Kafraya and Al-Fou’aa are no stranger to violence, they have been targeted on numerous occasions by Islamist forces (Jabhat Al-Nusra) that are hell-bent on taking these two predominately Shi’i Muslim villages in the Idlib Governorate and declaring victory over the residents they deem “kuffar” (infidels).
For many of the residents of Al-Fou’aa and Kafraya, defeat at the hands of these Al-Qaeda linked militants could result in their expulsion from their homes or their gravest fear: mass executions; this thought has derived from the multiple threats these civilians have received from the enemy combatants, who shout derogatory, sectarian insults that are meant to instill fear amongst the villagers.
According to the Syrian Census of 2004, the two villages have an aggregated population of almost 15,000 civilians; with over 10,000 of those residents living in Al-Fou’aa; this predominately Shi’i village is situated directly north of the provincial capital in the Idlib Governorate.
Villagers Fight Back
Similar to the other Shi’i towns in northern Aleppo (Al-Zahra and Nubl), Al-Fou’aa and Kafraya have created their own National Defense Forces (NDF) that is comprised of only residents from the villages; however, unlike Al-Zahra and Nubl, the two Idlib villages do not have Hezbollah fighters assisting them and they do not have access to neutral towns like Afrin in northern Aleppo.
Source in the Syrian Government stronghold of Ariha have informed Al-Masdar News that the two Shi’i villages boast an NDF contingent of 1,800 men and women – they are resupplied every other day via Syrian Arab Air Force airdrops that provide civilian necessities and a surplus of weapons and ammunition to protect themselves against hostile militants in the area.
Isolation and Determination Against All Odds
Following the Syrian Armed Forces’ full withdrawal from the provincial capital, Al-Fou’aa and Kafraya became completely isolated and encircled by the enemy combatants; yet, despite their circumstances, these inhabitants have valiantly withstood each attack by Jabhat Al-Nusra and company.
Each day, the civilians of Al-Fou’aa and Kafraya are targets of indiscriminate rockets and mortar shells that are fired into their residential neighborhoods by radical militants that later attempt to breach their defenses and establish control over their villages; but, per usual, they repel the swarming enemy combatants.
What does the future hold for these residents of Al-Fou’aa and Kafraya? It remains unknown. Can the Syrian Armed Forces reach them before it is too late? It remains unknown. What we do know is that these civilians have defied all odds in this vicious war.