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Siege threat looms over northern Homs

Pro-regime forces advancing southeast of Hama have cut off key rebel supply lines.

Syrian regime troops outside Homs. (AFP)

BEIRUT - Syrian regime forces have cut off rebel supply lines south of Hama, threatening to impose a harsh siege on opposition-held territory in the northern Homs area.

 

“Regime forces are working to impose a choking siege on southern Hama countryside and northern Homs countryside,” a media activist told Alaraby Aljadeed in an article published Monday.

 

The activist, who goes by the pseudonym Abu Talib al-Hamawi, explained that in the past week regime troops have pressed a military campaign along a series of villages east of the Hama-Homs M5 highway.

 

“Resistance by opposition factions in northern Homs and southern Hama has been weak because of poor coordination, and a lack of support and heavy weaponry,” he explained.

 

Pro-Damascus outlets have reported over the past two days that Syrian regime forces have swept into villages lying along the Orontes river, which winds its way southeast from Hama.

 

Lebanon’s pro-regime As-Safir daily said that the Syrian army advances have allowed the regime to “close the militants’ most important supply lines” into northern Homs.

 

Meanwhile, Al-Akhbar reported that the regime advances to cut rebel supply lines “came as a surprise to the militants.”

 

“The armed factions have sent out dozens of cries for help, calling on the remaining factions to open new fronts in northern and western Hama to reduce the pressure on southeastern Hama and counter the danger facing northern Homs countryside,” the pro-Hezbollah paper claimed.

 

Humanitarian crisis

 

Syrian regime advances on the southeast Hama front threaten to cause a humanitarian disaster for rebel-held territory further southward outside Homs, according to activists.

 

Abu Talib al-Hamawi told Alaraby Aljadeed that the regime gains “will shut off... the most important war roads, which [have been used] to bring in foodstuffs, medicine and sometimes weapons.”

 

In turn, the official spokesperson for the Hama Media Center said that a number of the areas seized by regime forces south of Hama serve as “the only point of entry to the northern Homs countryside.”

 

“If the regime captures them it will have completely besieged northern Homs countryside and southern Hama countryside,” Hassan al-Omari told the London-based daily.

 

“The siege, if it happens, will be the precursor to a humanitarian catastrophe in the two areas… as the number of besieged civilian inhabitants in these areas exceeds 300,000.”

 

A spokesperson in the Homs Media Center warned that 250,000 people living in northern Homs will face a “risk of starvation” if the regime manages to keep the supply route running through the southeastern Homs village of Jnan closed.

 

“They may also be subjected to forced displacement as has happened in Old Homs, Al-Waer, Qudseya and Zabadani,” Mohammed al-Sibai added to Alaraby Aljadeed.

 

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

Syrian regime troops outside Homs. (AFP)

The siege, if it happens, will be the precursor to a humanitarian catastrophe in the two areas… as the number of besieged civilian inhabitants in these areas exceeds 300,000.