Regime and Hizbullah forces emptied a village of residentsin the western Damascus country side on Sunday and burned down several houses, local sources tell the Syrian Voice.
The attack came 24 hours after the regime issued a warning to residents of Harira village to evacuate. As soon as the warning’s deadline was reached Hizbullah and regime forces raided the village and expelled its inhabitants by force.
“The regime and Hizbullah are adopting the same strategy they did in the Zabadani area, i.e., warning civilians they must leave and then forcing them out,” Mohammed, a citizen journalist from the area, told the Syrian Voice.
“They blew up houses along the outskirts of Harirawith explosives placed inside the homes after stealing furniture and valuables,” he said.
Mohammed said that the regime “forcibly displaced” between 200 and 220 families. Around 200 pro-regime families were allowed to stay.
“The sons of those families are fighting in the army or security services,” said Mohammed.
Local citizen journalist Ahmed Abdul Wahhab told the Syrian Voice that “residents of Harira fled to villages in the Wadi Barada region and Runkus, and were allowed to pass through regime checkpoints without issue.”
“But they weren’t allowed to take anything with them except the clothes on their backs and some small bags—they were prevented from taking furniture or household items,” said Abdul Wahab.
“Regime forces didn’t tell residents where to go. Rather, they let them choose if they wanted to head to opposition-controlled areas around Wadi Barada, Runkus, and the Qalamoun mountains.”
Abu Mohammed al-Bardawi, a citizen journalist from Wadi Barada, told the Syrian Voice that “families arrived on Monday from Harira village.”
“They have nothing so residents put them up in their homes…things are so bad that five families are living in a single house.”
Syrians have repeatedly accused the regime of engaging in demographic change. Eight hundred families were recently evacuated from Qazhel in the Homs countryside, which is located around Alawite and Shiite-majority villages, after the regime conducted a massacre of young men there.
“Regime forces and Hizbullah are trying to effect demographic change in the area, as Harira is considered the separating point between the Western Qalamoun and the Wadi Barada region,” said Abdul Wahhab.
“It’s no longer a secret that the regime and its allies conduct a policy of forced displacement and demographic change even if they haven’t formally announced it.”
Various human rights organizations have accused the regime of carrying out massacres on a sectarian basis, and citizen journalists and civilians go so far as to say the regime conducts “demographic change.” No international organization has leveled that charge directly at the regime.
Harira is about four km away from Madaya. The regime is trying to take control of the village to prevent opposition forces from controlling contiguous territory in the western Qalamoun region, Madaya, and Zabadani.
Harira is among the villages included in a ceasefire deal signed last year between Jaish al-Fatah and the Iranians, which called for a halt to military operations of all forms, as well as the opening of humanitarian corridors in Madaya, Zabadani, Kafriya and Fuaa.
Regime forces and Hizbullah warned Harira residents earlier this year that they had to evacuate the village. Four hundred did in fact pick up and leave for towns around Wadi Barada and the Qalamoun mountains.