Civic Institutions Pressure Factions to Open the Road for Residents of Yarmouk River Basin
Enab Baladi – Exclusive
Syrian opposition factions have given in to pressure by civic institutions in Daraa province to open the road for civilians from Yarmouk Basin who had been detained at checkpoints for five days.
The factions detained hundreds of civilians from Yarmouk Basin at the checkpoint outside the town of Taseel town. They also prevented the civilians from returning home after they had allowed them to enter areas under the factions’ control in order to get food supplies.
Footage showed detainees from Yarmouk Basin waiting for permission to return to their homes by Free Army officials who control the checkpoint. The Yarmouk Basin area is currently under the control of the Khaled Ibn al-Walid Army, which is accused of pledging allegiance to ISIS. The civilians were subjected to “difficult humanitarian conditions” as dozens were forced to spend the night in the streets and fields near the checkpoint.
After this violation, the civic and Islamic committees and tribes of Houran demanded an end to the “suffering” of the people of Yarmouk Basin and called for avoiding bombing civilian areas and displacing them from their areas.
These demands came in a joint statement on Saturday 14 January, in which the signatories emphasized the need to end bombing of residential areas in Yarmouk Basin and to facilitate the passage of civilians, goods and food.
The committees have also urged an end to the suffering of civilians in Yarmouk Basin by “breaking the siege on civilians” and not bombing starving or harming them or allowing their displacement from their villages.
Killed under Torture “by the Factions”
On the fourth day of detention, the Martyrs Documentation Bureau documented the deaths of two civilians from Koya village in the countryside of western Daraa. The two civilians died under torture after they were “detained at the checkpoint of Taseel village, which leads to the village of Ein Dhakar. This checkpoint is controlled by factions under the Southern Front, which is affiliated to what is known as the “Daraa Free Army”.
The Bureau pointed to “the involvement of factions that are allegedly part of Syrian revolutionary forces in Daraa, primarily the Southern Front backed by the local Court of Justice, in violations and crimes that are classified by humanitarian agencies and human rights organizations as war crimes, such as indiscriminate shelling, forced disappearance and torture, as well as systematic sieges, detention of civilians and using detainees as human shields. These factions and their sponsors have no justification for remaining silent in the face of these violations.”
Court of Justice Moves to Clarify
Enab Baladi contacted Sheikh Issmat al-Abasi, President of the Court of Justice in Houran. He said that the Court placed a condition that those who want to leave the Basin not be allowed to return because the area is under the control of “Daeshis”, as he put it.
He added that the Court had worked to open the al-Allan road for over six months, but the “Khaled Army” wants all movement to take place via an agricultural dirt road, to avoid smuggling and incursions by ISIS into the area.
According to al-Abasi, this is what complicates the situation for the factions and those remaining in the area. Al-Abasi insisted that the Court is dismayed at the decision but that this is a natural part of any military operations.
Religious Bodies Prohibit Siege and Bombing
The Sharia committees and institutions that signed the statement addressed to the Daraa factions have forbidden the indiscriminate shelling of civilian areas, the imposition of sieges, and the starving of civilians and their forced displacement from the area.
After this statement and pressure from local media, the Free Army factions have opened the road, allowing the civilians of Yarmouk Basin to return to their homes.
A source from the area told Enab Baladi that all the civilians have crossed the Taseel checkpoint to return to their villages in Yarmouk Basin as of Saturday 14 January.
Two Principal Roads to Yarmouk Basin
Yarmouk Basin is connected to the countryside of Daraa through two principal roads. The first connects the area of Taseel, which is held by Free Army factions, to the town of Ein Dhakar, which is help by the Khaled Army.
The second road, called al-Allan road, connects the area of Saham al-Jawlan, which is held by the “Free” factions, to the Nafaa area, which is held by the Khaled Army.
During the siege on Yarmouk Basin around nine months ago, the factions used the al-Allan road for humanitarian purposes. However, the Martyrs of Yarmouk Brigade, which is now under the control of the Khaled Army, rejected that decision and closed the road on the pretext that it is a military road. They insisted, instead, on opening the Taseel road, which the factions had refused to open at the time.