Regime-controlled areas in April 2021 | Chronic crises…alarming security chaos escalation in Daraa…dramatic development in al-Qamishli…arrests in different territories
Security chaos is escalating throughout areas under the control of the Syrian regime, particularly in Daraa province which is under symbolic regime domination, as the Russians and Iranians are the de-facto rulers of the province, as attacks, including explosions, armed attacks and attempted assassinations are documented daily.
In light of this alarming escalation of security chaos, SOHR activists documented over 51 attacks only in Daraa and al-Quneitra provinces in April 2021. these attacks left 43 people dead they are: 12 civilians, including two children, 19 regime soldiers and “collaborators”, ten former opposition fighters, one member of the 5th Corps, and one individual “collaborating” with Iranian-backed militias.
Daraa: Ongoing arrests
On April 4, members of the Air-Force Intelligence branch arrested a young woman from Al-Muzayrip town in Daraa countryside at Mankat al-Hatab checkpoint on Daraa-Damascus international highway, where she was taken to a regime prison in Damascus. The woman was released a day later, after negotiations between the central commission in Daraa and regime forces following threats by gunmen of attacking regime checkpoints and posts in Daraa in response to the arrest of the woman.
In late April, the Air-Force Intelligence service arrested a former member of opposition factions, who struck a reconciliation deal with security services, in Da’el town in Daraa countryside.
Various areas in al-Suwaidaa province experienced a surge in security chaos, including kidnappings and car theft, in light of lack of security measures by regime forces, and local factions’ preoccupation with protecting their areas. the key developments in al-Suwaidaa province in April could be summarised as follows:
- On April 19, unidentified gunmen lured a young taxi driver from the town of Al-Ghariya and resided in the city of al-Suwaidaa, and shot him dead near the village of Sahawa al-Balata, where they stole his car and possessions, before they escaped.
- On April 4, tens of people and dignitaries of “Um Al-Rumman” village in the southern countryside of al-Suwaidaa, gathered in front of “al-Muwahhidun al-Druze House” (the House of the Unitarian Druze community) in al-Suwaidaa city, blocking the way to the “House”, protesting the death of a young man and injury of three others in a security campaign by regime security services on March 29.
- On April 6, SOHR activists have reported seeing tens of residents from al-Suwaidaa blocking al-Suwaidaa-Damascus highway, to the flank of northern al-Suwaidaa city, protesting the reduction of fuel amounts allocated to the province.
- On April 18, SOHR activists reported a new crime of domestic violence in al-Suwaidaa province in south Syria region, as a man shot dead his wife in their house near the civil prison in al-Suwaidaa city.
- On the same day, April 18, SOHR sources reported graffiti against the Syrian regime and the Lebanese Hezbollah left on the walls of Al-Suwaidaa city, some of which read “A piece of advice to the gangs of Al-Suwaidaa; you are scapegoat for the security services. Tomorrow, you will be sold in public auction – We are your grandsons of the Sultan, and we will never be humiliated – Down with Bashar Al-Assad – Hezbollah is terrorist”.
- On April 27, armed group has attacked two young men while they were shepherding cattle nearby al-Quraya town in al-Suwaidaa countryside. The attackers looted over ten cows and the money and mobile devices in the shepherds’ possession and beat them, before they escaped.
- In late April, the village of Walgha in the western countryside of al-Suwaydaa experienced a state of tension, as a person threw a grenade at a house of another person in the village. The tension evolved into an exchange of fire between the two sides, in which the person who threw the grenade was killed and another of his family was injured, while two persons from the other family were also injured.
Regime security services recently entrust to the “Criminal Security” branch the arrest of wanted individuals, who participated in the uprising or worked in civil institutions affiliated with the opposition in eastern Ghouta in Rif Dimashq, before the displacement of the opposition factions. According to SOHR sources, the Syrian regime’s security services have referred the files of many detainees to the “Criminal Security” branch, so that they can evade the Russians’ requests, especially with the appeals by detainees’ families to the Russian police to set the detainees free or disclose their fate. Accordingly, the opposition detainees will not be allowed to be released under the pretext that “they are involved in criminal cases not political ones”.
