The pro-regime, Iran-backed Fatemeyoun Brigade, which includes Afghan fighters among its ranks, attacked the village of Al-Fasedeh in northeastern Hama governorate on September 29, despite the village being under regime control.
The attack killed and wounded at least 14 residents. Attackers also burnt homes in the village, which relies primarily on livestock grazing, and stole and killed a large number of sheep.
The attack occurred as a convoy of Afghan militias were being transferred from their headquarters near Palmyra in the Badia desert area of the Homs governorate to rural desertous regions of the Aleppo governorate, according to a source from the pro-opposition Hama Media Office. The source added that the massacre pushed remaining villagers to flee Al-Fasedeh for safety.
Ongoing military operations in eastern Hama could prevent displaced residents from returning home out of fears for their safety. Military movement in the area suggests a possible desire by pro-regime forces to empty eastern Hama of residents, and thereby form a safety belt of land separating regime territory from areas of Syria’s eastern Badia, where the Islamic State still maintains a presence.
Last week’s attack on Al-Fasadeh is not the first such incident in northeastern Hama governorate’s Al-Saan district. Pro-regime militias also attacked the villages of Al-Khafiyeh, Berman, Mareijib and Afu Liffeh this year, destroying homes and pushing many residents to flee. Most of the displaced have found refuge in the nearby town of Al-Saan, as well as northern Hama, the Ghab Plain and areas west of Salamieh in the eastern part of the Hama governorate.
Fighters from the Russian-backed Palestinian faction Liwa Al-Quds are stationed in the town of Al-Saan, while Fifth Corps forces, also backed by Russia, have stationed themselves in a Russian military base in the village of Juweiad, northeast of Al-Saan.
Since the beginning of 2020, pro-regime militias have carried out military and security operations in the Al-Saan and Salamieh areas of the Hama governorate, extending northwards towards the Khanaser area of rural northern Aleppo. The operations are ostensibly part of an effort to drive out remaining Islamic State cells, which have reappeared in the region.
In June, Liwa Al-Quds requested military reinforcements to comb the area and were subsequently joined by large groups of Christian militias from the Hama governorate towns of Mhardeh and Suqalbiyeh. These operations pushed many remaining residents of remote eastern Hama desert villages to flee their homes.
Their flight is only the latest wave of displacement from eastern Hama. First, in 2017, residents fled battles in the area between opposition, regime and Islamic State forces. Villages in the area changed hands often amid the fighting, causing massive damage to infrastructure. Some villages were almost completely destroyed by Russian airstrikes targeting opposition fighters, before the regime finally took control of the area in late 2017. Many residents who fled the area at the time headed towards opposition-held areas of Idlib and rural Aleppo.
Then, in 2018 and 2019, pro-Iranian militias in the area spurred residents to flee yet again, this time towards areas under the control of the majority Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces in northeastern Syria