An announcement by the court in Yalda criticizes extrajudicial killings by JAI members. Photo courtesy of South Damascus Courthouse.
AMMAN: Jaish al-Islam’s (JAI) leadership attempted to do damage control south of Damascus on Monday after its fighters unilaterally broke into a courthouse over the weekend and executed six suspected Islamic State collaborators.
The fighters in the suburb of Yalda were not acting on orders from Jaish al-Islam’s leadership, JAI spokesman Hadhifeh al-Sadiq told Syria Direct on Monday. South Damascus residents and activists expressed disapproval of the methods, if not the act, committed by JAI members over the weekend.
“After the executions, the fighters informed the members of JAI leadership in southern Damascus what they did, and now we are communicating with the judiciary to solve this problem,” al-Sadiq said.
The fighters broke into the courthouse on Saturday in retaliation for a roadside bombing in Yalda that killed five Jaish al-Islam fighters. No group claimed credit for the blast, but JAI fighters in Yalda, where the faction is one among several rebel groups controlling the suburb, immediately blamed the Islamic State.
“Members of JAI had become angry and they brought out the [five] IS prisoners present at the courthouse and executed them,” the Jaish al-Islam spokesman said. A sixth prisoner, a Palestinian, was executed a day later, Yarmouk Camp News reported.
The courthouse, an independent judicial authority in south Damascus, condemned the raid and killings in an announcement posted on Facebook on Sunday, and called on JAI leadership to turn over those responsible.
The court also called for calm, asking “all the military factions and people of south Damascus to exercise self-control and not act in any way that would incite fitna [discord].”
From its base is in the East Ghouta suburbs, JAI is one of the most prominent rebel groups operating near the capital, and also maintains a presence in towns and suburbs south of the capital alongside other factions and the Islamic State, whose strongholds include al-Hajjar al-Aswad and the Yarmouk refugee camp.
In the wake of the executions, some activists south of the capital accused JAI members, if not the leadership itself, of disregarding judicial authority and acting with impunity.
“We support the killing of Islamic State members 100 percent,” Abu Amad, a south Damascus media activist told Syria Direct on Monday, “but are against the way it was carried out.”
“The people of south Damascus believe that all must be under the jurisdiction of the court and abide by its rulings,” which applies to military factions and civil institutions alike, Matar Ismail, member of the grassroots news campaign Revolutionary Spring in Yalda told Syria Direct on Monday.
“Those executed on Saturday were a sensitive case,” Ismail said, alluding to their alleged affiliation with the IS, but “in general, JAI’s behavior was completely unacceptable.”