Syrian sources have revealed the feared Brigadier General Maher al-Assad, brother of the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and commander of the armed forces is closely following the war his troops are waging against rebels and residents in Homs.
Sources told a pro-government website that the elite Armed Fourth Division, commanded by Maher al-Assad “will strike with an iron fist for the liberation of Homs.”
The sources told Damas Post that the General is “busy these days leading the military operation, called 'Northern Hurricane' in the northern Aleppo province, in addition to the battle of Homs,” where the Syrian opposition says that Assad forces, backed by Hezbollah fighters launched a blistering attack over the weekend.
“The Fourth Division is making a real progress and the Syrian armed forces are very close to liberating the entire city of Homs, after taking control of the city of Tal Kalakh recently,” the sources said.
It is the first time a statement has been attributed to Brigadier General Assad since the death of the Syrian Defense Minister and a number of his aides in an explosion in the headquarters of the Syrian Army Chief-of-Staff in July 2012.
Rumors have circulated that General Assad was killed in the blast, or that he was seriously injured – possibly losing his legs in the blast – which has kept him from duty.
The elite Armed Fourth Division has a reputation for ruthlessness and brutality among Syrians. It performs both military and security operations, which includes arrest and torture. Many of those detained by the fourth division have been killed under torture.
A Homs activist who spoke on condition of anonymity told The Syrian Observer that the Damas Post report is intended as a message to the Homs residents.
“Because the Fourth Division is known for its ruthlessness, the mere mentioning of its name scares people," he said.
"The report is meant to discourage Homsi residents from fighting back against Syrian and Hezbollah thugs who are shelling the city for the fifth day.”
However, the activist added, “Homsis have made their minds up and will never give their city over to the herds of Assad and Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah.”