On April 24, members of the 4th Division stationed at a checkpoint in Al-Ramousah area in the suburbs of Aleppo city arrested three young men from eastern Ghouta, while attempting to flee to areas under the control of opposition factions in the northern countryside of Aleppo. According to SOHR sources, the three young men were from Saqba and Harasta areas. The arrested people’s families reported that the three were taken to “al-Khateeb 251 Branch” in the capital, Damascus.
In late April, the regime’s security services tightened security measures in eastern Qalamoun in Rif Dimashq through boosting their checkpoints and their massive deployment. According to SOHR activists, these strict security measures follow the escape of dozens of young men, who had struck reconciliation deals with regime security services, from performing their military service in Daraa governorate, for fear of the almost-daily assassinations that target regime soldiers, officers, and collaborators. According to SOHR sources, the number of young men hiding in Al-Raheeba, Jeroud and Dumer reached 243.
While on April 29, SOHR activists monitored graffiti written by unknown persons on some walls in the town of Kanaker in western Ghouta, calling for the release of the detainees in regime’s security prisons. Some graffiti reads “we want all the detainees back,” “No peace before the release of the detainees.” This development came a few days after dignitaries and some of the people of Kanakar had met with a Russian delegation and regime officers.
SOHR activists have documented alarming prevalence of brothels in most of the areas controlled by the Syrian regime, particularly Damascus and areas where members of Iranian-backed militias and the Lebanese Hezbollah are deployed, in light of growing depravity and immorality. In this context, local sources have told SOHR that a woman and her friend in Berzeh neighbourhood, Damascus, has rented a house, turning it into a brothel. According to the sources, the two women used to host young men and girls in this house to sleep with each others, where such practices lasted for months in full view of the security forces, until the Vice Squad detected the brothel after it had received a complaint.
On the other hand, narcotics trafficking has been also prevalent throughout Syria, as SOHR highlighted, in a report published in mid April, the prevalence of this phenomenon in areas under the control of the Syrian regime and Iranian-backed militias, in light of the escalating security chaos across Syria. Meanwhile the drugs are distributed secretly and transported under camouflage by public and private means of transportation. It is worth noting that narcotics are prevalent in most Syrian provinces, particularly areas under the control of the Syrian regime, especially south Syria region, including Al-Suwaidaa, Daraa, Al-Quneitra, Damascus and Rif Dimashq.
Meanwhile, long queues of people and cars have become common scenes in the Syrian regime-held areas in all provinces, in light of deteriorating living conditions significantly, despite the improvement in the valu of the Syrian pound. The long queues are seen in front of petrol stations, bread bakeries, bus stops, public institutions and other places. Where many of bakeries were closed, dozens of petrol stations were shut down due to fuel scarcity, while the transportation crisis became a nightmare for civilians in the regime-held areas in general, particularly employees and school and university students. Meanwhile, the regime’s authorities take no action to secure the people’s basic needs, in light of the astronomically inflated prices of basic commodities and the instable exchange rate of the Syrian pound against foreign currencies. Moreover, the salary of a Syrian employee, which ranges from $15 to $20, 50,000 and 75,000 Syrian pounds, is not enough for five days. In Damascus, the selling rate is 3,725 SYP and the buying rate is 3,625 SYP against the dollar, while 4,385 SYP for selling and 4,262 SYP for buying against the euro. In Idlib and Aleppo countryside, however, the selling rate is 485 SYP and the buying rate is 441 SYP against Turkish lira. On the other hand, the price of one gram of 21 carat gold has reached 181,000 SYP per gram in Damascus.
Furthermore, the prices of medicine in regime-held areas, particularly Damascus, have noticeably increased, along with the lack of many kinds of medicine in pharmacies, including medication for cardiovascular disease, kidney diseases, hypertension, diabetes and some of children’s medicines. This development comes as a part of the chronic crises plaguing the Syrians living in areas under the control of Syrian regime.
