BEIRUT – Unprecedented fighting erupted between regime troops and National Defense Force members in an Alawite quarter of central Homs, according to press reports and activist statements.
Alaraby Aljadeed reported Wednesday that “internal differences” between the two pro-Bashar al-Assad fighting forces turned into deadly clashes in the city’s Zahraa quarter, an Alawite-populated district.
“A joint force of the regime’s security apparatus, supported by a BMP and [ZSU-23-4] Shilka armored vehicle stormed overnight the headquarters of… National Defense Forces groups in the Zahraa area,” local media activist Thaer Khalidiyeh told the London-based daily.
“Clashes between the two sides resulted in a number of fatalities,” he said, adding that regime troops found a car rigged with explosives mean to assassinate Homs Governor Talal al-Barazi in the NDF headquarters.
“The differences between the two sides broke out when the inhabitants of Zahraa and [a nearby Armenian quarter] began to complain about the actions of the NDF members.”
A pro-rebel activist famous for his field reports on fighting in Syria said that members of the regime’s powerful Air Force and Military intelligence branches have been trying to arrest the leaders of several NDF groups in Zahraa for the past four days.
“This comes after they were accused of being behind the detonation of car bombs in the neighborhood and being behind the kidnappings that take place in the Zahraa and Armenian areas,” Hadi Abdullah wrote on his Facebook page.
A number of leading Arabic-language publications, including Al-Hayat and Alaraby Aljadeed, cited Abdullah’s report, which added that armed clashes erupted following regime attempts to arrest local NDF officers.
Meanwhile, pro-opposition Orient News spoke with a member of the activist Homs Media Center, who claimed Wednesday that the strife followed increased insubordination among pro-regime supporters as the corpses of their colleagues deployed to fighting in Idlib have been returned to Homs.
“Dozens of bodies… began consecutively arriving from Jisr al-Shughur, Idlib and the fierce battles in Aleppo,” Mohammad al-Homsi alleged.
“A state of anger […] has begun to turn in to insubordination, especially by the NDF.”
He added that NDF members in Homs have not been paid their salaries in recent months, and have resorted to violence to extort money from local residents.
“They are depending on a policy of bombings” al-Homsi said, and accused the NDF of being responsible for a string of bombings in Homs, including the bombing of a school in the city’s Akrama neighborhood.
“In the last bombing—which happened between the Armenian neighborhood and Zahraa—millions of Syrian Pounds were stolen from […] shops,” Homsi claimed.
“As soon as the doors are blown off the shops are robbed, at the same moment as people are rushing [to the scene] to save the victims and pull out bodies.”