Residents pass by a checkpoint as they arrive to inspect their homes in the Wadi Al-Sayeh district at the al-Khalidiyeh area in Homs May 14, 2014. (REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki)
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Fierce clashes erupted between pro-Assad militias from the National Defense Forces and the Syrian Social Nationalist Party in Homs this week in an unusually public confrontation between allies.In the days following the deal, Homs residents have flooded back to their battered and abandoned homes in the Old City, where the rebels had been penned in under an intense government siege for over two years.Some reports suggested the battle broke out after NDF troops looted Christian homes.Phillip Smyth, a researcher at the University of Maryland who specializes in Shiite militant groups and uses open-source material to track their movements, said that while it remained unclear how this incident erupted, "there have been others".He noted that as Assad forces, backed by a host of various militias, including Hezbollah and Iraqi Shiite forces, have made gains, factionalism has become more pronounced, with the SSNP in particular appearing to assert control of territory. The SSNP, itself split between pro- and anti-Assad factions, is considered a political "loyalist opposition" group, advocating reform inside Syria. The party has maintained a tenuous historical alliance with the Assad regime under both Bashar Assad and his father and predecessor, Hafez, tolerated within limits and used as proxy force in Lebanon at other times.
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