Home Thematic Reports Civilian Deaths and Injuries in Clashes between Syrian Armed Opposition Factions in Dara Countryside

Civilian Deaths and Injuries in Clashes between Syrian Armed Opposition Factions in Dara Countryside


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Civilian Deaths and Injuries in Clashes between Syrian Armed Opposition Factions in Dara Countryside

Preface: On June 10, 2017, Inkhil city located in Daraa countryside witnessed a tension among number of Syrian armed opposition factions affiliated with the so-called al-Hamza Division/ Firqat al- Hamza.[1]  The tension turned into armed clashes between Mujahidi Horan Brigade, the 1st Infantry Brigade along with Soqour al-Sanamayn Bridge and the alKatiba alTebbeih/Medical Battalion on the one hand, and the Descendants of Omar Ibn al-Khattab Brigade and Inkhil Martyrs Brigade on the other hand. The latter were joined by both the Caliphate Omar Brigade[2] and Lions of Islam Brigade[3], which are known to be two military factions outside al-Hamza division.

The recent clashes between those factions resulted in the death of three civilians and wounding others in Inkhil, according to Syrians for Truth and justice/STJ reporter. This is not the first time that the clashes cause civilian casualties, as on June11, 2017, the clashes between elements affiliated to al-Sunnah Youth Forces /Shabab al-Sunnah[4] and the Revolutionary Army/ Jaysh al- Thawra [5] in the eastern countryside of Daraa caused slightly injuries among civilians.

First: Beginning of Controversies within Hamza Division in Inkhil

On June 4, 2017, arguments among the Syrian armed factions within al-Hamza Division sparked when five military factions, Descendants of Omar Ibn al-Khattab Brigade, al-Sanamayn Hawks Brigade, Martyrs of Inkhil Brigade, the 1st Infantry Brigade and the Medical Battalion, issued a statement to remove the commander Othman as-Samir, who was at the same time the commander of Mujahidi Horan Brigade. The decision was based on charges of theft and financial and administrative corruption. The factions decided to appoint the captain Nidal al-Atmeh a new commander for the brigade, who was also the commander of the al-Sanamayn Hawks Brigade. However, the decision was completely rejected by Mujahidi Horan Brigade, along with the 1st Infantry Brigade, the Medical Battalion, and the al- Sanamayn Hawks Brigade. In addition, they issued adverse statements that exacerbated the tensions among those factions.

Image of the statement posted by Inkhil Martyrs Brigade on its own Facebook page. On June 4, 2017, Five Syrian armed factions affiliated to al-Hamza Division decided to remove the commander of the division, Othman as-Samir.
Photo credit: Inkhil Martyrs Brigade Facebook Page.

Image shows the adverse statement released on June 5, 2017, by the 1st Infantry Brigade, as it denied knowing the decision of removing Othman as-Samir, the commander of al-Hamza Division code-named Abu Qasim Jaddi.
Photo credit: al-Hamza Division Facebook Page

Image shows the adverse statement released on June 5, 2017, by al-Sanamayn Hawks Brigade, in which it denies knowing the decision of isolating Othman as-Samir, the commander of al-Hamza Division code-named Abu Qasim Jaddi.
Photo credit: al-Hamza Division Facebook Page

Image shows the opposite statement by the Medical Battalion that denies knowing the decision of removing Othman as-Samir, the commander of al-Hamza Division code-named Abu Qasim Jaddi.
Date of release: June 4, 2017
Source of statement: al-Hamza Division Facebook page

Second: Discovering a Leaked Paper from Investigations in the Court of Justice that Condemns one of the Parties

On June 9, 2017, Mujahidi Horan Brigade published a paper leaked from the Court of Justice in Horan, which was the fuse that sparked clashes between the Syrian armed factions in Inkhil: Mujahidi Horn Brigade, 1st Infantry Brigade, al-Sanamayn Hawks Brigade and the Medical Battalion from one hand, and the Descendants of Omar Ibn al-Khattab Brigade, Inkhil Martyrs Brigade, lions of Islam Brigade and Caliphate Omar Brigade on the other hand.