On April 21, SOHR sources reported hearing a loud explosion, this morning, followed by several explosions on the outskirts of the city of Al-Raheeba in eastern Qalamoun in Rif Dimashq, as a result of explosions in ammunition depots of the “20th Brigade” of the “3rd Division” of regime’s forces. Flames were seen rising from the ammunition depots for about 3 hours before the regime forces extinguished the fires, while the reasons behind the explosion remained unknown. According to SOHR sources, at least 10 members of regime forces were injured while trying to put out the fires, and they were taken to hospitals in Damascus.
While on April 23, SOHR sources reported that since the Syrian regime captured eastern Ghouta, the regime’s security services prevented the residents of Jubar neighbourhood, Damascus, from returning to their areas or checking their houses and properties. According to SOHR sources, the people and dignitaries of Jubar neighbourhood, now living in Ain Tarma town in eastern Ghouta, met with a group of regime officers, nearly two months earlier, at the headquarters of the civil council of Ain Tarma town, where they discussed the issue of allowing the neighbourhood’s residents to return to their areas. However, the officers told the residents that there was a decision by the supreme command, preventing the residents from returning to their houses or check them. Moreover, an officer has told the residents and dignitaries that the regime’s government studies the removal of the entire neighbourhood. This means that the neighbourhood would be under the terms of Act No. 23 issued in 2015, according to which the regime’s government would remove all neighbourhoods and cities which were subjected to natural disasters like Al-Qaboun and Tishreen neighbourhoods, areas adjacent Barzeh and Tishreen neighbourhoods and a large part of al-Dukhaniyyah neighbourhood. According to local sources, many people from Jubar neighbourhood offered their houses and properties for sale at real estate offices at very low prices for fear of being seized by regime forces, especially since most of the terms of Act No. 23 were not clear except for the terms stipulating the removal of the uninhabitable neighbourhoods and cities affected by the war, without clearing the fate of the civilians’ properties.
The presence of the National Defense Forces in the city of al-Qamishli has completely ended, after they were removed by regime forces from the security square area, specifically from their headquarters, the “old national hospital”, where they were replaced by Military Security forces. With their loss of positions in the Halko and Al-Tay neighbourhoods, the presence of NDF in the city has ended. However, they are now stationed only on the southern and south-eastern suburbs of al-Qamishli. This development came after dramatic actions started with clashes on April 20 between Asayish Forces and NDF in Tayy neighbourhood in al-Qamishli city, while the clashes ended after a Russian truce and the Asayish Forces control of large spaces of Halkou and Tayy neighbourhoods. The clashes at that time resulted in the death of a child and a tribal elder due to gunfire by NDF, while the exchange of fire left eight NDF members and seven Asayish members dead. On the other hand, the Internal Security Forces “Asaish” released the state television correspondent and director of the radio and television centre in al-Hasaka “Fadil Hammad”, hours after his arrest from his house. Mr. Fadil was released after mediation and guarantees by Russian forces and elders from the region following the battle in al-Qamishli city in April.
On April 3, a violent armed fight erupted between two families in the regime-controlled village of al-Dallawiya in the southern countryside of al-Qamishli, after dispute over the possession of agricultural land in the village. According to Syrian Observatory sources, the armed fight left four members of the first family dead, while three people of the other family, including two women, were also killed.
While on April 10, the “National Defence Forces” (NDF) graduated a new military batch, in the presence of military and local bodies in Al-Hasakah. The new batch comprises nearly 80 fighters who have volunteered in the ranks of NDF, with a monthly salary of 25,000 SYL each. According to SOHR sources, the recently-graduated fighters were distributed to NDF posts in Al-Qamishli city and countryside. SOHR sources also confirmed that these fighters joined NDF in order to avoid being driven to compulsory and reserve service in the Syrian regime’s military, as many of them were wanted for military service.
A few days later, the deputy commander of the “National Defense Forces” in al-Qamishli, allowed all graduates of the militia’s latest training course to go to their homes in return for forgoing their monthly salaries. He also allowed them to keep their NDF IDs which they were granted in order not to join compulsory and reserve service in the regime’s army.
