After a violent month of military assault from Syrian forces, opposition rebels made a “tactical retreat” from Bab Amr in the city of Homs.

The battle of Bab Amr has become “the symbol of the year-long uprising against the rule of President Bashar al-Assad,” says Peter Beaumont in The Guardian. It’s where The Sunday Times journalist Marie Colvin and French photographer Rémi Ochlik were killed last week.

Hundreds of people have been killed in Bab Amr in recent months and around 4000 people remain still living in the suburban area. Already there are reports of “reprisal killings” of civilians left behind now the opposition rebels have left.

Rebels said they withdrew due to “worsening humanitarian conditions, lack of food and medicine and water, electricity and communication cuts as well as shortages in weapons.”

The Red Cross finally received permission from Syrian authorities to enter Homs to evacuate civilians and bring emergency supplies in.

The Guardian explains the situtation now in Homs:

“After seizing the shattered suburb, Syrian troops began so-called “mopping-up” operations – moving from ruined building to ruined building in search of rebel fighters, residents said. The sweep continued all day.

There were reports – impossible to verify – of revenge atrocities by Syrian security forces: 17 people apparently beheaded, or partially beheaded, in a farming area on the outskirts of Baba Amr. Six of those slaughtered were said to be from the Sabouh family. Their names were posted on the internet in Arabic.

Other FSA sources said “hundreds of bodies of the dead and injured” lay amid the rubble. A photo posted by El Mundo reporter Javier Espinosa — who survived the attack that killed the Sunday Times journalist Marie Colvin and French photographer Rémi Ochlik — showed gutters running red with blood.”

Here’s the photo by Espinosa:

The Spanish reporter has just safely escaped from Homs and is now in Lebanon.

Former aid worker Jonathan Littell has been filing reports from Syria for France’s Le Monde. A translated piece appeared in London’s Review of Books (this is a long article, but while worth book marking to read):

“If they didn’t shoot at the demonstrators,’ an old gentleman said to me, ‘all of Homs would be out in the street.’ In the city centre, hundreds of young people formed rows, arm in arm, shouted the takbir again and began to jump to the rhythm of the drums and the revolutionary songs struck up by the leaders, who were standing on a scaffold in the middle of a circle of dancers. At one side, a crowd of veiled women – a sea of white, pink and black scarves, with babies and balloons – ululated and took up the leaders’ chants along with the men. Around them, the balconies were crowded with people. The atmosphere was one of mad exhilaration, furious, desperate joy.

At the end of the demonstration, dozens of young people surrounded me, trying out their four words of English. They all showed me their scars, their bruises, their electrical burns, or where bullets or shrapnel had struck. The brother of one of them had been killed by a sniper as he was crossing the street, the mother of another by a shell; everyone wanted to tell everything, right away. They were waving their mobile phones: ‘Shouf, shouf, look!’ A corpse mottled with torture marks, another with its skull smashed in, in yet another the camera lingered on each wound, gaping holes in the groin, the leg, the chest, the throat. Wherever we went, it was the same. In an emergency clinic in al-Khaldiye, in the northern part of the city, the smartphone of a young nurse appeared even before tea did: on the screen, a man is dying in the hands of a doctor who is trying to intubate him on the ground, at the foot of the sofa I’m sitting on. He was a taxi driver; he was hit in the face by a bullet and is lying in an immense pool of blood, his brain pouring onto the floor. ‘You see the hands, there?’ the nurse said. ‘That’s me.’ She went on to the next video, the tea arrived, I drank it without taking my eyes off the little screen. Every mobile phone in Homs is a museum of horrors.”

Peter Fray

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