The leaked paper showed confessions of Mohammed Ibrahim al-Halaqi, who was a leader in the Syrian armed opposition. However, on November 16, 2016, he was arrested by the House of Justice in Horan on charges of joining the group that calls itself the Islamic State, also known as ISIS. There, he confessed joining ISIS since 2014, and revealed his responsibility for numerous assassinations in Daraa, including assistance in bombing Inkhil police station on September 22, 2016, which killed more than 12 people, including nine elements affiliated to Mujahidi Horan Brigade, in addition to killing the Minister of Local Administration in the Syrian Interim Government as well as number of military commanders.

Moreover, Mohammed Ibrahim al-Halaqi accused Mohammad al-Zamil, the brother of the commander of the Descendants of Omar Ibn al-Khattab Brigade that he had met with ISIS-affiliated commanders in Hawd al-Yarmouk area, and accused him directly of bombing Inkhil police station.

Image by local activists in Horan shows the leaked version of Mohammad Ibrahim al-Halaqi’s confessions during the investigation at the House of Justice in Horan.
Photo credit: STJ

Third: Outbreak of Violent Clashes in the City, Siege of One of the Neighborhood and Civilians Killed

Hussein al-Samra, an activist from Inkhil, confirmed in his testimony to STJ, that the spread of photos of the leaked paper through the social media and being seen by most of the city’s people aroused the souls of families of the victims who died in bombing Inkhil sentry post that is affiliated to Mujahidi Horan Brigade last year. Al-Samra noted that the bombing was instigated by elements of Descendants of Omar Ibn al-Khattab Brigade, and accused the brigade of belonging to ISIS. He added:

“In the morning of  June 10, 2017, the first party, Mujahidi Horan Brigade, launched an attack on houses inhabited by families of elements of Descendants of Omar Ibn al-Khattab Brigade and of Inkhil Martyrs Brigade, as well as seizing and burning their headquarters, using three tanks in addition to medium weapons. The clashes lasted until the evening, during which the houses of civilians were shelled and the northeastern side of the city was besieged. The clashes as well killed two civilians identified as Muhammad Khaled al-Deri and Ahmed Rateb Rajab, and injured many more civilians.”

According to al-Samra, a number of dignitaries of Inkhil intervened that evening and asked the attacking elements to break the siege of the northeastern neighborhood, in return for the handover of Mohammed al-Zamil, the brother of the commander of Descendants of Omar Ibn al-Khattab Brigade, who was accused of dealing with ISIS, to a neutral party. In addition to a three-day truce, during which the latter accused man would be investigated and tried if he were guilty. Al-Samra added:

"At first, the two parties agreed on the terms, but few hours later, elements of Mujahidi Horan Brigade kidnapped the brother of the commander of Lions of Islam Brigade, the faction fights alongside Descendants of Omar Ibn al-Khattab Brigade and Inkhil Martyrs Brigade, and what has been reached was set aside. Consequently, clashes returned and continued until the next day. On the backdrop of these clashes, the city witnessed a real war that caused horror in the hearts of the people, as several houses and shops belonging to civilians were hit with tanks, and more casualties were recorded, such as Ahmed Fahad Al Sa’adi, in addition to scores of injuries."

Image of the statement published by the allied factions, Descendants of Omar Ibn al-Khattab Brigade, Inkhil Martyrs Brigade and Lions of Islam, which, states that Mujahidi Horan Brigade does not commit to the agreement.
Photo credit: Inkhil Martyrs Brigade Facebook page.

