Siege of al-Fu'ah and Kafriya
The Siege of al-Fu'ah and Kefriya was a siege of the towns of al-Fu'ah and Kafriya, towns with majority Shia populations and controlled by Syrian government forces in the Idlib Governorate, during the Syrian Civil War. The siege was initiated with a rebel assault on the capital of the province in March 2015, resulting in the capture of Idlib. On 18 July 2018, the besieged government forces reached an agreement with Tahrir al-Sham-led rebels to evacuate them and civilians from the two towns.
On 28 March 2015, after four days of fighting, rebels captured Idlib city and managed to besiege the towns of Kafriya and al‐Fu'ah. Thousands of civilians were trapped since. Army of Conquest and one of its main components, al-Nusra Front, imposed a full siege blocking all humanitarian supplies to the towns; several executions were reported to happen in Idlib province for people accused to smuggle goods into Kafriya and al‐Fu'ah
In July 2015, the Battle of Zabadani began, as Hezbollah and the Syrian Army launched an offensive against rebel-held Al-Zabadani, as part of the Qalamoun offensive (May–June 2015). The pro-government siege of Zabadani and the rebel siege of Kafriya and al-Fu'ah became linked in negotiations.
On 2 August, the Army of Conquest announced it would continue its operations against the besieged enclave of Kafriya and al-Fu'ah. On 10 August, the rebels launched an assault on al-Fu'ah, after detonating a car bomb and tunnel bomb, and advanced towards it. A temporary ceasefire in Zabadani and the two Idlib towns was put in place after negotiations between Ahrar a-Sham rebels and an Iranian delegation in Turkey, but these collapsed in late August after the government refused the rebel demand to release 1,500 female detainees, according to Ahrar a-Sham.
On 31 August, Army of Conquest rebels launched a powerful attack on the enclave and captured al-Suwaghiyah, forcing the government soldiers to retreat to Tal Khirbat. Opposition media reported that the village of Deir al-Zaghab, due south of Kafariya and southeast of al-Fuaa, had also been captured by rebels, but pro-government media said the pro-government forces had repelled an attack on the area. There were two days of protests in pro-government areas across Syria, including Sayeda Zainab, Homs and Latakia, calling on the government to save the civilians trapped in the siege, burning tires and blocking the Damascus International Airport road; the government blamed the demonstrations on "young anarchists".
Between 3 September and 5 September, government sources reported that the rebels intensively shelled the enclave and launched a number of attacks on al-Fu'ah and Kafriya from Maarrat Misrin, al-Suwaghiyah and Idlib city. The attacks were repelled, with the Army reportedly destroying three armoured vehicles.
On 18 September, the rebels launched a new attack on the enclave, firing almost 400 shells and rockets, while nine car bombs (including seven suicide bombers) were detonated at government positions. The clashes led to the death of at least 29 rebels and 21 government soldiers, as well as seven civilians. The SOHR reported that the rebels gained some ground, though Iranian media said National Defense Forces and Hezbollah were able to defend their positions. Ajnad al-Sham threatened on social media to shell Fu'ah and Kefriya with over 100 mortars a day. On 19 September, rebels advanced again in the vicinity of al-Fuah, capturing Tal Al-Khirbat and a number of checkpoints around it. On the other hand, the government troops repelled the rebels attack on the nearby village of Deir Al-Zughb. According to government claims, the rebels lost over 100 fighters, including 31 from foreign countries. The overall number of suicide bombers with VBIEDs that attacked al-Fou'aa and Kafraya in the battle of 18–19 September was estimated to be 26 VBIEDs. The attackers were: 11 Uyghurs, one Lebanese, 2 Saudis and 11 Syrians.
On 20 September, a second cease-fire in al-Zabadani/Madaya and al-Fou'aa/Kafriya was implemented, where the rebels allowed humanitarian aid to the besieged civilians of al-Fou'aa and Kafriya. A violation of this cease-fire was reported the next day as the rebels resumed shelling the towns. Rebels again violated the cease-fire by shelling the towns at the end of the month, but the cease-fire held.
On 11 January 2016, the International Committee of the Red Cross and the World Food Programme organized an aid convoy to deliver food, medicine and other aid to Kefriya and Fu'ah, along with Madaya in the south. Despite several humanitarian convoys entering the besieged area, the citizens still suffered from very difficult survival conditions; basic medical care, vaccines and food were not available.
On 21 July, two ill civilians from Fuah and Kefriya were evacuated to Latakia by the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, in return for two ill civilians also being evacuated from Zabadani to Idlib. Medical and food aid arrived to the towns, in addition to Qalaat al-Madiq.
From 3 to 6 December, more than 10 civilians in Fuah and Kefriya were killed by rebel shelling, in retaliation to the Syrian Air Force bombings throughout the governorate which killed more than 121 civilians.
On 18 December, a group of busses from Aleppo headed toward Fuah and Kefriya in order to evacuate 2,500 civilians there as part of an agreement that would also evacuate the remaining civilians from the former rebel-held districts of Aleppo after the offensive. En route, 6 buses were attacked and burned fighters from the al-Nusra Front, preventing the evacuation. Two days later, more than 1,000 people from Fuah and Kefraya left the towns in buses and headed to Aleppo.
In January 2017, the rebels shelled al-Fuah which led to several injuries. In mid-March, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) captured Tall Umm A'anoun hill from the NDF, in an attempt to cut the road linking Fuah with Kafriya.
On 28 March, an agreement was brokered by Qatar and signed by Ahrar al-Sham, HTS, Hezbollah and Iran, for the evacuation of Fu'ah and Kafriya in exchange for the evacuation of residents and rebels in Zabadani and Madaya. The agreement came into effect beginning on 12 April and buses and ambulances arrived in the four towns with the assistance of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent to begin the evacuations. The Free Syrian Army condemned the agreement, considering it to establish a dangerous precedent of ethnic and sectarian cleansing in preparation for redrawing the borders of the Syrian state, as well as a crime against humanity and contrary to article 7, paragraph (d), of the Statute of the International Criminal Court.
On 14 April, 75 buses and 20 ambulances evacuated around 5,000 people from Fua and Kefriya to Aleppo. On 15 April, a convoy of buses carrying evacuees was attacked by a suicide bomber west of Aleppo, killing more than 100 people.
In September, seven trucks carrying medical supplies, food and an electric generator were allowed by the rebels into the besieged towns, while the government in exchange allowed supplies into the insurgent-held Yarmouk Camp.
On 17 March 2018, FSA fighters of "Saraya Darayya", a group formed by rebels from Damascus who had been exiled to Idlib following the end of the Siege of Darayya and Muadamiyat, assaulted NDF positions in the two towns. Pro-government sources claimed that the attacks had failed, while Saraya Darayya claimed to have killed many NDF fighters.
On 17 July, Iranian negotiators reached an agreement with Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, with Turkey as a mediator, to evacuate the former's forces and civilians, totaling between 6,500 and 7,000 people, from Fuah and Kafriya. A total of 121 buses accompanied by Syrian Arab Red Crescent ambulances entered the two towns the next day. The buses were attacked by HTS fighters with stones, but departed on the morning of 19 July. In return, the government released 1,500 detainees and rebel fighters from its prisons, of which at least 400 were transported to Idlib on the same day.
Following the evacuation, the civilians from al-Fu'ah and Kafriya were mostly resettled to Hisyah in Homs Governorate and al-Basit in Latakia Governorate. Smaller numbers of refugees also moved to Aleppo, Damascus, Nubl, and al-Zahraa.
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