Waer truce headed toward ‘collapse’ as dispute over detainees intensifies

AMMAN: The truce in Homs's last rebel-held district appears on the verge of collapse amidst opposition accusations that the regime has reneged on its promise to release detainees, local sources told Syria Direct Thursday.

A member of the rebel negotiating committee who preferred anonymity told Syria Direct Thursday that the truce has begun “to fall apart,” and that “it is no longer in anyone's interest to hold on" to it.

At least a dozen fighters with Ahrar a-Sham “headed to their stations in Waer” on Thursday, reported Ahrar a-Sham in Homs on Twitter.

Two days earlier, regime representatives informed counterparts in the opposition that only 137 detainees would be released as part of the truce deal, two opposition negotiators told Syria Direct on Thursday.

 Ahrar a-Sham fighters heading to their checkpoints in Waer neighborhood on Wednesday. Photo courtesy of Ahrar a-Sham Homs.

The Waer side gave the regime “a list of 7,360 names of detainees...the regime responded that it could uncover the fate of, and free only 137,” Waleed al-Faris, an opposition negotiator responsible for detainees, told Syria Direct Thursday.

The detainees are either no longer in state custody or are dead, activists in Waer told Syria Direct.

The proposed release of 137 detainees out of the 7,360 requested “is proof that the regime carried out field executions against a lot of prisoners; others were killed under torture, and others still are in the pro-regime militias' prisons, where the regime cannot reach,” Abu al-Baraa al-Homsi, a citizen journalist from Waer, told Syria Direct Thursday.

Waer residents and the regime came to a truce agreement in December 2015, Syria Direct reported at the time. The truce was to unfold in three stages, with the regime agreeing “to release detainees” from the neighborhood as part of phase two. The original text, however, does not specify how many detainees were to be released.

Al-Faris said that a member of the regime’s negotiating committee told him that “the detainees won't be freed—they are terrorists, murderers and traitors to the country.” Syrian state media has not commented recently on the Waer negotiations.

The regime informed rebel negotiators on Wednesday that it would close roads into Waer on Saturday, the opposition negotiators told Syria Direct, among them the main entrance of Duwar al-Muhandiseen, raising fears of a return to total encirclement.

Opening up roads into Waer was agreed upon, and implemented, in the first stage of the December truce.

Before the truce went into effect last December, Waer was completely surrounded by regime forces for more than two years. It is the only remaining rebel holdout district in Homs city after opposition fighters left Old Homs as part of wide-ranging truce across the provincial capital in May 2014.

Osama Abu Zeid

Osama Abu Zeid is a native of Homs, where he served as a media activist and founding member of the Homs Revolutionary Council after the Syrian uprising began in 2011.

Dan Wilkofsky

Dan Wilkofsky was a 2013-2014 fellow at the Center for Arabic Study Abroad (CASA) in Amman, Jordan, where he worked with Talal Abu Ghazaleh Translation and the Ministry of Social Development. He has a BA in Classics (Latin) and Middle East Studies from Brown University.