflets.

 

"Choosing the path of peace and safe life is much better than the path of war and destruction," the leaflets added.

 

A regime helicopter drops leaflets over the northern Homs countryside. (Step News Agency)

 

Local citizen journalists and the activist-run Homs Media Center, have reported intensified bombardment of rebel areas in past days, while videos have circulated social media showing strikes rocking the towns and villages north of Homs.

 

"Russian planes have not left the area's skies for three days," activist Amer al-Nasser told Alaan television.

 

"They have carried out more than 80 raids, killing almost 25 people and injuring over 100, most of them women and children," he said in an interview published Wednesday morning.

 

For its part, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported a number of strikes north of Homs, some of which were launched on Tuesday afternoon and killed eight people, including five children.

 

The bombing has targeted the towns of Hirbnafsah, Kissin and Gharnata, which lie between the Homs and Hama provinces along one of the last supply lines into rebel held territory in the region.

 

Pro-rebel Zaman al-Wasl said that Hirbnafsah and Kissin have been "almost completely destroyed" by the airstrikes, while residents have fled the beleaguered towns to seek safer shelter.

 

The Syrian regime launched an offensive in mid-January to seize Hirbanfsah and nearby towns near the administrative border separating the Homs and Hama provinces, however rebels holed up in the area have put up stiff resistance.

 

At the beginning of the month, pro-regime forces had seized a series villages east of the Hama-Homs M5 highway, threatening to impose a harsh siege on northern Homs.

 

Activists have warned that these advances could cause a humanitarian disaster for the region and its 250,000 inhabitants.

 

To the north of Homs, rebels control an approximately 50-kilometer wide pocket of territory which at its narrowest tendril stretches down directly from Talbisa along the key M-5 highway to the outskirts of the provincial capital.

Regime forces have maintained a salient piercing into the rebel zone of control, which they have repeatedly attempted to roll back without any considerable success, even with the start of Russian airstrikes on September 30, 2015.​

 

The bombing has targeted the towns of Hirbnafsah, Kissin and Gharnata, which lie between the Homs and Hama provinces along one of the last supply lines into rebel held territory in the region.

 

NOW’s English news desk editor Albin Szakola (@AlbinSzakola) wrote this report. Ullin Hope translated the Arabic-language source material.

An explosion rocks Hirbnafsah. (YouTube/Khaled Zaher)

Choosing the path of peace and safe life is much better than the path of war and destruction,