Many parts of Syria feature groups operating as low-level insurgencies against the ruling authorities in those areas. This includes the government-held areas in Damascus and its countryside, as a group calling itself Saraya Qasioun ('Squadrons of Qasioun'- referring to Mt. Qasioun) has claimed multiple insurgent operations via its Telegram channel. The operations are claimed on an occasional basis and are low-key in nature, primarily taking the form of assassinations and IED attacks.
Some of the specific incidents Saraya Qasioun has claimed are verifiable through corroboration. For example, on 22 July 2019, Saraya Qasioun claimed an IED attack on the car of one Iyad Duyub in the Nahr Aishe region in south Damascus. That the attack occurred is corroborated by a social media posting the following day, which noted that Duyub was the leader of the National Defence Forces in that area and that while the attack killed the car driver, he himself survived it. More recently, Saraya Qasioun claimed the assassination of one Nizar Zaidan of the Syrian army's Fourth Division, an incident that is also corroborated by other sources.
A conspiracy theory posted by 'Hammam Fahim' (who claims to reveal exclusive information about the workings of Iran and Hezbollah inside southern Syria) asserts that Saraya Qasioun is actually affiliated with Hezbollah intelligence and intended to target army and security officers working with the Russians and leaking information about Iran and Hezbollah, but I find these claims wholly implausible.
On 7 July 2020, I conducted a brief interview with Saraya Qasioun about its origins, operations and aims.
Q: When was Saraya Qasioun formed and what are its aims? Were you revolutionaries from other factions originally? What is the number of operations that Saraya Qasioun has undertaken and what are your greatest accomplishments? Do you work in Damascus only? How do you assess the current situation in Syria? Is the regime on the verge of collapse with the economic problems? How do you assess the state of the opposition today?
A: Saraya Qasioun was formed at the beginning of 2019 and the first of its operations was in the fourth month of the same year. Saraya Qasioun has been formed from the sons of the Syrian people who were born from the wombs of the great Syrian revolution and we have suffered what the sons of our people have suffered from expulsion, arrest, tyranny and oppression.
And after the displacement of our heroic revolutionaries from the boundaries of the capital Damascus and all the regions towards the liberated Syrian north, the sectarian regime thought that there did not remain men standing in its face and deterring it, so it desired to take revenge on our people through arresting the youth and pursuing them as well as security harassment of the families. There have also occurred some cases of harassment of girls and the peoples have suffered from a very bad living state because the criminal Bashar al-Assad has sold the resources of the land to the Russian and Iranian occupations. And from all of the preceding, the idea of establishing Saraya Qasioun came out to be a force standing in the face of the sectarian regime and deterring it through the language that it understands.
Saraya Qasioun's work is concentrated in Damascus and all its countryside areas. Until now Saraya Qasioun has undertaken more than ten operations, some of which have been in the heart of the capital Damascus.
As for our aims, they are continuation of our operations until the sectarian regime is destroyed in all its symbols and pillars, the expulsion of the last Russian and Iranian soldier from our land, and to support our oppressed people.
A message to our free people in the areas of the regime: we will not abandon you to be on your own in confronting the repression, oppression and imposed authority of this criminal gang. And we will be by God's permission a help for you, just as we ask you to be a help for us in our work, and we call on you to take the initiative individually and collectively to undertake operations that throw the regime into confusion and grind it down from the inside.