Suwayda Druze capture Daraa men in revenge operation

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Fighters loyal to the powerful Druze Sheikh Waheed al-Balaus stormed a village in Daraa province Sunday and captured two men reportedly connected to Jabhat a-Nusra. The raid came in response to Nusra’s, as well as regime-affiliated gangs’ repeated kidnappings of Druze from Suwayda province, reported pro-Druze Mubasher Suwayda. “We were able to enter into their own houses and treat them the same way [they treated us] so they would learn a lesson, and return our kidnapped sons as fast as possible,” Sheikh al-Balaus wrote on Facebook Sunday. The operation occurred in cooperation with Sheikh al-Hanawi (one of the three spiritual leaders—Mashaykh al-Aql—of Suwayda province) and the armed group left future exchange negotiations to the Mashaykh al-Aql, reported Mubasher Suwayda. “Kidnapping operations between Daraa and Suwayda have happened repeatedly and will continue, they have been going on for around two years,” Hafiz Faraj, a defected Druze officer, told Syria Direct in a previous interview. Among other reasons, gangs from Daraa profit from the ransoms, he added. Also on Sunday, armed Druze groups established local-staffed checkpoints at the entrance to Suwayda province while pushing out regime checkpoints, reported the Druze Facebook page al-Tawhidiyin al-Judud.