The Syrian regime and its supporters call it “national reconciliation”. The opposition describes it as “surrendering areas”. Each side characterizes the exit of Syrian opposition forces from areas under their control in Damascus’ rural outskirts in a different way, according to their affiliations.
This Syrian regime policy started in Daraya after a four-year blockade on the city near the capital. At first, the regime’s policy involved besieging overpopulated cities and banning movement from and into the cities as well as the entry of food items. Then, the regime began to bomb the cities in order to pressure their populations to demand that the armed factions accept the regime’s conditions and reconcile with it.
It began in Daraya, which was considered a tough pocket of resistance protecting the towns and cities behind it from regime control for four years. The other cities then fell including Moadamiyet al-Sham in Damascus’ rural outskirts, al-Waer neighborhood in Homs’ rural outskirts, Qudsayia, and al-Hameh. There is talk today of al-Tal, Kanaker, Khan al-Shih and Baradah Valley in Damascus’ rural outskirts also following the policy of reconciliation.
Al-Tal Reconciles with Regime Following Threats and Bombing
Following relative calm during the past three years, al-Tal city in Damascus’ rural outskirts began to appear again in the media after the regime decided to implement the policy it had followed in other areas and force all fighters to leave the city in order to “restore it to the homeland”.
The regime played a crucial card to pressure the fighters – the local and displaced population, estimated to be around 700,000. Al-Tal became a shelter for the displaced from other war zones in Eastern and Western Ghouta of Damascus. The regime threatened last week to destroy the city if the fighters rejected the regime’s terms to leave.
The regime began by attempting to storm the city from the western side amid clashes with armed factions headed by Fateh al-Sham Front, while bombing different areas with explosive barrels, killing two people.
The regime’s threats pushed the local population to demonstrate after Friday prayers on 25 November in various mosques around the city, carrying slogans such as “No to war, yes to peace”. They chanted, “The people want the safety of the country” and demanded the fighting factions accept the regime’s terms to protect the lives of thousands of civilians.
On the regime’s insistence, representatives of the “Liaison Committee of al-Tal City” met with a Syrian regime delegation on 26 November. The two parties reached a final agreement similar to the one reached in Qudsaiya and al-Hameh.
According to the al-Tal Committee for the Syrian Revolution, the agreement clauses state that fighters must exit the city to any area they choose, taking with them their individual weapons and surrendering the rest of their weaponry. In addition, the agreement resolves the situation of many women and men who are wanted by the regime.
Regarding those who have not done their national service, the agreement will give them a period of six months after which they must either return to military service in the regime’s army or leave the city. The same goes for army defectors other than those who announced their defection in the media, in which case they do not have the right to return to service.
The agreement also provides for free movement for civilians and the entry of food items, with a regime pledge that the regime’s army, security and militias will not enter the city unless informed of the presence of weapons in a specific place. In such a case, the army and security can only enter if accompanied by a committee to protect the city. The committee, to be formed of 200 people, will be chosen by the Liaison Committee under the orders of the regime’s security forces.
Khan al-Shih and Kanaker are Next
Negotiations in al-Tal city are perhaps the shortest due to the large population, which put pressure on locals. In contrast, negotiations in Khan al-Shih in Western Ghouta have been ongoing for a month after it was separated from Zakiye village last October and besieged, subjected to attempted daily raids from all directions.
The attempted raids pushed opposition factions to sit at the negotiation table and consider the regime’s proposal that they exit the city to go to Idlib.
Although negotiations are still underway until this time without reaching any agreement, Enab Baladi’s reporter in the area reported that the fighters reached an agreement with the regime for 1500 fighters to leave with their families to Idlib.
In addition to Khan al-Shih, the regime recently tried to threaten the town of Kanaker and proposed “reconciliation” after a visit by a regime delegation to the town on 24 November. However, the town’s population protested, announcing their complete rejection of any reconciliation.
With the spread of rumors that the regime plans to recapture the town of Bayt Jin and its surrounding area, other towns await an unknown fate without taking any measures. The plan clearly aims to empty pockets of resistance that have spread in the capital’s surrounding areas and eliminate any military activity that might be a threat to the regime.