Reactions to the Killing of Wissam al-Eid in Suwayda: Investigation and Riots
Enab Baladi- Suwayda
The investigation into the killing of Wissam al-Eid, the senior leader in the Sheikh al-Karama Forces (SKF), continues to instigate escalations in Suwayda since his assassination on May 2, 2019 in Salkhad in southern Suwayda.
After he and his companions arrived at the city center by car, Wissam was attacked with heavy gunfire from behind. The SKF then opened an investigation to find out who was behind the operation.
Who Was Wissam al-Eid and What Was His Role?
In 2012, Wissam was one of the first to join the Men of Dignity faction, led by Abu Fahd Wahid al-Balaous. He took part in several battles after the assassination of al-Balaous, but had a dispute with its new commander Yahya al-Hajjar.
He then defected alongside Abu Fahd’s son, Laith al-Balaous, and formed the SKF, as well as a group of alliances with other factions under the name “One Artery.”
Wissam’s name came up in many cases, most notably the kidnapping of officers and members of the Syrian regime.
Abu Rami, a close associate of Wissam who asked to remain anonymous for security purposes, told Enab Baladi that Wissam was opposed to the policies of the Syrian intelligence services in the governorate.
His dissent made him a suspect in many kidnappings, Abu Rami explained, but no such operation was proven to be financially or criminally motivated, since they were meant to free other kidnapped persons by way of swapping or to pressure the regime into releasing detainees.
Abu Rami added that Wissam participated in several attacks against the National Defense Forces (NDF) at border villages, and that his aim was to take back houses that had been forcibly seized by the NDF or other paramilitary factions allied with the Syrian regime.
Enab Baladi observed the heavy shooting against the military security detachment in Salkhad following the assassination, which nevertheless did not result in any casualties.
The SKF denied responsibility for the shooting in a statement posted on its Facebook page, in which it mourned the death of Wissam and declared that it did not know the entity responsible for the assassination. It further added that its members shall not be dragged into sedition and random acts before verifying the identity of the perpetrators.
According to the page, the SKF also detained one of its own members, Mazen Nassif, the “only person” who was next to Wissam when the assassination happened. Nassif was interrogated for several days until he admitted the circumstances of the case, according to the faction.
The confessions indicated the responsibility of a group close to Wissam, including the suspect Nibras Hamza, who had previously been interrogated by the SKF before he was later released.
When the SKF tried to reach Nibras to interrogate him again, he refused to confess to the crime without providing a proof of his innocence or an explanation of the evidence incriminating him. This prompted the faction to demand, on Tuesday, May 14, that his family hand him over within 12 hours to complete the investigation, considering that his refusal to hand himself over was in itself an incrimination.
Revenge Obstructing Governmental Services
According to citizens in the town of Salkhad who spoke to Enab Baladi, the SKF targeted Nibras Hamza’s house with an RPG grenade after learning that he had escaped the city with his family.
The SKF also burned a carwash and a vehicle owned by the suspect, amid a state of anxiety in the city. The sounds of explosions and gunfire prompted schools and government departments in Salkhad to stop working for two days, but without an official decision due to the state’s refusal to recognize the existence of riots.
The Educational Complex in Salkhad Facebook page denied that the town’s school administrations agreed to interrupt schools on May 15 because of the prevailing conditions.
“The news is not true, tomorrow is a regular school day in all schools in Salkhad, and there are no concerns so far,” it commented.