Assad's New Policy: Conscripts Can Defend Their Villages Rather Than Fight on Frontlines

Druze and Christian sources say policy shift has encouraged draft dodgers to rejoin army.

Jack Khoury
Jack Khoury
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Smoke rises after an explosion in the fighting between forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad and rebels on the outskirts of the Druze village of Khader in Syria, June 17, 2015.
Smoke rises after an explosion in the fighting between forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad and rebels on the outskirts of the Druze village of Khader in Syria, June 17, 2015.Credit: AP
Jack Khoury
Jack Khoury

Young Druze and Christians in Syria have reported in recent days to their relatives in Israel on what seems to be a new policy on the part of the Syrian regime, which is designed to protect the country’s rural areas. According to the testimony, the Syrian Army has announced that young men who are supposed to be drafted and who live in villages that are under threat will be able to bear arms in order to guard their communities – rather than being sent to join forces on other fronts. They also said that this policy has led many of the young men who evaded the draft or fled to their villages to express a willingness to rejoin the army’s combat forces.

According to testimony from the ground, the battles for control of the Kuneitra area continue, mainly on the hills known as Tulul al Hamul, which are considered a strategic target by both sides. Although the opposition militias control most of the hills, the Syrian is shelling the area with heavy artillery and the battle has yet to be decided.

In a conversation with Haaretz, Druze sources in the Golan estimate that at this point there is no anticipated wave of refugees from Syria, since the opposition forces don’t aspire to take control of the Druze village of Khader, but rather of mountains regions and open areas surrounding it, in order to ensure control of central arteries.

In recent days there has been heavy fighting between the forces of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s army and the rebels in the Syrian Golan. Israel has even warned the Sunni rebel organizations that are fighting the Assad regime not to shell or try to capture Khader on the Syrian side of the shared border on the Golan Heights.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who in the Knesset plenum discussed the situation of the Druze in Syria, said that “We are carefully following everything being done on this matter. I have given instructions to carry out all the necessary activities and I suggest that we make do with that statement.” The Israel Defense Forces relayed that reports of a massacre in the village are incorrect.

A boy from the Druze community holds a Syrian flag with the image of Syria's President Bashar Assad. April 17, 2013.Credit: Reuters

The organization that is most active among the rebels is the Free Syrian Army, which is considered less extreme than others and also maintains low-profile contacts with Israel. The Druze mainly fear members of the Nusra Front, which is identified with Al-Qaida but cooperates on the Golan with more moderate Sunni organizations.

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