Threats of use of force between militants in a village in the eastern part of the Suweida Governorate have shed light on the precariousness of housing, land, and property rights. The incident also demonstrated that the most vulnerable local social groups are at the highest risk of losing those rights.
In mid-December 2021, the National Defence Forces (NDF), which are affiliated with the regime, threatened to attack the village of Al-Hariseh, which borders the desertous Badia area of eastern Suweida Governorate. The escalation came as part of an attempt by the NDF to expell an armed group calling itself the Anti-Terrorism Force from the village, amid a broader regime security and military deployment across the governorate. However, fear of military escalation prompted the most prominent leaders of the Anti-Terrorism Force in Al-Hariseh to quit the group in January 2022, lowering the risk of a potential clash and returning relative calm to the village.
Previously, the NDF tried encouraging residents of Al-Hariseh to expell Anti-Terrorism Force members from the village. For example, NDF members set up checkpoints and detonated shells in the air to incite fear. One of the shells landed on a house on November 19, partially destroying it. The Anti-Terrorism Force subsequently mobilised its members, turning Al-Hariseh into a military zone. Some residents fled to Suweida city and to the surrounding villages.
Amid these tensions, a tent encampment of more than 20 Bedouin families east of Al-Hariseh came under indiscriminate gunfire, though no injuries were reported. The incident caused the displacement of some of the families to the town of Al-Qastal, which lies deeper in the Badia region. Some of these Bedouin families work in herding livestock belonging to residents of Al-Hariseh. The recent displacement has negatively impacted Al-Hariseh residents, who now avoid going to their lands lying east of the village for fear of the reactions from displaced Bedouin families.
Though the potential for a military clash in Al-Hariseh has subsided, the displaced Bedouin families have yet to return, harming the economy of the agriculture- and livestock-dependent village.
The Anti-Terrorism Force was founded several months ago and grew rapidly in many parts of Suweida before recently declining to only some rural eastern parts of the governorate. The group defines itself as an independent force working to fill the security vacuum in Suweida. The NDF, whose members all hail from Suweida, has taken a hostile stance against the Anti-Terrorism Force since its founding, accusing the group of receiving foreign funds and conspiring against “national unity.” At the same time, the Anti-Terrorism Force accuses the NDF of affiliation with the Lebanese Hezbollah.