An armed confrontation between Jabhat a-Nusra and the Druze of the Jabal a-Sumak region in the northern Idlib countryside unfolded Wednesday with conflicting information as to the reason behind the dispute and the number of casualties.

Here, Abdul Majeed, a Druze civilian from a village neighboring Qalb Loza, the site of the event, tells Syria Direct that the conflict started when Nusra members tried to build a wall in a house they had confiscated from a Druze family. The dispute eventually ended with 23 Druze dead, “and God only knows what would have happened” had nearby rebel brigades not intervened.

Abdul Majeed’s detailed account, he says, comes from a resident who fled Qalb Loza to seek help in neighboring villages at the beginning of the incident.

Q: What are the real reasons that led to the confrontation between the Druze and Nusra in the village of Qalb Loza?

“Nusra had previously taken control of houses whose owners left a long time ago. They weren't houses belonging to shabiha as some media outlets have claimed. Nusra was building a wall inside one of the houses in order to split it up; the house owner's relatives objected, and a fight broke out.

Jabhat a-Nusra tried to arrest members of the family that objected. Some Nusra fighters readied their rifles and others moved to put the family into a car. One Nusra member put his rifle aside so he could push one of them in more easily.

The brother of the man being pushed tried to take that rifle from the ground. A second Nusra fighter shot him, and at that instant the fighter who had dropped his gun moved towards it so the brother of the detainee wouldn't take it. The Nusra bullets hit two people, the fighter who was going for his gun and the Druze brother who tried to take it.

After their comrade was killed, Nusra called for backup over their walkie-talkies and opened fire on passersby and nearby houses, killing 23 innocent people, none of whom picked up a weapon or even thought of resisting. If not for the mediation of rebels from Kufr Takharim, God only knows what would have happened.”

Q: Can you describe the state of the village after the event occurred?

“Nusra is not allowing anyone to enter or exit. People are panicked, they don't know what's going to happen. Leaving the village isn't easy, as most people don't have enough to make ends meet, but remaining means danger and humiliation. People are confused and anxious; they're hardly eating, drinking or sleeping. In short, the situation is extremely tense and confusing.”

Q: How did the notables of the surrounding villages react to the event?

“During and after the fight, some people from neighboring Druze villages tried to mediate with the Sheikh Hamud, the Jabhat a-Nusra emir in Idlib, in order to bury the hatchet. But Sheikh Hamud demanded that the Druze give him a thousand rifles, claiming that the people of the villages own rifles.

That was an excuse to shirk Nusra's guilt and to continue acting the way they were. The Druze [of the area] have never raised a weapon in anyone's face since the beginning of the revolution. They only own a limited number of rifles, if they're available at all.

Sheikh Hamud told the mediators that he was going to storm the village this morning, but he gave a grace period of three days to get the rifles together.”