Fourth: A Different Story and Accusing the Other Side of Dealing with the Syrian Regime

On  June 11, 2017, on the next day of the clashes, the scales overturned given the commander of Caliphate Omar Brigade, the faction fights along with Descendants of Omar Ibn al-Khattab Brigade and Inkhil Martyrs Brigade, said in a recorded audio that Othman As-Samir, Commander of Mujahidi Horan Brigade, had an intention to establish a crossing point towards Qita village, north of Inkhil, which is controlled by the regular Syrian army, in order to exchange food and goods. 

the commander of Caliphate Omar Brigade noted in his recorded audio that the passage of the crossing point by Mujahidi Horan Brigade required it to pass through the north-east neighborhood, which is controlled by Descendants of Omar Ibn al-Khattab Brigade. However, when the latter completely denied establishing the passage, Mujahidi Horan Brigade attacked the northeast district of Inkhil to capture it. Moreover, he stressed that this was the main reason that pushed Mujahidi Horan Brigade from the very beginning to attack Descendants of Omar Ibn al-Khattab Brigade and to accuse them of treason and working with the regime.

Following the recorded audio that was published by the commander of the Caliphate Omar Brigade via WhatsApp, the clashes intensified and more elements from both sides intervened. So the clashes continued until the evening of June11, 2017, and civilians were trapped in their homes because of the heavy shelling from both sides, which called on the Court of Justice in Horan to issue a statement calling on all parties to cease hostilities and to arbitrate the judiciary.

Image of the statement published on 11 June 2017, by the Court of Justice in Horan that called all the warring factions in Inkhil to cessation of hostilities and the arbitration of judiciary. 
Photo credit: the Court of Justice Facebook page.

Image shows the destruction of civilian houses in Inkhil, in the western countryside of Daraa, on the backdrop of clashes among armed Syrian opposition factions on June 10, 2017.
Photo credit: activists from the city.

Two images illustrate the destruction of civilian stores in Inkhil, in the western countryside of Daraa, on the backdrop of clashes among armed Syrian opposition factions on June 10, 2017.
Photo credit: activists from the city.

Fifth: Intervention of Separate Forces from outside the City and the Agreement to Resolve the Controversy

At 12:00 a.m. on June 12, 2017, separate forces from outside Inkhil intervened to contain the situation. One of the guarantor forces included Alwiya al-Furqan, also known as Criterion brigades[6] affiliated to the Syrian armed opposition. After that, the clashes stopped and the Court of Justice in Horan listened to both parties. Finally, the agreement was to extradite Muhammad al-Zamil to Criterion Brigades to be interrogated about bombing Inkhil sentry post, and to be referred to the court if he was found to be involved.

According to STJ’s reporter in Daraa, the situation became relatively calm in Inkhil on June 17, 2017, and Criterion Brigades got out of the city, but it is still waiting for the results of the investigation until the date of writing this report.
 

Sixth: Controversy among Opposition Factions in the Eastern Countryside of Daraa

In a related context, the clashes among armed Syrian opposition factions in Inkhil located in the western countryside of Daraa coincided with other clashes in its eastern countryside on June 11, 2017, between the al-Sunnah Youth forces, also known as Shabab al-Sunnah in Busra al-Sham and the Revolutionary Army faction in Ma’araba.

At first, controversies between the two factions was in Kharba town located in the western countryside of Sweida, as there is a checkpoint operated by Shabab al-Sunnah faction.

The reason for the controversy was when a car carrying fruit (watermelon) passed, and it was found that its owner was a young man who belonged to the Omari Brigades[7]. Then an element from a checkpoint operated by Shabab al-Sunna wanted to buy some fruit, but the car driver completely refused that, which led to an altercation that turned later into clashes with light weapons. The element from Shabab al-Sunnah was injured with seven bullets that prompted his transfer to hospitals of Busra al-Sham by the Civil Defense members. STJ reported that commander of the military junta in Shabab al-Sunna attempted to move from Busra al-Sham to Kharba town along with two leaders in order to contain the controversy. However, another checkpoint operated by the Revolutionary Army near Ma’araba, close to Busra al-Sham, prevented the leaders from moving besides it blocked the road between Busra al-Sham and Daraa. After that, the situation evolved into clashes with light weapons near the checkpoint, and later, civilian houses in both cities, Busra al-Sham and Ma’araba, were exposed to bombardment by mortar shells resulting in scores of civilian injuries.

