Enab Baladi – Exclusive
The fences constructed by Assad forces under Russian supervision in Al-Ghab Plain, in the north-western countryside of Hama, have created a feeling of anxiety and apprehension among civilians and fighters alike. The question to ask here is whether this shall make the country’s territorial partitions legitimate or whether it is a clear sketch of the “safe” zones that have been recently invented by Moscow.
The construction of the high earth fences in Al-Ghab Plain has coincided with some official Russian statements indicating that the delineation of the “safe” zones is expected in the short run, despite logistical complications. Such statements locally spurred fury in Al-Ghab Plain, and the fighters warned that barbwires and fences will cause the bells of war to ring again.
Fences around “Occupied” Villages
Assad forces have built high earth fences that separate the territories they control in the north-western countryside of Hama and those controlled by the opposition, starting from 20th of May. These were built in the villages and towns under the control of Al-Assad in Al-Ghab Plain whose inhabitants have been forced to leave.
Enab Baladi spoke to the military commander of “Al-Nasr Army”, Abdel Mouin Al-Masry, who is from the village of Qabr Fiddah which is currently under the control of the Syrian regime, who said that “the fences were set up six meters high around the villages of Qabr Fiddah, Al-Karim, Achrafieh, Ramla, Al-Tamanah and Al-Hakoura in Al-Ghab Plain” pointing out that the operation is under way until Saturday, May 27, and that it looks more like a “dividing wall between the loyal villages and the rebels” as he articulated.
A source in the “Free Syrian Army” alleged to Enab Baladi two days ago that the Russian forces placed barbwires near Assad forces barriers in El M’Ghair, in the northern countryside of Hama, and in other areas in Al-Ghab Plain to the northwest of Hama. The source assumes this operation to be part of the thorough delineation of the “safe” zones which includes parts of the north and the northwest of Hama countryside.
Threats from Al-Ghab Fighters
Military leaders from villages controlled by the Syrian regime in Al-Ghab Plain in the north-western countryside of Hama threatened to escalate against the Assad forces in case the construction of the earth fences is carried on.
The leaders announced a statement on Friday 26th of May, declaring that the regime is still constructing fences in the “occupied” villages starting from Al-Karim in the south to Al-Hakoura in the north with news about the possibility of placing barbwires as well.
Enab Baladi reporter, who attended the statement announcement, said that the leaders are members of four major factions: “Al Nasr Army”, “Ahrar Al-Sham”, “Elite Army” and “1st Coastal Division”, all of them are from the villages stated above.
The military leaders threatened Assad forces, in case they carry on fortifying villages, constructing fences and setting barbwires around them, by launching military attacks against them regardless of whether their factions were for or against.
Russians: We Will Delineate the Zones
The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs declared that experts from Russia, Iran and Turkey would delineate the borders of the “safe” zones in Syria and construct barriers lengthwise so as to prevent the infiltration of “armed” individuals.
On Friday, 26th of May, the Russian news agency Novosti reported from the Russian deputy of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mikhail Bogdanov that “the memorandum on the ‘de-escalation’ zones states that the observing countries will form working groups together”.
He explained that “the observing states should form a working group to study all issues as to who would assume the responsibility for ensuring security on the ground and to reach an agreement by working on maps and locating de-escalation zones and delineating their external borders” in addition to “identifying those who are responsible for securing the passage of citizens so as they can move freely, unlike terrorists. Barriers and checkpoints must be constructed in the abovementioned zones, and the maps need to be used for that purpose.”
Early in May, Turkey, Russia and Iran signed a memorandum to establish “safe zones” in Syria. The regions in question included Idlib’s province and part of the provinces of Latakia, Aleppo, Hama, Homs, Damascus (easter Ghouta), Daraa and Quneitra.
In the meantime, news circulate about the possibility of Turkish troops entering the province of Idlib to observe the cease fire given that it is indicated among the “safe zones”. This is what the Turkish government hinted to a few days ago, whereas the Russian forces are deployed in Hama and its western countryside separating them with barbwires and earth fences, therefore opening the doors for a new epoch of territorial division in Syria.