To end tension in Quneitra, families and former opposition fighters deported to northern Syria

Families deported from Quneitra following a settlement agreement with the Syrian regime — 21 July 2018 (Anadolu Agency)

Families deported from Quneitra following a settlement agreement with the Syrian regime — 21 July 2018 (Anadolu Agency)

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As tension mounted in Umm Batnah town, central Quneitra, reconciled former opposition fighters and the Sa’sa’ Military Security Branch held negotiations mediated by the Quneitra Reconciliation Committee (QRC) and the Daraa Central Committee (DCC). The parties to the negotiations agreed on deporting 30 young men— a number of whom are also former opposition fighters— from the town, with some of their families to northern Syria.

Enab Baladi correspondent for Quneitra quoted sources informed of the negotiations’ details. He reported that the deportation decision was made jointly by the former opposition fighters and the Syrian regime officials without coordination with the QRC or the DCC.

Horan Free League, a media outlet covering Daraa province, reported on Thursday, 20 May, that about 130 persons, including said young men, were deported in the presence of Russian Military Police. The outlet added that deportees left Umm Batnah town headed to Abu al-Zendan crossing, which links regime- and opposition-held areas.

The deal between the townspeople and regime officials also provided for the release of two men from the town that the regime detained and which negotiators on behalf of the town demanded be relocated before this latest deportation deal was realized.

The Sa’sa’ Military Security Branch pushed for deportations since the tension first rose in early May and demanded that military service evaders conduct a settlement agreement with the regime to legalize their status.

Deportation was out of the question for the mediators, especially the DCC.

The DCC sought to come up with a solution acceptable to both parties to the negotiations. The DCC suggested that people wanted by the regime forces in the town be relocated to Daraa province. This solution resembles the scenario applied to the Tafas city tensions, in the western countryside of Daraa. However, the deportation deal thwarted the DCC’s efforts at reaching a compromise.

Since it was controlled by the regime forces in July 2018, this is the first time that Quneitra province witnesses a siege, threats of deportation, and finally actual deportation, unlike Daraa province that suffered recurrent invasions, threats, and deportations.

The tensions in Umm Batnah town followed an attack by gunmen on a military post operated by Iranian militias on 1 May. The post is established in the small town of al-Duha, located somewhere at the center of the area between Tall al-Shaar, Jabah, Umm Batnah, and Mumtanah. The post’s location is close to the border fence between Syria and the territories occupied by Israel.

In retaliation to the post attack, the regime forces bombarded the town with artillery weaponry installed at Tall Shaar. The town’s residents escaped the shelling and took refuge in the nearby villages.

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