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Disputes standing in way of harvesting crops at al-Qrayya

Wheat cultivation in As-Suwayda countryside - April 2020 (Agriculture Directorate in As-Suwayda)

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Al-Suwayda – Rayan al-Atrash

At the beginning of this year, Khaled planted wheat; however, he had not been able to get to his fields to harvest crops; because of disputes between residents of al-Qrayya in As-Suwayda governorate and those in Busra al-Sham in Daraa governorate.

The effects of kidnappings carried out by Yahya al-Najim, (a leader of a local kidnapping gang) last March, in his village of al-Qrayya, of two people from Busra al-Sham is still taking place even after his killing by an armed faction from As-Suwayda. As a matter of fact, clashes erupted between members of the “Fifth Corps” in Daraa and the local factions.

On 27 of last March, these clashes resulted in the killing of 15 people from As-Suwayda whose bodies were handed over to the “Syrian Arab Red Crescent” (SARC), after the spiritual leader of the Druze community in Palestine, Sheikh Mwaffaq Tarif, intervened. On 29 of the same month, the (SARC) transferred them in its turn to the “National Hospital” in As-Suwayda.

Subsequently, the “Fifth Corps”, supported by Russia, penetrated the western parts of al-Qrayya and raised earthen berms along with these lands up to two kilometers on the borders with Busra al-Sham, which are still there to date.

Russia as guarantor is ineffective

In his talk to Enab Baladi, Khaled blamed Russia and the regime for not resolving the issue, after villagers tried to reclaim their lands, on 25 of last April, and declared a state of alert following a deadline given to Syrian regime and Russia, supporting the “Fifth Corps”, where they asked them to arrest anyone involved in the “March accident”.

Meanwhile, various religious and social leaders intervened to resolve the situation which halted the crowd.

One of the participants in the truce (who preferred to remain anonymous for security reasons) described the state of alert as “trap”, while predicting that the region would be in an open war “which is against the interests of As-Suwayda.”

On 27 of last April, Russian police tried to remove the earthen berms from al-Qrayya; yet these attempts failed after gunmen shot at them and killed a farmer while working on his land, according to “al-Qrayya now” News Network.

The network described the incident as “staged” to accuse al-Qrayya residents of targeting Russians, as Russian police fled towards Busra al-Sham.

The network talked about frequent attacks against farmers in the village last May and June while the militants responsible for them headed towards the “Fifth Corps” earthen berms.

The legal advisor representing factions of the South in the opposition member list on the Constitutional Committee, Hassan al-Hariri, who is also taking part in the reconciliation efforts of both governorates, denied the occurrence of these attacks. He also mentioned that, last June, that members of “Fifth Corps” have freed a kidnapped citizen from As-Suwayda and handed him over to his family.

Al-Hariri, who is a resident of Daraa governorate, added that the Russians asked the ” Fifth Corps ” to retreat several times, and participated with Busra al-Sham residents’ on joint patrols in the area separating al-Qrayya and Busra al-Sham.

The “Fifth Corps” retreated two kilometers away towards Busra al-Sham and removed one of the earthen berms near al-Qrayya, while keeping a permanent patrol to “prevent kidnappings,” al-Hariri said. He also said that security patrols are located in the area between al-Qrayya and Busra al-Sham, in the absence of any kind of boundaries between the two areas.

Farmers waiting for a solution

The fate of al-Qrayya crops, where wheat is the most widely grown crop, in addition to lentils, barley, chickpeas, and cumin, are still unknown, while at least 60 families have lost their livelihoods because of their inability to harvest these crops.

According to al-Qrayya residents, sheep randomly graze on farmland, while farmers are still unable to get to their lands safely.

Muayad Fayyad, a member of the general secretariat of the “Social Commission for National Action in As-Suwayda”, told Enab Baladi that communication with Daraa residents is underway to reach reconciliation between the two governorates.

Fayyad added that there is coordination between the “social authority” and the opposing “National Assembly” in As-Suwayda as well as leaders of “Men of Dignity Movement”, which is the most prominent faction in the province that joined clashes with the “Fifth Corps”, and everyone wants to put an end to the current dispute between “brothers in Daraa. ”

Although the parties to the dispute have faulted the regime and its security services, the two parties see that the most prominent obstacle is the big difference of opinions and attitudes of the residents in both As-Suwayda and Daraa governorates over the issue, which stands in the way of resolving the dispute.

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