Regime’s Forces Retakes Rebels' District of Khalidiya

Analysts say that does not mean “victory” for the Syrian military

The Syrian government said it had fully captured a district that was a key rebel stronghold in the central city of Homs, state media report.

 

The Sana news agency said the military had "restored security and stability to the neighborhood of Khalidiya in Homs after destroying terrorists' gatherings and hideouts.”

 

An official source said that the army dismantled dozens of explosive devices which the terrorists planted in the residential houses and the public roads.

 

Activists reported clashes in Khalidiya on Monday morning, but said that most of the area was under army control.

 

The announcement comes a month after troops launched an offensive to oust rebels from Syria's third largest city.

 

Homs has been one of the focuses of a two-year nationwide uprising against President Bashar al-Assad, in which the UN says more than 100,000 people have died.

 

The fall of Khalidiya had been expected, according to the BBC. One Western diplomat said he had been told recently by a Free Syrian Army commander that it was not possible to get any ammunition or other supplies in. Cut off from help, it was only a matter of time, perhaps, for the rebels.

 

However, UK-based activist group the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights cast doubt on the claim.

 

While the group acknowledged that government forces were in control of most of Khalidiya, it said fighting was continuing on Monday.

 

"Clashes took place between rebels and regime forces, supported by Hezbollah and National Defense Forces, in the southern parts of the Khalidiya neighborhood," it said.

 

"Regime forces are bombarding parts, and military reinforcements are arriving as advancing regime forces try to establish full control."

 

Analysts say the situation is still not clear this morning.

 

EA Worldviews said in an analysis that the regime had made strides in its offensive by taking much of Khalidiya, but that does not mean “victory” for the Syrian military, even in the quest to regain control of all of Homs. Fighting will probably continue in Khalidiya, and there are other districts to be taken.

 

EA sources and a well-placed correspondent believe that the regime will eventually reclaim the entire city, but the process may take some time and it may have been at a high cost in personnel and armaments.

 

Homs is not defining “victory” for the regime. It is not even, contrary to the headlines in much of the media yesterday, one-sided “advance,” EA continued to say. That is because other major battles have been taking place in the last eight weeks. If the Syrian military has finally progressed in Homs, the insurgency has taken key points in Aleppo Province, reinforcing its siege of Syria’s largest city, and controls almost all the territory around Idlib city.

 

Of course, that does not mean a counter-narrative of “victory” for the insurgents — not with the fighting in Kurdistan between the insurgency and Kurdish militia, the weakness of the central command of the Free Syrian Army, the on-going muddle over foreign supply of arms, let alone the difficulty of taking a city rather than just surrounding it. While the regime is struggling to control the suburbs of Damascus, no one should expect President Assad and his inner circle to be fleeing the capital in the near-future.

 

However, the stories beyond Homs do reinforce the idea that this is a war of attrition, rather than sharp, sudden victory. The regime has won one partial — very partial — grinding fight in a part of one district of Homs, but it faces the grind in many other locations across Syria, EA concluded.

 

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