Alwaght- Kafria and Foua are two Shiite-inhabited towns in rural Idlib that are bearing the plights of a two-year siege deep into the areas held by the Syrian militants and Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (formerly al-Nusra Front). They are homes to nearly 20,000 people who fell victims of a Russian rush for evacuation of Aleppo’s east from militants. They are taking a compulsory role of hostages.
All these 20,000 residents are the forgotten victims of the Syrian conflict. However, despite the fact that in no spot of Syria the humanitarian conditions are as critical as the conditions in these two towns, the media outlets as well as the international community do not pay enough attention to them while.
The operations to cleanse eastern Aleppo along with the international strains on the Syrian government to save the armed opposition provided a chance for calling attentions to the grave circumstances of Foua and Kafria. With an insistence from Lebanon’s Hezbollah, the permission for the terrorists to go out of eastern Aleppo was tied to permission for the two towns' unarmed residents to exit, to move out of the heart of the militant-held areas toward safety in the government-controlled regions after two years of blockade and starvation.
But the international pressures and the members of the UN Security Council have impeded this humanitarian deal. To the surprise of all, the relevant sides of the crisis have failed to agree on evacuation of the civilians from the encirclement of the armed groups.
With a resistance from Hezbollah, finally 2,500 residents were allowed to leave the two towns. 2,500 women and children in exchange of 40,000 militants and their families, who left eastern Aleppo which is now under the control of the government. They joined the fellow fighters in Idlib. The injured fighters of opposition were moved to the hospitals by well-equipped ambulances.
On the other side, in the first phase nearly 1,000 people of Foua and Kafria were evacuated from their homes. The severely injured people were moved— not by ambulances—by buses, along with the healthy people. They went a several-hour trip to their new destination in three days. Before buses arrived to Foua and Kafria to evacuate people, several of them had been set in fire by the armed groups. At the end of the road and under duress of Hezbollah, the buses were driven into the city and 1,000 people were evacuated from Foua.
Almost two weeks ago, 21 buses were deployed to transfer another 1,000-people group. But it was too late because all of the agreed-upon 40,000 of the opposite side people had been evacuated from Aleppo’s eastern neighborhoods and so the militants breached the accord and blocked the buses' exit from the towns. To the moment, they are waiting for a permission of the armed groups to leave the two towns. The bus drivers said in contact with outside world that like others they were "starving to death." In fact, the defenseless Foua and Kafria residents fell victims to a Russian haste for evacuation of militants from east of Aleppo.
Foua and Kafria significance
The two towns do not have the least military advantages for the warring sides. Because the opposition groups and terrorists know well that the towns have fully fallen, and any time they desire they can enter them. On the Syrian government’s side, liberation of them is now very difficult because Damascus needs to first destroy the firm reinforcements of the militants, something almost unfeasible now.
Foua and Kafria are of high psychological and religious importance for Hezbollah and Iran, however. Many of Iranian and Hezbollah forces lost their lives while struggling to reach the two towns. An example of such devotion of life is the fighters killed in Khan Tuman village in northern Syria.
In addition to daily shelling of Foua and Kafria by militants from Ahrar al-Sham and Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, snipers are standing for people. They are ready to press the trigger, to pick off civilians with an intention of “taqarrub”, or moving closer to God! The method is very special: gunning down the adult and young men who appear in the lens of their scope camera and shooting at the women and children to just wound them with aim of putting psychological strains on the residents.
The terrorists and their supporters are well aware that 20,000 hostages in Foua and Kafria are a very efficient bargaining chip for their hard times.
When Idlib fell to the anti-Damascus forces two years ago and al-Nusra Front's terrorists celebrated the big gain, Foua and Kafria were the only areas that survived the capture. The militants were preparing a final assault on the two Shiite towns. They were chanting “we are coming to behead you.” Exactly at that sensitive and decisive time, Hezbollah launched operations in Madaya and Al-Zabadani, both located in Damascus outskirts. In a short time, the Lebanese fighters managed to encircle the terrorists in the two cities.
Hezbollah's assault carried a message to the terrorists: if you enter Foua and Kafria, we enter Madaya and Al-Zabadani.
An agreement ensued, dubbed four-city accord. Accordingly, the security of the four cities was tied to each other. According to the terms of the deal, no aid is sent to Madaya and Al-Zabadani unless the same amount is sent to Foua and Kafria. But step by step the terrorists violated the agreement, and in other words Foua and Kafria began to outvalue Madaya and Al-Zabadani for the terrorists.
The death toll of artillery and sniper shootings in the two towns is very less than death toll resulted from shortage of food and medicine.
People in Foua and Kafria suffer malnutrition, as they do suffer lack of safe water. There is no fuel to warm the homes, nor is there proper and enough medicine to treat the wounded. The aid that arrived to the two towns under the four-city treaty does not last for more than a couple of weeks. To pass the freezing days of the winter, people began burn their houses' wares. They do not have enough cloths to end the cold season.
Consumption of unhealthy water and food brought about outbreak of an array of diseases in the two towns. A small hospital in Foua is far from being able to receive and treat people due to lack of facilities and medicine. It even lacks the adequate facility for treatment of diseases in basic levels. The aids are inappropriate and far from being enough. Even reports emerged saing that the helps were nothing but rotten food and grain.
According to the news reports from inside Foua, the food ration for every person is one and half a loaf of bread every four days. The children have forgotten many food and fruits in the two besieged towns. So far, UN supervisors have several times travelled to Madaya and Al-Zabadani to assess the humanitarian conditions there, but they declined to visit Foua and Kafria even once as militants deny them entry.
But to civilians dismay demands for visit of UN supervisors from Foua and Kafria are not seen in the periodic reports of the international body to the International Syria Support Group (ISSG). However, demands for entry to Madaya and Al-Zabadani are visible in a majority of the reports of the United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
What is certain is that the international community has turned a blind eye to Foua and Kafria conditions. This comes while under the international criminal terms what is happening in the two towns is gradual genocide. According to the interviews with terror leaders, the main objective behind encirclement of Foua and Kafria is massacring them for their religious beliefs. According to the international law, genocide is “any of acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.” This is exactly what is happening in the two Shiite-populated towns.
Turkey, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia are three sides of a pro-militant triangle that should display a serious intention for taking a positive role in preventing a humanitarian tragedy in Foua and Kafria, otherwise a mass killing of people, which will mark a stain on the honor of humanity, is unavoidable.