Image of the statement published on June11, 2017, by the Media Office of Shabab al-Sunna, which shows the reasons for the controversy with the Revolutionary Army faction.
Photo credit: Shabab al-Sunnah Facebook page.

In turn,  Malik as-Sari, an activist from Busra al-Sham, spoke about the previous incident that sparked the rift between Shabab al-Sunna and the Revolutionary Army, and pointed out that at the same time elements of Falojat Horan affiliated to the Syrian opposition armed Forces attacked a headquarter of Shabab al-Sunna in Nasib town on 10 June 2017. Consequently, the weapons inside the headquarters were taken, and the block of the road between Busra al-sham and Daraa was a reason for denying access of supports to the premises of the Shabab al-Sunna faction. As-Sari added:

"Shortly after the shooting incident near the checkpoint, we were surprised by a number of mortar shells falling near civilian houses in Busra al-Sham, injuring two civilians by shrapnel of shells launched from the Revolutionary Army faction in Ma’araba . As a response, Shabab al-Sunnah faction also used tank shells and medium machine guns in shelling the outskirts of Ma’araba; one civilian was injured but no casualties were recorded in the clashes."

As-Sari added that the Reform Body[8] intervened in the evening of June 11, 2017, in order to resolve the controversy between the two factions. The agreement was to hand over “the shooter” who belongs to the Omari Brigade in Kharba town, as well as to return all the stolen contents from the headquarters of Shabab al-Sunnah in Nasib town.

It is worth mentioning that Daraa is currently witnessing a situation of insecurity and disorder because of the lack of a security force to support the Court of Justice, and the absence of any force capable of seizing the existing weapon and pursuing the wanted.

 


[1]  Al-Hamza Division was formed on March 24, 2014, of several factions located in the northwestern region of Daraa province: Hamza Assad Allah Brigade, Mujahidi Horan Brigade, descendants of Omar Ibn al-Khattab Brigade, Inkhil Martyrs Brigade, al-Sanamayn Hawks Brigade and FirstInfantry Brigade, which is under the command of Colonel Saber Safar. At the beginning of January 2017, after a meeting, all the leaders of the brigades agreed to appoint Othmanas-Samir code-named Jaddi, who belongs to Mujahidi Horan Brigade, as a commander of the brigade and appointed Saber Safar as a Political representative.

[2] It is one of the armed factions of the Syrian opposition; most of its elements are from Inkhil. On December 20, 2016, it joined the Jidor Horan Brigades operating in the northwestern countryside of Daraa province and some areas of Quneitra. It includes several Syrian armed opposition factions as well.

[3] It was formed in 2013 as result of integrating of several Syrian armed opposition battalions in the north-western countryside of  Daraa, and on April 12,2016, the brigade joined a larger formation under the name 46 Infantry Division in Daraa.

[4] Formed on August 21, 2016, as a result of the integrating of 21 military factions affiliated with the Syrian armed opposition in Daraa province.

[5]  On December 4, 2016 four military factions of the Syrian armed opposition in Daraa integrated, they are Yarmouk army, Moutaz Army, Muhjereen wal Ansar and Hassan bin Ali Brigade.

[6] It was Formed in 2012 and comprises several battalions affiliated to the Syrian armed opposition which are operating in Damascus and its outskirts, as well as in Quneitra and its outskirts

[7] Syrian armed opposition factions operate in the eastern countryside of Daraa province and control Jabib village, adjacent to Kharba town, which is controlled by Shabab al-Sunnah.

[8] It was established on October 1, 2015, by the wise, dignitaries, and intellectuals of Daraa province, which is designated to resolve all problems in the province in peaceful ways.

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