Syria's southern province of Deraa unfortunately continues to witness security incidents on an almost daily basis, in the forms of assassinations and other attacks. While these incidents occur in a variety of places in Deraa, there are sometimes bigger flare-ups in particular localities. A recent case is that of the locality of al-Karak al-Sharqi in east Deraa countryside, where there have been fears of an outright assault by Syrian government forces. To discuss this issue further, I conducted an interview with Jihad Sultan al-Nu'ama, the mukhtar of al-Karak al-Sharqi who is a patriotic person and has always looked out for the interests of the locality. Readers may remember that I conducted an interview with him back in 2018 prior to the reconciliations that summer.
This interview was conducted over the course of 10 November-12 November 2020. It is slightly edited and condensed for clarity. Any parenthetical insertions in square brackets are my own.
[10 November 2020]
Q: What happened recently? And what are the reasons?
A: The [Syrian] army entered Deraa al-Balad and the [armed] groups came out in support of Deraa al-Balad. There was resistance at the al-Karak checkpoint. A lieutenant colonel was killed as well as a first lieutenant and three personnel, and they took prisoner six personnel of the air [intelligence]. The prisoners were freed and there is ongoing search for and handing over of the lost weapons. And if God wills, there will be no assault. I spoke with the Major General, and he said reassure the civilians in al-Karak.
Q: Is there intervention by the Russian side?
A: The Russians did not intervene in the matter. Many of the civilians of al-Karak brought together the groups and pressure was exerted and the prisoners were handed over and now we are working with the civilians and the groups in al-Karak to hand over the lost weapons.
Q: In general what are the reasons for the security problems in Deraa and its countryside? And what is the appropriate solution?
A: There are armed men not affiliated with the revolution who come down from Deraa al-Balad to the city of Deraa, killing and going back and hiding in Deraa al-Balad and Mazara' al-Nakhla. The state has borne this many times and later there remained no patience with the state: it decided to assault Deraa al-Balad and the al-Sadd route, and so the groups that are in the villages came to help and each village has a checkpoint that they [the groups] attacked, and regrettably in all the villages there was no killing except in al-Karak, because some mistake occurred.
Q: In general how is the living situation in Deraa? And what are the reasons for the expensiveness of prices?
A: Very bad [living situation]. [The reasons for expensive prices are] the Caesar Law and the drop of the Syrian pound and the merchants' hoarding of goods.
[12 November 2020]
Q: What is the latest news in al-Karak?
A: Until now nothing new. The army is present in al-Karak, trying to receive the stolen weapons. There were among us today the Major General Hussam Loqa head of the security committee and the Major General Ali As'ad commander of the Fourth Division and many officers and they have handed them some of the weapons present and there is ongoing search for the remaining weapons. And after that there is regularisation for the wanted persons except those who assaulted the checkpoint and participated in the killing.
[Note: there has also been intervention by the Russian-backed V Corps in al-Karak to diffuse tensions].