On March 17, fighters of the Syrian National Defense Forces (NDF) in the besieged towns of al-Fu’ah and Kafriya in the eastern Idlib countryside repelled an attack by the Free Syrian Army (FSA) on their positions west of the two towns, the Iranian al-Alam TV reported. The NDF lost one of its fighters and killed more than 15 FSA fighters, according to the report.
The FSA group known as Saraya Darya announced that its fighters had conducted the failed attack and claimed that they had killed many NDF fighters. Saraya Darya was formed by militants who had been evacuated from the Darya district west of the city of Damascus in 2016.
In response to the attack, warplanes of the Russian Aerospace Forces conducted a series of airstrikes on FSA positions in the city of Maarrat al-Nu’man and the town of Murak in southern Idlib, according to Syrian opposition sources.
Al-Fu’ah and Kafriya have been besieged by the FSA and Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) since 2015. Around 2,500 civilians were evacuated from the two towns on December 16, 2016 as part of the evacuation agreement of Aleppo city. On March 28, 2017 more than 5,000 additional civilians were evacuated under a Qatari-Iranian agreement.
Syrian pro-government activists believe that the remaining NDF fighters and civilians in the towns of al-Fu’ah and Kafriya might be evacuated later this year in the framework of the Astana agreement.