Families from Daraa countryside return home after three years of displacement
After three years of displacement, families forcibly removed from their villages in the al-Lajat area in Daraa countryside have returned to their destroyed houses under Russian mediation.
Russian Sputnik News Agency reported that more than 420 displaced residents of Ayb village in the northern Daraa countryside returned home years after leaving it due to repeated attacks by the Islamic State (IS) militants, who took control of the adjacent al-Lajat area to the north-eastern part of the province countryside.
The agency reported that the residents’ return was in coordination between the regime government and the Russian Reconciliation Center and had resulted in the return of 40 families that used to live in a camp near the village of al-Ghariyah in the eastern Deraa countryside.
A former commander of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) in the al-Lajat area told Enab Baladi that Russia’s mediation through its affiliate 8th Brigade had allowed the return of displaced families from the villages of al-Shayyah, al-Shomara, al-Modawara, and Alali to their homes.
He added that the residents of those areas had been displaced since 2018 in the villages of Hauran, and their areas were controlled by the 9th Division and Hezbollah-affiliated forces.
He pointed out that residents took the return decision after Russia guaranteed them that the Syrian regime’s security apparatus would not arrest them.
The FSA’s former commander also mentioned that the returnees were surprised by the conditions of their properties, which were destroyed, with water networks and power connections damaged.
A resident of al-Lajat talked to Enab Baladi on the condition of anonymity for security concerns and said that the displaced families’ return decision was approved about a month ago, but their return was postponed until it became under Russian guarantee and protection of the 8th Brigade, a subdivision of the Russian-backed 5th Corps.
He added that The return decision and its implementation were both discrete that other residents of the area did not even hear that displaced families will back in their homes.
He said that since the return of the displaced to Ayb village in Daraa’s northern countryside under the 5th Corps’ protection and Russian auspices, Hezbollah and its affiliate forces ceased to have any influence over the area.
Even though Hezbollah’s military presence in Syria’s southern region was kept out of the media, locals have confirmed Hezbollah deployment, particularly in some villages in the al-Lajat area in the southern Daraa countryside.
Previously, property owners told Enab Baladi that their houses were brought down by Hezbollah militants in the al-Lajat area. They confirmed that the destruction of properties was carried out in a systematic way by placing explosive devices inside the houses to achieve complete destruction making these houses uninhabitable or irreparable to prevent their owners’ return.
The al-Lajat area was a main stronghold for the FSA fighters at the beginning of its formation in Daraa. The area’s terrain helped the fighters repel regime attacks, carry out surprise offensives under what is known as the “blitzkrieg” tactics which rely on violent and surprise operations on regime forces, and a speed retreat to headquarters.
Enab Baladi’s correspondent in Daraa Halim Muhammad contributed to this report
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