The conglomerate of Al-Qaeda affiliates known as “Jaysh Al-Fateh” (Army of Conquest) did not wait long after the conclusion of the 48 hour ceasefire to launch hundreds of mortar shells and rockets into the predominately Shi’i towns of Kafraya and Al-Fou’aa, killing a half dozen civilians and wounding 28 others on Friday morning.
Negotiations between Iran and Turkey over the possible exchange of 30,000 civilians from Kafraya and Al-Fou’aa for 350 encircled Harakat Ahrar Al-Sham and Al-Qaeda militants inside Al-Zabadani went sour when the aforementioned Islamist groups demanded a presence inside the resort-city; this was refused by Iran because the Islamist groups are on the verge of defeat at Al-Zabadani and prolonging their stay will only increase their presence.
For the 30,000 residents of Al-Fou’aa and Kafraya, they are facing a serious threat from the hardline Islamists of Harakat Ahrar Al-Sham and the Syrian Al-Qaeda group “Jabhat Al-Nusra”, who repeatedly shout sectarian insults that are filled with threats.
The Syrian Arab Air Force (SAAF) resupply these towns from the air, delivering both humanitarian aid and military supplies to the civilian-led “National Defense Forces” (NDF) that are comprised of residents from Al-Fou’aa, Ariha, Idlib City and Kafraya.
According to an NDF source inside Al-Fou’aa that corresponded with Al-Masdar News via Skype on Friday, despite the conditions around Al-Fou’aa and Kafraya, many of the civilians have remained resilient and unwilling to surrender to the Al-Qaeda groups – he added that his NDF unit has agreed to die before surrendering these towns in the Idlib Governorate.