On July 19, Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) paused an evacuation of the civilians and National Defense Froces (NDF) fighters from the towns of al-Fu’ah and Kafriya in the eastern Idlib countryside, according to al-Mayadeen TV. The Lebanese news TV channel added that HTS fighters halted 19 buses carrying hundreds of civilians, including women and children, near the crossing of al-Eis.
Syrian opposition activists revealed that foreign fighters of HTS climbed into the buses and insulted the civilians and NDF fighters. Furthermore, the windows of the buses were broken by HTS fighters, who also stole some of the civilians’ luggage.
Omar Rahmun, a well-known mediator between the government and the opposition, said on Twitter that HTS paused the evacuation process because 600 out of the 1,500 convicts who were released by the Damascus government under the evacuation agreement, refused to go to the governorate of Idlib. According to Rahman, the convicts asked for a reconciliation deal.
600 ممن طالبت بهم جبهة النصرة من اصل 1500 وقد اطلقت الجهات المختصة سراحهم بصفقة التبادل المتعلقة بكفريا والفوعة، يرفضون الذهاب الى مناطق سيطرة جبهة النصرة ويطلبون البقاء في مناطق سيطرة الدولة السورية مع تسوية أوضاعهم .
— عمر رحمون (@orahmoun83) July 19, 2018
Earlier today, the Syrian pro-government news outlet al-Masdar News reported that more than 7,000 civilians and NDF fighters were evacuated from the two besieged towns.
Currently, HTS is attempting to use the remaining civilians to blackmail the Damascus government into releasing more convicts. If the government rejects HTS’ demands, the radical group may threaten the lives of the civilians.