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Nusra guns down
Druze villagers

Dozens of civilians were killed by Nusra fighters in a village north of Idlib.

Nusra Fighters. (AFP/AMC/Fadi al-Halabi)

BEIRUT – Fighters from the Al-Nusra Front have gunned down dozens of residents of a Druze-populated village outside Idlib, while Druze in southern Syria consider their future options amid mounting fears. 

 

“At least 20 residents of the village of the Druze-populated village of Qalb Lawzeh have been killed,” the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported Thursday on the incident.

 

The monitoring NGO said the deadly melee began Wednesday when a sharp exchange of words erupted between a Tunisian Nusra commander and the village’s residents after the Al-Qaeda-linked group tried to seize the home of a regime force member.

 

“When people from the regime forces member’s family refused to allow the appropriation of the house, the Nusra fighters resorted to force opening fire and killing a resident from the village,” the report explained.

“Civilians from the village then gathered at the location where the incident had taken place and the Nusra fighters fired at them. One local managed to take a Nusra fighter’s weapon and opend fire, killing the fighter.”

 

The report added that “Nusra then summoned reinforcements to take control of the village," which lies along the Turkish border a little over 25 kilometers northwest of the provincial capital Idlib.


"When reinforcements arrived they opened fire on the civilians, killing at least 20 of them, including an elderly person and a child," the SOHR also said.

 

Meanwhile, ARA news cited Druze activists as saying that Nusra killed at least 30 people in the massacre, which they described as a “bloodbath.”

 

“Nusra terrorists barbarically executed our young men. The executions took place at the entrance of the village, as Nusra wanted to terrorize the rest of the civilians who opposed any advance by the group towards the village in the recent weeks,” a source told the Syrian outlet.

 

The Druze spiritual leader in Lebanon, Sheik al-Aql Naim Hassan, strongly condemned the violence, calling on “all parties and factions in the Idlib area, as well as Syria as a whole, not to slide into deadly strife.”

 

He also called for keeping up the communications “occurring at different levels” to ensure the situation is resolved.

 

An official in the Lebanese Druze Progressive Socialist Party told Al-Hayat that the situation in the Idlib village remains tense, adding that party chief Walid Jumblatt was making “contacts to calm the situation.”

 

Jumblatt had previously brokered a deal with Nusra in Idlib in early March that called for Druze residents to destroy their shrines and “convert to Sunni Islam” in return for Nusra not to imply Sharia law on them, according to an Al-Akhbar report.  

 

The Lebanese daily added that Nusra commander Abu Abdul-Rahman al-Tunisi—who reports identify as the man at the center of Wednesday’s incident—had ordered Druze villages in January to destroy their shrines and renounce their faith.

 

Suweida Druze consider options

 

The Nusra massacre in Idlib comes as fears have mounted in southern Syria’s Druze populated region of Suweida over the possibility of an ISIS attack.

 

In light of advances by Syrian rebels in the neighboring Daraa province to the west of Suweida and a brief raid on a town northeast of the city by ISIS, Druze in the area have moved increasingly toward self-armament.

 

The move toward self-defense has also been spurred by the Syrian regime’s reported withdrawal of heavy weaponry and forces from the region, prompting supporters of the anti-regime “Sheikhs of Dignity” to protest against the weaponry movement.

 

While the Druze-populated areas of southern Syria are under regime control, residents of the region have generally maintained an autonomous attitude against not only Islamist rebels but also regime efforts to enlist Druze locals to fight in far-off areas of the country.

 

Alaraby Aljadeed reported Thursday that a number of Sheikhs and retired officers had formed a new military command for all armed factions in the province called the “Shield of the Homeland.”

 

A Suweida-based human rights activist speaking to the London-based daily argued that the Druze of the region face three choices: to stay allied with the regime, to side with the Southern Front rebels in Daraa, or to seek protection from neighboring countries.

 

In recent days, reports have emerged that Israel, which hosts a substantial population of Druze, was working to aid the Druze of southern Syria.

 

“The State of Israel is acting on behalf of the Syrian Druze. These matters are being carried out quietly, and without publicity,” Israeli Deputy Minister for Regional Cooperation Ayoob Kara, himself a Druze, said Friday.

 

“We do not plan to sit idly by while our brothers are being slaughtered in Syria.”

 

Meanwhile, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin voiced his fears Wednesday over the fate of Druze in Suweida, just as rebels began attacking the regime’s Al-Thaala Airbase on the outskirts of the province.

 

“What is going on just now is intimidation and threat to the very existence of half a million Druze on the Mount of Druze which is very close to the Israeli border,” Reuters quoted him as saying.

 

An unnamed US official told the news agency that the Druze community in Israel has been lobbying for the armament of their coreligionists in Syria.

 

For its part, the FSA-affiliated Southern Front, which is fighting the regime in the Daraa province, has vowed in the past not to attack the Druze in the neighboring Suweida province, and instead honor its “neutrality.”  

 

“We will not go back on the promise we made to ourselves first before you: the revolution’s path goes towards Damascus, but it does not pass through Suweida,” the Southern Front’s military press room said in a late March statement.

Nusra Fighters killed Druze civilians outside Idlib. (AFP/AMC/Fadi al-Halabi)

Nusra terrorists barbarically executed our young men.

  • ZiadT

    Hannibaal-Atheos keep your hate to yourself... It takes a brave people to stand up unarmed and outnumbered against scumbag Jihadis backed, financed and armed by Qatar and Turkey... The real cowards are those who insight hate against a minority who has stood in the face of radical Islamic injustice and has protected Christians for centuries... This is not new to the Druze as they are used to it... The Druze didn't ask for this and they didn't enter the fight just yet, but I can promise you that when they do their enemies will regret it...

    June 14, 2015

  • Hanibaal-Atheos

    Hate? What hate? Why is a critique of an action by a group seen as "hate"? I also correct you: It's "Incite", not "insight". The Druze, just like the Christians in Syria, have long supported Assad, so, yes, they asked for this. Jumblatt for example changes his position vis-a-vis Syria like he changes underwear (I am assuming he does every day). In 2010-2011, didn't Jumblatt beg Assad to take him back, then went crawling to Damascus asking the butcher for forgiveness and recanting all the anti-Syrian statements he made between 2005 and 2010? Just look at the buffoon Wi'am Wahhab. He is Druze, right? Hasn't this imbecile defended Assad for as long as anyone can remember? Now, suddenly he hates Assad because Assad dumped the Suweida Druze.... With the Druze, nothing ever seems to be based on principles. It's opportunism of the most stupid kind. Finally, I was suggesting the Druze avenge their dead in northern Syria by killing some Christians only because that is exactly what they did in 1976-1977. January 1976: Syria and its Druze allies run over Damour and kill 1,000 Christians (the latter hadn't done anything to the Druze). Then March 1977: Syria assassinates Kamal Jumblatt and the Druze retaliate by attacking Christian villages, including Maaser El Chouf, slaughter their Christian neighbors and burn them in their church....(the Christians had done nothing to the Druze). So, tongue in cheek I was suggesting perhaps the Druze do the same now, but hey, maybe they have evolved and become a bit more civilized. We'll see.

    June 14, 2015

  • Hanibaal-Atheos

    Just as they did in Lebanon in 1976 and 1977 (when Syria attacked Damour and assassinated Kamal Jumblatt), I think the Druze should avenge their dead by attacking, slaughtering, massacring, and evicting unarmed innocent Christian villagers. The latter seem to be the favorite scapegoat of the Druze. Otherwise, let the "Socialist" and "Progressive" Jumblatt prove to us how valiant his Druze tribesmen are against Nusra and Daesh.

    June 11, 2015