Regime razes Damascus areas
for defensive measure

Approximately 500 homes were leveled in the town of Darayya outside the Syrian capital.

Darayya. (AFP/Hussam Ayyash/Local Counci of Daraya City)

BEIRUT – The Syrian regime has razed hundreds of homes in a strategic area southwest of Damascus to fortify the capital against a potential attack by armed opposition factions, according to reports.


The Syrian regime demolished on Monday and Tuesday 500 houses next to the Mezze Airbase, Turkey’s Anadolu news agency reported.


A media activist from Darayya told the agency that the demolitions took place in the town’s Khaleej, Corniche al-Jadeed and Mashraq neighborhoods, where he said five mosques had been destroyed.


“The regime has controlled these areas for around a year,” Darayya Media Office chief Hussam Ahmad explained.


“Its demolition of them at this time shows the fear and concern within its ranks.”


Meanwhile, media activist Abdulhamid al-Darani told Al-Souria Net that the demolished Khaleej neighborhood is separated from Mezze Air Base by a 1.5 meter earth embankment, and that after the demolitions a trench was dug around the installation and filled with water to prevent subterraneous infiltration by rebel fighters.


50,000 people lived in the quarter, where the Al-Sadeq al-Amin mosque and the Sharaf Specialized Surgical Hospital, as well as several nurseries and schools, used to stand, the pro-opposition outlet reported.


“The regime did not make do with regimented destruction of infrastructure and residences in the Khaleej neighborhood alone,” Darani said.


“It [continued] in the eastern area of Darayya, from nearby the Damascus highway to the Al-Dahadeel road.”


“These areas were not spared from the terror of demolition […] The regime demolished and burned all the mosques in aforementioned area.”


“The residents of all the areas where demolition is going on have been evicted en-masse and sent to areas bordering Damascus. Some of them have fled to neighboring countries.”


Darayya—which lies eight kilometers to the southwest of the capital and is mostly controlled by the opposition—has been besieged by the regime for the past two years, after it failed to oust rebels from the Damascus suburb in fierce fighting spanning from November 2012 to March 2013.


“The town of Darayya’s position distinguishes it from other Syrian towns,” Darani told Al-Souria Net.


“[Its] distinguished location comes from the fact that it lies directly adjacent to the triangle [of territory forming] the ‘power at the heart of the regime’: the Republican Palace, the Republican Guard’s headquarters, the Syrian army’s Fourth Division headquarters and Mezze Airbase.”


The Syrian regime has reportedly enlisted the help of foreign fighters in recent weeks to bolster its defense of Damascus after a string of military reverses to rebels in the northwest and south as well as to ISIS in the central town of Palmyra.


AFP reported on June 3 that “Around 7,000 Iranian and Iraqi fighters have arrived in Syria over the past few weeks and their first priority is the defense of the capital.”


The renewed focus on protecting Damascus comes as the Syrian regime is reportedly implementing a major strategic shift that will see it withdraw its forces from outlying regions to safeguard core government-held areas stretching from Syria’s coast through Homs down to Damascus.


Company cashes in from destruction


According to activist media outlets, the regime’s demolition program has yielded a financial boon for the country’s Hamsho Trade and Construction company.


Darayya Media Office chief Hussam Ahmad told Anadolu that the regime had inked a deal with Hamsho for the reconstruction and sale of the demolished houses in Darayya.


Another local activist, Abdulhamid al-Darani, went into detail on the operations of the company, which both activists say has been tasked with clearing the demolished area.


“After the regime entered the Khaleej neighborhood it authorized Hamsho to take charge of the area.”


“For its part, [the company] brought in laborers to demolish the houses and remove the rubble [before] stealing the furniture and selling it in a number of pro-regime areas of the capital.”


“Every action Hamsho takes is carried out with the knowledge of the regime and its blessing because it wants to take revenge against those who oppose it with all possible means.”


“Hamsho now seeks assistance from weak willed laborers who it buys with daily wages of 3,000 Syrian pounds each.”


“The company has been working through contracts. It belongs to people from the heart of the regime and its protection is supervised by the NDF militia and Air Force Intelligence.”


“Members [of the two state organs] get a share of the spoils.”

The Syrian regime has destroyed homes in Darayya in a bid to bolster its defense of the nearby Mezze airbase. (AFP/Hussam Ayyash/Local Counci of Daraya City)

The regime demolished and burned all the mosques in aforementioned area.