At least 17 dead in rare clashes in southern Syria

i24NEWS - Reuters

3 min read
Young Druze armed men patrol the village of Rami in the southern province of Sweida, Syria, on October 4, 2018.
AP Photo/Hassan Ammar, FileYoung Druze armed men patrol the village of Rami in the southern province of Sweida, Syria, on October 4, 2018.

Sweida's Druze majority usually remains mostly shielded from Syria's bloody conflict

At least 17 people were killed and dozens wounded in the southern Syrian province of Sweida in clashes between armed residents and gangs aligned with security agencies, local media and activists said Thursday.

The province’s Druze majority remained mostly shielded from the bloody conflict that ravaged the rest of Syria since 2011, but sporadic rallies are taking place over deteriorating economic conditions.

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Residents are also growing increasingly frustrated at government-backed fighters carrying out arbitrary detentions, random roadblocks, and kidnappings for ransom, said activist Rayan Maarouf.

According to the Sweida24 local media outlet, which Marrouf heads, the detention of one resident over the weekend prompted others to set up informal roadblocks and detain members of government-backed gangs and besiege their bases.

"This uprising flared up very suddenly and there were attacks on the bases of these armed groups, which are reinforced with heavy weapons," Maarouf told Reuters.

The resulting fighting left 17 people dead according to Sweida’s Health directorate, which was cited by both Sweida24 and the pro-government Al-Watan newspaper.

Syria’s government did not comment on the violence, but Al-Watan said the fighting eased and negotiations over a settlement were underway.

The man kidnapped over the weekend was ultimately released, Sweida24 reported.

Sweida saw rare protests earlier this year when dozens gathered in the provincial capital to demand a halt to cuts in gas subsidies. 

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