Daraa residents not concerned with who benefits from assassinations; they leave
Enab Baladi – Khaled al-Jeratli
Targeting operations escalated in Daraa governorate during the first days of this October. There are increasing warnings of striking civil peace while the governorate residents search for ways to leave it.
Enab Baladi has monitored 15 targeting operations in Daraa since the beginning of this month, killing 13 people and injuring two others.
These operations affect various groups of the society in Daraa, namely ex-combatants and commanders and Baath party officials or civilians. The common link between said attacks remains that their perpetrators are unknown.
These targeting operations coincided with the high incidence of bodies found in the governorate, especially in its isolated sub-roads.
The bodies of civilians from Daraa and other Bedouin clans, as well as those of Syrian regime forces and other opposition factions, were recently found east of the governorate.
Among the most prominent dead, this month is the former leader in the opposition factions, Tariq Askar, who was killed by unknown assailants who targeted him with direct bullets in the al-Ash’ari region in the western countryside of Daraa on 4 October.
A number of the governorate’s residents accuse the Syrian regime of standing behind these operations. At the same time, however, it is significant evidence of its inability to control security in the largest areas recovered from opposition factions.
Daraa-native lawyer, Assem al-Zoubi, considered that the beneficiaries of these operations could be prosecuted and identified in view of the persons targeted.
Over the past few days, a number of people, including at least three associated with the regime, Lebanon’s Hezbollah, and the drug trade, have been targeted, according to al-Zoubi, and the beneficiary of their assassination is likely to be opposed to the regime.
But more comprehensively, the regime and Iran may also be beneficiaries because other targets are either former opponents or clerics who reject Iran’s project in the south or civilians.
Mohsen Mustafa, the assistant researcher at the Omran Center for Strategic Studies and non-resident fellow at the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy (TIMEP), told Enab Baladi that the targeting is limited to three rival parties, the opposition, the regime, and the Islamic State (IS) fighters in southern Syria.
He considered that the continuation of targeting operations in the governorate is evidence of a “security failure” of the regime’s apparatus and forces in the region.
In terms of benefit and harm, the researcher considered that the regime did not view human losses as a measure of benefit and harm, as it is only interested in controlling the land and imposing its sovereignty over it, regardless of the number of deaths from any party, including its forces.
On 4 October, former fighters in opposition factions attacked a military checkpoint of Syrian regime forces east of Daraa over a recent arrest campaign in the town of al-Musaifra in the same region. A member of the Syrian regime forces was killed as a result of the attack, while a civilian from al-Musaifra was killed during the Syrian regime’s raid on the town.
Such incidents represent frequent security tensions that add to the succession of targeting operations between the parties in Daraa.
One of the dignitaries of the western countryside of Daraa and former leader of the opposition factions (whose name Enab Baladi shall not disclose for security reasons) told Enab Baladi that the regime resorted to assassinations through its arms in the governorate after it failed to control it.
He added that no specific party is committing murders in Daraa, but the first beneficiary is the Syrian regime to empty the area of opponents and push the rest to migrate.
He reckoned that the situation is destined to worsen, with people repeatedly finding bodies on the streets of Daraa while the regime security branches are deployed in the region in the form of “independent statelets.”
There are groups in Daraa that work for the Air Force Intelligence, others for Military Security and the Fourth Division, pro-Hezbollah groups, in addition to groups of unorganized former opponents and IS cells.
To shatter civil peace and empty out the governorate
A number of the people of Daraa are involved in these targeting operations, which may lead to clan fighting if the perpetrators are identified.
The perpetrators of a number of operations were uncovered in previous events, but the Daraa dignitaries were able to settle the situation before a dispute erupted over it, such as the pardoning of the murdered Youssef al-Yatim’s father of his son’s killers in order to avoid fighting between the clans of the city of Jasim.
Lawyer Assem al-Zoubi considered that civil peace is threatened in Daraa if the clan character of the region is taken into account. Each clan has been protecting its affiliates involved in the assassinations to date, which may detonate clan disputes that amount to hostilities and clashes.
Lawyer al-Zoubi noted that some leaders who carried out public assassinations continue to live among their clan members, whether in Daraa al-Balad or in the western or eastern countryside, and their names are known to all.
As these operations escalated in Daraa, a large number of its residents sought refuge in Arab countries and cities such as Egypt, Erbil, and Lebanon, while others sought refuge in other regime-held governorates, such as the capital, Damascus or the city center of Daraa.
Al-Zoubi considered that the phenomenon of assassinations played an important role in driving the population to migrate because it was no longer confined to opponents or operations carried out on the street. Almost a year ago, there were also criminal killings with the aim of theft, punctuated by intrusions into civilian homes, killings, and theft of their money, as almost a year ago in the towns of al-Harrak and Dael.
What are the solutions?
Lawyer Assem al-Zoubi believed that a number of solutions could limit targeting operations, the first being to expose those responsible for previous targeting operations publicly on media and with evidence.
He called for the creation of a role for clans in that regard by not providing those persons and their groups with protection.
In addition, “self-protection” groups must be established to monitor strangers at the entrances and exits of each town as temporary solutions pending proper conditions to find a comprehensive solution that leads to the prosecution of these people for all their crimes.
The Daraa Martyrs Documentation Office documented 48 assassinations during which 33 people, including two children, were killed last September, in addition to 12 people who were executed on the ground.
Of the total of all assassination operations and attempts, the office documented 35 operations and attempted targeting in the western countryside of Daraa, 12 operations and attempted targeting in the eastern countryside, and one operation in the Daraa city center.
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