Darayya and nearby Muadamiyat al-Sham (southwest of Damascus) have seen some of the fiercest battles during the course of Syrian Civil War. For almost four years rebels were besieged by forces loyal to Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad. During that siege huge parts of the city were destroyed (what can be seen in Google Earth). After Darayya surrendered in August 2016, its defenders were evcuated to Idlib Governorate. Some of them were arrested by HTS, some recently joined National Front for Liberation. Some decided to create a new group.
On 17th of March a group, calling itself Tajammu Saraya Darayya, attacked the city of Kefraya, north of Idlib. Kefraya and Fuah are two towns held by National Defense Forces and other groups loyal to Bashar al-Assad (including Hezbollah). Both cities have been besieged by rebels for more than three years. The group’s spokesman claimed the attack was carried out as a revenge for then-ongoing SAA-led offensive in Eastern Ghouta. Two Saraya Darayya fighters, as well as five NDF fighters, were killed in the clashes.
According to SMART News Agency, Saraya Darayya was created in early 2018, although their social media accounts were not created until 23rd of March. The size of the group is unknown, but likely small. It is said to be a part of the Free Syrian Army. Despite being based mostly around Fuah and Kafraya, Saraya Darayya’s fighters were also present on the frontlines in Latakia Governorate. On 14th of May, the group announced another attack on Fuah-Kafraya pocket, claiming several pro-regime fighters killed.
On 7th of June, a town of Zardana (north of Idlib, near Fuah-Kafraya pocket) was attacked with airstrikes. 44 people were killed and 80 were injured in what SOHR called „the biggest attack in the area so far this year”. Rebels accused Russian Air Forces of launching the airstrikes, although Russian Ministry of Defence denies its responsibility. The airstrikes caused another rebel attack on Fuah and Kafraya. On 10th of June, Saraya Darayya, as well as Jaysh al-Ahrar and Uzbek and Turkistani fighters shelled and attacked the pocket at night from three axes. Six Hezbollah fighters were killed, but the assault was repulsed. Three days later, Saraya Darayya attacked again, this time at dawn, alongside Brigade 82. In the statement the group claimed blowing up one of the checkpoints and killing every militant inside it.
Saraya Darayya’s actions are a clear example of motivation by pure revenge. Its fighters, themselves besieged for years, are now attacking the besieged loyalists. When Zardana was attacked with airstrikes, the group was one of the first to strike back. Seems like in the area of Fuah and Kafraya the hunter has become the hunted. Revenge surely isn’t the best option in dealing with things. However, this does not work during a war. A desire for revenge cannot be justified, but it can be understood. Saraya Darayya may not be the largest rebel force, but it certainly may want to make a name for themselves.
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