Three years after forcing residents to displace | Regime forces continue stealing steel and iron used in construction of civilian houses in rural Idlib • The Syrian Observatory For Human Rights

Three years after forcing residents to displace | Regime forces continue stealing steel and iron used in construction of civilian houses in rural Idlib

Since regime forces and their proxy militias captured areas of Aleppo, Hama and Idlib during the large-scale military campaign in 2019 and 2020, these forces have looted contents of houses of civilians who have been forced to displace due to the fierce battles. Recently, these areas have experienced the theft of steel and iron used in construction of houses via investors who are protected by regime-backed military formations with the aim of selling this iron in markets later.

 

Local sources have informed SOHR that regime forces continue to destroy the roofs of civilian houses to extract these steel and iron, where they sell large amounts in Hama city’s markets, while the looting takes place by influential investors close to the Syrian regime and with cooperation with the regime and Russian-backed 25th Division, headed by the Brigadier General Suhail Al-Hassan.

 

Local sources have also confirmed that the looting operations have expanded greatly in the past few days, where these investors exploited the relative calm in term of exchange of bombardment between regime forces on one hand, and opposition rebel factions and jihadist groups on the other. According to the local sources, hundreds of houses were looted last winter in several villages and towns in Idlib countryside, including Sarqeb, Khan Shaykhoun Al-Ghadfah, Maarshourin, Jarjnaz, Al-Haraki and Tel Mannas.

 

The local sources have also confirmed that devastation of houses’ roofs and extraction of iron used in construction of houses are carried out systematically through official investment contracts, where no one is allowed to head to these areas and start the demolition of houses, unless they have such contracts. However, no further details have emerged yet about the identities of these investors or companies and how strong their ties with the regime government and senior regime commanders are. It is worth noting that these large amounts of iron are sold for a price close to the price of new iron, as the quality of this old iron is relatively better.

 

The sources also stated that this iron is not the only material stolen from civilian houses, as other materials, such as bricks, aluminium, home appliances, wood, taps and ceramic blocks of bathrooms, are being dismantled and torn out, where the looted materials are sorted out, before they are transported to the market of second-hand objects in Hama city.

 

The sources have confirmed that hundreds of workers are hired by investors in Maarrat Al-Nu’man in the southern countryside of Idlib in order to extract the iron from houses’ roofs, gather and send it to markets, while a share of the revenue of these stolen objects is distributed to the 25th Division which rent out these areas to investors and facilitate the work of workers.

 

Recently, these operations have subsided inside Maarrat Al-Nu’man city, but they are on a rise in surrounding towns and villages.

 

Speaking to SOHR, a displaced man known by his initials as Y. A. from Jabal Shashaboo in the western countryside of Hama and now living in a refugee camp on the outskirts of Armanaz town in the northern countryside of Idlib said “regime soldiers are known for looting civilian houses. Shortly after regime forces and their proxy militias had entered the region, pictures were circulated on social media showing devastated roofs of houses after steel and iron were extracted from them, while the houses were emptied of their contents. We have received pictures sent by a regime soldier who was on contact with a man in my area, showing the considerable destruction of houses whose roofs have been removed completely. Only a few houses survived. Regime forces and their proxy militias have followed this way to loot houses of displaced people since the beginning of the Syrian revolution. The pictures we received last year showed my three-story house, after its roof was devastated and robbed of steel.”

 

The man added, “according to information we obtained, the workers working at workshops, which have been prevalent in Jabal Shashaboo area in the western countryside of Hama, came from Al-Asharnah and Al-Turaymisah. In the beginning these workshops demolished the roofs of old houses only, before the demolition of houses’ roofs and extraction of steel and iron expanded in all types of buildings, including mosques and civil institutions.”

 

In the same context, regime forces had auctioned off thousands of acres of farmlands in areas in Idlib and Hama countryside for investment. They have also harvested and felled thousands of fruit-bearing trees since they captured these areas in order to sell them and use them for heating. Regime forces have been known for benefiting from everything in the towns and villages they captured in every way possible.

 

Regime forces and their proxy militias, backed by intensive support by Russian aircraft, managed to capture vast areas in Idlib, Aleppo and Hama countryside in 2019 and 2020 following violent clashes against opposition rebel factions and jihadist groups. These devastating battles have forced hundreds of thousands of civilians towards north Syria region, leaving their houses, properties and sources of income.

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