Chapter 3. Life in the locations surrounded by the terrorists

It should be mentioned separately about such crimes of militants as the blockade of two villages - al-Fu'ah and Kafriya in Idlib Governorate. Residents of these villages spent several years surrounded by militants, being subjected to regular sniper attacks and artillery shelling. In addition, residents talk about the terrorist attack at Rashidin, committed by militants when the villagers were entering the territories controlled by the legitimate government of Syria.

The residents of those villages told us how they managed to survive during the blockade.

Musa Yusef AzhitiMusab Yousef Ajiti, Idlib Governorate, Kafriya, 49 years old, civil servant

Musab Yousef Ajiti, Idlib Governorate, Kafriya, 49 years old, civil servant: “On March 25, 2015, terrorists surrounded our village, completely from all sides and began shooting from various weapons. We were completely surrounded, a blockade was made around us, they did not give us food, our state dropped food and necessary products by aviation.

We spent 3.5 years in the blockade until the exchange took place – the terrorists were allowed to go in there, and we were allowed to go out. On July 18, 2018 the last residents left the village. There were 18 thousand inhabitants in Kafriya, and 8 thousand in al-Fu'ah. During the blockade, about 3,000 residents died.

Question: “What did you eat?”

Musab Yousef Ajiti, Idlib Governorate, Kafriya, 49 years old, civil servant: “We were so starved we had to eat grass. Sometimes they were dropping food packages from helicopters. When our aviation began to bring us bread and food, the militants fired at helicopters. Sometimes terrorists misappropriated the humanitarian aid, many cases were reported. At the same time, we noticed that large trucks were passing through Al-Bab, they were bringing humanitarian aid for the terrorists who surrounded us.”

Over 60% of houses were destroyed. It was impossible to find at least one apartment suitable for living. They were all destroyed. The greatest distance between us was 700 meters, not only snipers were shooting at us, but tjey also used machine guns, 23 caliber, we were not able to go out of our houses. They used rockets and mortars during their fire attacks. We were not able to help sick and wounded people, we were starving. We were unable to sleep, a lot of the wounded died because they didn’t get any help.”

Question: “When you left the village, were there any provocations from the militants?”

Musab Yousef Ajiti, Idlib Governorate, Kafriya, 49 years old, civil servant: “In April 2017, there was an attack against our people who were getting off the bust, they even attacked a bus. And there was a blast under the buses which were used for people transportation. About 250 persons were killed. So far, we have 80 children listed as missing, we don’t know anything about them. Children who were inside the buses.

It happened in the district called Rashidin. There is a Rashidin checkpoint where the exchange took place. The residents were coming out of their houses, and there was a blast, not far from the main passage to Aleppo. We were escaping from Idlib to Aleppo.

Terakt V RashidinePictured: consequences of the terrorist attack at Rashidin.

RIA New wrote the following about this terroristic act[1]: “More than 130 people, including 67 children, were killed and about 200 injured as a result of a terrorist attack that was carried out in the Syrian district of Rashidin on April 15, said the UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura.

“As a result of the explosion, according to the latest data, more than 130 people, including 67 children, were killed, perhaps more than 200 were injured. That was shocking news for everybody,” de Mistura said.

“Nobody can say who is in charge of this (attack) - editor) The only thing we knew was that they were terrorists. I think a lot of people are trying to figure out what has happened, and a lot of people would like to see these terrible killers brought to justice,” Jan Egeland, assistant to the UN Special Envoy for Syria, said at a briefing.

On April 15, terrorists blew up a truck near a convoy of buses with refugees. At that moment, the convoy was still in the territory controlled by the militants – there were three kilometers left to the demarcation line. For almost a day, refugees were left without water and food waiting for permission from the militants to continue going further. A car came up to them, they began to distribute chips and water from this car, and after that there was a new explosion. 126 persons, most of them were women and children, they all died. According to eyewitnesses, the terrorist himself fled from the crime scene, leaving a bomb in his car.”