On the other hand, members of the regime-backed “National Defence Forces” (NDF) looted state-subsidized bread, allocated to the residents, in a bread bakery in the regime-controlled neighbourhood of Zanoud in Al-Qamishli city. According to SOHR sources, NDF members went to the bread bakery every day in the early morning, where they took hundreds of packs of state-subsidized bread and sold the bread to the area’s residents at higher price.
On April 2, the National Defense Forces stormed the homes of some of its affiliated members in al-Mayadeen city, arresting nine members and taking them to the NDF headquarters in al-Arbaeen Street in al-Mayadeen. This arrest came as these members defaulted the security campaign launched by regime forces and militias loyal to Russian and regime forces in order to comb al-Mayadeen, east of Deir Ezzor in west Euphrates region.
While on April 11, dignitaries from the city of al-Mayadeen in eastern Deir Ezzor met with the leadership of the “4th Division” in the city, and asked the leadership of the “4th Division” to stop the levies imposed by the Division’s checkpoints stationed at the entrances to the city of Al-Mayadeen on trucks transporting goods and vegetables coming to the city. it is worth noting that the checkpoints of the “4th Division” at the entrances to the city imposed levies under the name of “customs tax” on all trucks transporting food, vegetables and goods entering the city, ranging from one million Syrian pounds to five million pounds depending on the quantity and type of goods. Consequently, the city of al-Mayadeen experienced a significant increase in the prices of materials and goods, compared to the rest of the regime-controlled areas. According to Syrian Observatory sources, the “4th Division” command rejected the request of the dignitaries of al-Mayadeen, explaining that the imposition of levies was high orders by the Division’s leadership in Damascus, and they can only suspend them at the command orders.
On April 20, unknown gunmen stormed a civilian’s house in al-Mityaha village in the south of Dabsi Affan area in Al-Raqqah countryside, where they shot dead a boy under the age of eighteen, while another person sustained several gunshots. The attackers also opened fire indiscriminately on livestock belonging to the family, killing tens of cattle. However, the identities of the perpetrators and the reasons behind this horrific crime remained unknown.
On April13, a boy under the age of eighteen was killed after being hit with a gunshot at head in Al-Khudar neighbourhood in Homs city. While uncertainty surrounded the circumstances of this incident and it is not known if the boy was killed or hit with indiscriminate gunshot.
On April 11, unidentified gunmen attacked al-Fawwar security checkpoint in Jableh countryside in Latakia and shot a regime officer, before they escaped. The officer hailed from the village of al-Ashrafieh in Jableh, while residents accused a gang of smugglers and shabiha (pro-regime armed group) of killing the regime officer.
While on April 24, three Syrians died in the burning of a fuel tank in the Iranian oil tanker opposite the city of Banias on the Syrian coastline. It is not yet known whether they were staff working in the tanker or not.
Israeli strikes hit regime positions
On April 8, SOHR activists documented new Israeli bombardment on military positions of Iranian-backed militias nearby Damascus in the early hours of Thursday morning, as Israeli strikes destroyed a weapons and ammunition warehouse believed to be used by militias affiliated to the Lebanese Hezbollah in a military post near Al-Demas area. The Israeli attack also left three militiamen dead, but it is not known if they were Lebanese or foreigners affiliated to Iranian-backed militias.
While on April 22, SOHR activists documented the death of a regime officer due to the Israeli strikes on the air-defence base in Al-Dumayr area in the east of Damascus. Also, three soldiers of regime forces stationed in the base sustained serious injuries. SOHR sources had reported a new Israeli strike on positions in Al-Dumayr area in the east of the capital, Damascus, as Israeli rockets hit a base of the Syrian regime’s air-defence system. The rockets destroyed several air-defence batteries and left casualties among the Air-Defence forces. Meanwhile, air-defence systems launched several surface-to-air missiles, attempting to intercept the Israeli rockets, as they managed to shoot down several rockets. On the other hand, Israel acknowledged of the attack claiming that it came as “a response to the fall of a surface-to-air missile on the Occupied Syrian Golan”. It is worth noting that the area of Dumayr hosts headquarters and weapons warehouses belonging to the Iranian-backed militias.