Unconfirmed reports of Nusra, Druze confrontation in Idlib
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.
Nusra had previously taken over the houses of Druze who had fled the region, and began to build a wall inside a confiscated home, Abdul Majeed, a resident of a village neighboring Qalb Loz, where the incident took place, told Syria Direct Thursday. When relatives of the house’s owner objected, a fight broke out that reportedly ended with Nusra killing 23 civilians.
If not for rebel intervention, “only God knows what would have happened,” he added.
Pro-opposition Al-Arabi al-Jadeed reported Thursday that 24 Druze were killed in the incident, but attributed the reason to Nusra trying to take over the house of a regime recruit.
The majority-Druze Progressive Socialist Party issued an announcement expressing its disapproval of the event, admitting that an unspecified number of Druze died, reported Lebanese daily A-Nahar. The announcement denied reports that “the Druze were slaughtered,” adding that the problem was contained after communication with involved parties.
Commenting on the announcement, Abdul Majeed said that “after communication with our sheikhs, they asked Jumblatt [head of the Progressive Socialist Party] to say that [no massacre occurred] to contain tensions.”
Calls for evacuation, rationing as Euphrates Volcano advances
Islamic State fighters instructed the remaining residents over mosque loudspeakers on Thursday to evacuate a town 15 kilometers southeast of Tel Abyad, as combined Kurdish-FSA forces captured a mill less than two kilometers away, reported opposition media campaign Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently (RBSS).
The evacuation of a-Suluk took place after the joint Kurdish-rebel Euphrates Volcano operations room advanced in their march towards the IS-controlled border city of Tel Abyad on Tuesday, taking nine villages to its west.
Also on Wednesday, warplanes with the US-led international coalition carried out six airstrikes on IS positions around Tel Abyad, reported pro-opposition Masar Press.
Elsewhere in the province, Islamic State fighters instructed civilians over mosque loudspeakers in A-Raqqa city, the provincial capital, on the necessity of storing food items due to the “circumstances of the war with the FSA,” reported RBSS’s Facebook page on Wednesday.
Idlib province pounded by regime air raids, again
Regime planes bombarded the southern Idlib countryside on Wednesday, killing and injuring dozens of civilians and severely damaging infrastructure, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported Thursday.
“Regime planes targeted the western residential neighborhood in Saraqeb with vacuum missiles,” Idlib citizen journalist Muhammad a-Tawil told Syria Direct on Thursday, adding that “[several of] the corpses have not been identified because of their mutilation.”
“The pace of regime bombings in Idlib has escalated” a-Tawil said, referring specifically to an airstrike on the town of a-Janudiyeh in the west Jisr a-Shughour countryside on Monday that killed 60 civilians and injured 100 others.
As the Victory Army rebel coalition moves closer to control of the entire province, the regime has responded by increasing the pace of attacks on rebel controlled villages and towns across the province in what opposition activists call collective punishment.
Saraqeb Civil Defense Workers rescue civilians Wednesday. Photo courtesy of Saraqeb Today.