After displacing its population | Regime forces continue felling fruit-bearing trees in south Idlib countryside and sell them as fire logs
After regime forces and their proxy militias had forced the residents of the northern countryside of Hama and large areas of south Idlib countryside to displace during the latest military campaign in 2019 and 2020, they looted almost all civilian properties in this region and, with the beginning of winter, they started to fell trees in this region, where they sold them as fire logs.
Reliable sources have informed SOHR that a month ago regime forces started to fell trees and sell them as fire logs in several towns and villages controlled by the Syrian regime in the northern countryside of Hama and southern countryside of Idlib, including Murak, Kafr Zita, Al-Lataminah, Al-Ghadfah, Maasaran, Maarshourin, Abu Makkah, Tel Mannas, Deir Al-Sharqi, Deir Al-Gharbi and KafrAmim.
By tracking regime forces’ movements and monitoring radio frequencies, SOHR sources could confirm that several groups affiliated to the 25th Division, including the Regiments of Al-Tarmah, Al-Shahin and Al-Saqr, were the ones responsible for felling trees in these areas. According to SOHR sources, these groups usually fell trees at night and pile them up in Maarrat Al-Nu’man city, which is considered a centre for fire logs trade.
SOHR sources have confirmed that many olive trees were cut down after the harvest of last season. Now, trees are transported daily to Maarrat Al-Nu’man city in south Idlib countryside, Al-Jayid, Al-Raseef and Shatha in the western countryside of Hama. It is worth noting that most of the trees felled by regime forces and their proxies are olive, walnut and pistachio trees.
Speaking to the Syrian Observatory, an activist known by his initials as A. S. confirms that “felling fruit-bearing trees is not a new phenomenon. Since regime forces captured parts of north Hama and south Idlib, they started to fell and sell trees, after looting olive, walnut and pistachio harvest. Regime soldiers and loyalists are ‘authorised’ to loot properties of people who have been forced to displace from their areas. Moreover, regime forces have burned down the farmers’ harvest, confiscated and auctioned off their farmlands for investment by selling and renting them out, stole steel and iron used in construction of houses after looting their contents and devastating them and looted shops.”
Commenting on the reason behind such practices, the activist says “regime authorities suffer from a significant financial deficit. Accordingly, the salaries of most of the soldiers and militiamen are delayed or not paid, so they are given a green light to loot properties of displaced people and sell them on the market, as a form of compensation for their unpaid payments. Regime forces and their proxy militiamen have looted every town and village they captured.”
On December 28, a video footage showing regime soldiers and loyalists felling tens of trees was leaked and posted on social media. The video footage, which was filmed in the regime-controlled town of Ma’saran in the southern countryside of Idlib, showed large spaces of agriculture land which had become empty of trees, as only few branches were seen scattered there.
It is worth noting that regime forces confiscated large areas of agriculture land belonging to displaced people and auctioned them off, after they had captured parts of the north-western countryside of Hama and southern countryside of Idlib.