Mustafa Musa MuhammadMustafa Musa Muhammad, Idlib Governorate, Kafriya, 51 years old

Mustafa Musa Muhammad, Idlib Governorate, Kafriya, 51 years old, member of militia: “The militants burned crops, shot at peasants, shot at everything that moves. In our villages, al-Fu'ah and Kafriya, about 80% of houses were destroyed, more than 4,200 civilians were killed. We don’t know how many people are missing, about 500 people were captured, we still don’t know what happened to them.”

Question: “Did anyone die during the evacuation?”

Mustafa Musa Muhammad, Idlib Governorate, Kafriya, 51 years old, member of militia: “Yes, he was killed. This district is called Rashidin. Lots of people were killed and injured on that day… They deliberately put all the buses next to each other. Our children, they are about 3 years old, they do not know any cookies, or any sweets for children. And the militants pretended as if they wanted to give them some cookies, pretending to treat them well. Offered some tasty things. And when all the children got off the bus, they started gathering the children at one place. When all our children gathered there, there was a terrorist attack with the help of a jihad mobile. There was a severe blast, about 550 persons were killed immediately, most of them were children. And many children were injured, they were left at the border, they were collected at the border with Turkey. We still don’t know what’s happened to the guys. And we still don’t know where he is now. There were about 100-200 persons like this, among the 10,000 persons who were evacuated.”

Terakt V RashidinePictured: consequences of the terrorist attack at Rashidin.

Question: “So you are saying that the militants shelled residential buildings with mortars and artillery, and were not targeting the positions of militias?”

Hasin Dzhamil AsadHasin Jamil Asad, Idlib Governorate, al-Fu'ah, 51 years old, electrician

Hasin Jamil Asad, Idlib Governorate, al-Fu'ah, 51 years old, electrician: “Yes, They (militants) were shooting at civilians houses deliberately. And in general, if they had any information about some group of people gathering with some purpose or going somewhere, they deliberately shot at them. As a result of shelling by militants, three-quarters of all houses were destroyed, about 4,000 residents out of 16,000 living in al-Fu'ah were killed.

They were constantly shooting at us with gas cylinders, from 60-mm mortars. That was them who were shooting our houses. Lots of civilians were killed during this shooting.

There is a type of a rocket, they call it Fiel. A large rocket. The killing zone is 100 meters. One day the rocket hit a house and the whole family was killed – husband, wife and 3 children. There are plenty of stories like this. The other house was hit by a similar rocket. There were 2 persons - an old man and an old woman, over 80. They were killed almost immediately. And also during school hours, when children go to school, they were shooting at us deliberately at this time and many of our children who were first-graders were injured - they lost their legs, arms...”

Question: “Did the militants deliberately shoot at schools or hospitals?”

Hasin Jamil Asad, Idlib Governorate, al-Fu'ah, 51 years old, electrician: “This was the first thing they did.  When they attacked us, they attacked the school first. It was actually totally destroyed, laid to waste. We even arranged our own small medical center, but they still deliberately destroyed it twice. But then, we had no other choice, and we found a local house to accommodate the hospital, and the militants did not know about that place. The hospital building was destroyed for 3 times. We couldn’t accept more sick people, so we brought her to a smaller house. They used some kind of a dressing gown instead of a partition, as they had nothing else.

Mayada Hadzh HussejnMayada Haj Hussein, Idlib Governorate, al-Fu'ah, 53 years old, housewife

Mayada Haj Hussein, Idlib Governorate, al-Fu'ah, 53 years old, housewife: “It is difficult, very difficult to describe how we lived, our life was very hard, we were surrounded, we were starving, it was impossible to climb up to the roof or our house. The life was truly hard. Our children were starving, we had no food to eat, even if someone went to nature to pick some grass to eat, there were snipers who could shoot at a child if they saw a child driving a toy car. My niece, her son, my grandson who was two and a half years old, they were killed. There was a lot of fear among us, a lot of rockets hit us, it was dangerous everywhere, there was not a single safe place. At first for their fire attacks they used mortars, then rockets, if we wanted to escape from home, we went to open air, they watched us and started shooting at the place where we were. My 26-year-old son was seriously injured, he became disabled, his knee was severely damaged.”