Rebels, IS agree to truce in south Damascus

Rebel factions in the al-Qadam joint operations room agreed to a truce with the Islamic State this past Thursday, one month after IS fighters attacked from their south Damascus base in al-Hajar al-Aswad in an attempt to take control of the al-Qadam district.

The text of the agreement, which circulated online Saturday, seeks to end the battles and IS’s blockade on al-Qadam by stipulating nonaggression, bilateral withdrawal and the establishment of an independent judicial body.

“The majority have supported the agreement,” Ammar al-Maydani, a south Damascus media activist tells Moutasem Jamal, to end the violence and ease the blockade.

Q: Why has the conciliation agreement been reached at this time in particular?

There are many reasons, including bloodshed, the regime siege of al-Qadam, the lack of medical supplies, and the shortage of ammunition and weapons on both sides because of the ring of regime blockades in the [south Damascus] area.

Q: How do the people of al-Qadam view the agreement?

The majority have supported the agreement [to stop] the shedding of their sons’ blood, and to break the dual blockade imposed on them by both IS and the regime.

There are also those who opposed it, some of whose sons were killed by IS and others for personal reasons.

Q: Some news sites reported a prisoner exchange between IS and the al-Qadam rebels several days ago, which was not mentioned in the text of the truce agreement published on Saturday. Did an exchange occur, and was it before or after the truce agreement?

Yes, there was a bilateral prisoner exchange of four members of Ajnad a-Sham for one IS member during the negotiations as a goodwill gesture.

[Since reaching the agreement,] both sides have taken the bodies of their dead, removed their checkpoints and roadblocks and begun to withdraw.

Q: Do the rebels believe in this truce and trust IS, or do they fear that they may renege on the truce at any time?

Things are different now. This is a complete agreement between both sides, and if anybody breached the truce then everybody would fight him, even those who have remained neutral.

Moutasem Jamal

Moutasem Jamal studied English literature. He moved to Jordan after losing his job because of violence in his area.

Mateo Nelson

Mateo Nelson was a 2014-2015 fellow at the Center for Arabic Study Abroad program (CASA I) in Amman, Jordan. Mateo holds a BA in Near Eastern Studies from Princeton University, with a certificate in Arabic Language and Culture.