Druze-Bedouin clashes kill 15 in Syria

Published August 18th, 2014 - 06:09 GMT

An eruption of violence around the village of Dama, in southern Syria, between Druze and Bedouin living in the area – the Bedouin backed by rebel groups – killed at least 15 people Saturday, according to multiple sources.

Several sources in the nearby town of Swaida said 13 Druze were killed in the clashes, while the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a group based in Britain, put the figure at 15 Druze and eight “armed Bedouin.”

Local activists, however, said only two members of the rebel Free Syrian Army, allied with the Bedouin, had died in the skirmishes around Dama, near the Lajat region. Another 20 Druze were wounded in the fighting, they said.

The Lajat lies on the border of Swaida and Deraa provinces, and is a rocky area traditionally used as a base by smugglers, fugitives from justice and insurgents.

The violence was preceded by several weeks of kidnappings and murders, undertaken by Bedouin, targeting Druze locals, and Druze paramilitaries, targeting the Bedouin.

Rebel groups from next-door Deraa province and the Nusra Front, Al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, joined the Bedouin on the attack on Dama, the sources said.

The violence prompted angry gatherings of Druze in the provincial capital Saturday evening. They demanded weapons and the opportunity to seek vengeance against the Bedouin and their allies.

Anti-regime activists from Swaida and Deraa spent Sunday trying to do their part to contain the tension, which they fear could spiral into a wave of wider violence.

Observers say that intermittent tension between the Druze and the Bedouin of Swaida dates back to the eruption of violence between the two communities in 2000, when the government sent a heavy deployment of security troops to end the clashes, which claimed at least 20 lives.

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