Homs – for many the capital of the Syrian Revolution – was one of the first cities to join the uprisings against the government, and in April 2011 saw its brutality first-hand when crowds protesting in its Clock Tower Square were fired on, reportedly leaving at least 50 dead and others wounded.
Protests against the government have continued there, despite equally unrelenting attacks by security forces.
Witnesses quoted by the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said hundreds of armoured vehicles arrived in the city in early December.
Reports in the Saudi-funded newspaper Al-Sharq al-Awsat said at the time the Assad government threatened to storm the city if army defectors were not handed over.
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“[Homs] is one place where the people just don’t give up, it has become so symbolic,” says Rime Allaf, a Syria expert and associate fellow at the think tank Chatham House.
“That night back in April was a turning point in the Homs saga. People came with tents and sandwiches, prepared to face tear gas, and they were cut down with bullets.”
The incident in Clock Tower Square may have provided a rallying point for those in Homs protesting for democracy in Syria, but a number of other factors sustained the protests throughout the summer and autumn.