Civilians in a-Dhumeir city northeast of Damascus organized a protest on Wednesday demanding an end to infighting among rebels brigades that has reportedly cost 60 non-combatants their lives over the past three months.
“Civilians’ only concern is for the city to stay safe and far away from the firefights…because of people’s anguish over the latest infighting and the damage done to them,” a member of the a-Dhumeir Direct news network who covered the demonstration and requested anonymity told Syria Direct Thursday.
Several hundred residents of the rebel-held city 35km northeast of participated in Wednesday’s protest, demanding “that weapons fall and the infighting stop,” according to a video published that same day by Dhumeir 24.
Wednesday’s protest in a-Dhumeir. Photo courtesy of Shaam Network.
One of the protest’s organizers, local religious leader Sheikh Isa a-Seyyed, gave warring factions Jaish al-Islam and Tahrir a-Sham until Friday to remove snipers from the roofs of buildings and clear away earthen berns constructed inside the city, promising that if their demands were not met, residents would take to the streets and “clean the city” of the military installations.
The infighting between Jaish al-Islam and Tahrir a-Sham, both of which have a notable military presence in the city, arises from the former’s accusations that Tahrir a-Sham has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State (IS). Tahrir a-Sham claimed in a February statement that it was the enemy of the Islamic State, calling it by its derogatory Arabic acronym, Daesh, in the same announcement.
Jaish and Tahrir have a history of enmity in a-Dhumeir that stretches back to early 2015 when Tahrir a-Sham was formed. At the time, Tahrir a-Sham refused to fight the Islamic State as it waged a campaign against rebel positions in the eastern Qalamoun mountains, reported pro-opposition al-Hadath News in April 2015.
One Jaish al-Islam fighter who spoke to Syria Direct in January said that Tahrir a-Sham “called on FSA brigades and others to not fight with the Islamic State.” Syria Direct could not find evidence to support that claim.
An estiamted 60 residents of a-Dhumeir have been killed by rebel infighting over the past three months, an activist with the grassroots a-Dhumeir Political Office, which organizes opposition media and political activity in the city, told Syria Direct Thursday.