The Assad regime has continued in its attempt to storm and control the Homs Central Prison, causing reactions from military and political figures in response.
Protests have erupted in a number of Syrian cities in solidarity with the prisoners, while the opposition has threatened military escalation and an end to talks with the Russians and both the domestic and foreign negotiations meetings.
The Revolutionary Command of Rastan, an alliance of rebel groups, issued a statement stating that if the attack on the Central Prison is not halted then it would bombard military and strategic targets and regime villages in the countryside, in addition to halting talks with the Russians and refusing to recognize the domestic and international negotiation efforts.
The Russians have failed to stop the storming of the prison despite vowing to do so, and though there have been communications with the negotiations committee, nothing has changed.
Chief of Revolutionary Command Col. Ibrahim Ayub told Alsouria Net: “We have issued a statement about what has occurred in the prison, out of fear that the regime will carry out a massacre against prisoners.”
He added: “We have agreed to negotiate with the Russians to get these prisoners out, and we will carry out a number of military and political steps to save them.”
Ayub said that all the “groups under the Revolutionary Command are ready, while the other groups will no doubt cooperate. They will have their own steps, and so we will coordinate with them with the aim of any military action or strike being united among all rebel groups on regime military targets.”
Protests also broke out in Syrian cities in solidarity with the prison issue, most prominently in the city of Al-Bab in northern Syria, where the demonstrations are expected to be organized today as well to encourage the issue to be resolved, according to Alsouria Net correspondent Yaarib al-Dali. Alsouria Net was able to communicate with one of the prisoners inside the prison who said that the issue began when the newly appointed prison director, Brig. Gen. Bilal Suleiman, moved to carry out reprisals against prisoners and break them by force, and mobilized regime soldiers who set up machine guns around the prison. The detainees, who number about 500, gathered on the outskirts of the prison for protection with handmade weapons.
The prisoner added that “an open hunger strike began until the incursion was halted, and the situation of the prisoners was reviewed, especially given that the regime has recently begun to unfairly prosecute them, and has issued rulings of up to 30 years [punishment] for demonstrations, and there are people who have not even been tried at all.”
Regime forces have stormed the Homs Central Prison more than once, using tear gas and live ammunition, which has resulted in deaths and wounded among the prisoners.
Human rights groups, including Amnesty International, have called on the Assad regime more than once to closely follow up on the situation of the prisoners in the Homs Central Prison and to quickly intervene to preserve the lives of prisoners and respect their rights, which has been rejected by the regime.
This article was translated and edited by The Syrian Observer. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.