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Siege of al-Fu'ah and Kafriya

Coordinates: 35°58′54″N 36°42′06″E / 35.9817°N 36.7017°E / 35.9817; 36.7017
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35°58′54″N 36°42′06″E / 35.9817°N 36.7017°E / 35.9817; 36.7017

Siege of al-Fu'ah and Kafriya
Part of the Syrian Civil War

Syrian rebels bombard al-Fu'ah and Kafriya using rocket artillery.
Date28 March 2015 – 19 July 2018
(3 years, 3 months and 3 weeks)

Rebel victory

  • Government forces and civilians reached an agreement to evacuate from Fu'ah and Kafriya on 17 July 2018[10]

Tahrir al-Sham (2017–18)
Army of Conquest (2015–17)[1]

Ahrar ash-Sham (Syrian Liberation Front since February 2018)
Syrian opposition Free Syrian Army[3]

Allied militias:
Quwat al-Ridha[8]
Kata'ib Hezbollah[9]
Commanders and leaders
Sheikh Abu al-Hassan al-Tunisi [11]
(al-Nusra and al-Qaeda commander)
(Katibat al-Tawhid wal-Jihad' leader)
Jamil Hussein Faqih [6][7]
(Hezbollah operations leader in al-Fu'ah and Kafriya)
Units involved

al-Nusra Front/Tahrir al-Sham

Syrian Armed Forces

Hezbollah-affiliated local militias

  • Saryat al-Shaheed Abu Yasir[6] (since 2015)
  • Saryat al-'Ishq[6]
  • al-Wilaya Scouts
    • Imam Mahdi Scouts[6]
    • Fatima al-Zahara' Regiment[6]

Iran Iranian Armed Forces

3,000–4,000 (2015; per gov.)[15] 4,000 (2015)[16]
Casualties and losses
650+ killed (gov. claim)[15]
74–100+ killed (Sep. 2015 assault)[17]
40+ killed (Sep. 2015 assault)[18]
7 civilians killed (Sep. 2015 assault)[18]
90+ civilians and government soldiers killed or wounded (March–Dec. 2016)[19][20]

The siege of al-Fu'ah and Kefriya was a siege of the towns of al-Fu'ah and Kafriya in the Idlib Governorate, towns with majority Shia populations and controlled by the Syrian government during the Syrian civil war. The siege began with a Sunni Islamist rebel assault on the capital of the province in March 2015, resulting in the capture of Idlib. On 18 July 2018, the besieged government forces reached an agreement with Tahrir al-Sham-led rebels to evacuate them and civilians from the two towns.[10]

The siege[edit]


On 28 March 2015, after four days of fighting, rebels captured Idlib city[21] and managed to besiege the towns of Kafriya and al‐Fu'ah,[22] resulting in thousands of civilians being trapped in the two settlements.[23] The Army of Conquest rebel alliance and one of its main components, al-Nusra Front, imposed a full siege, blocking all humanitarian supplies to the towns; the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported several executions of people accused of smuggling goods into Kafriya and al‐Fu'ah.[24]

In July 2015, the battle of Zabadani began as Hezbollah and the Syrian Army launched an offensive against rebel-held al-Zabadani, as part of the Qalamoun offensive. The pro-government attack on Zabadani and the concurrent rebel siege of Kafriya and al-Fu'ah became linked in negotiations.

On 2 August, Army of Conquest announced it would continue its operations against the besieged enclave of Kafriya and al-Fu'ah.[25] On 10 August, the rebels launched an assault on al-Fu'ah after detonating a car bomb and tunnel bomb, advancing towards it.[26] A temporary ceasefire in Zabadani and the two Idlib towns was put in place after negotiations between Ahrar al-Sham rebels and an Iranian delegation in Turkey, but these collapsed in late August after the government refused the rebel demand to release 1,500 female detainees, according to Ahrar al-Sham.[27]

Map showing the siege

On 31 August, Army of Conquest rebels launched a powerful attack on the enclave and captured al-Suwaghiyah, forcing the government soldiers to retreat to Tal Khirbat.[27] Opposition media reported that the village of Deir al-Zaghab, due south of Kafariya and southeast of al-Fu'ah, had also been captured by rebels, but pro-government media said the pro-government forces had repelled an attack on the area.[27] There were two days of protests in pro-government areas across Syria, including Sayeda Zainab, Homs and Latakia, calling on the government to save the civilians trapped in the siege; protesters burned tires and blocked the Damascus International Airport road. The government blamed the demonstrations on "young anarchists".[27]

Between 3 September and 5 September, government sources reported that the rebels intensively shelled the enclave and launched a number of attacks on al-Fu'ah and Kafriya from Maarrat Misrin, al-Suwaghiyah and Idlib city. The attacks were repelled, with the Syrian Army reportedly destroying three armoured vehicles.[28]

On 18 September, the rebels launched a new attack on the enclave, firing almost 400 shells and rockets, while nine car bombs (including seven suicide bombers) were detonated at government positions. The clashes led to the death of at least 29 rebels and 21 Syrian soldiers, as well as seven civilians.[23] The SOHR reported that the rebels gained some ground,[29][30] though Iranian media said National Defence Forces and Hezbollah were able to defend their positions.[31] Ajnad al-Sham threatened on social media to shell Fu'ah and Kefriya with over 100 mortars a day.[32][better source needed] On 19 September, SOHR reported that rebels advanced again in the vicinity of al-Fuah,[33] capturing Tal Al-Khirbat and a number of checkpoints around it according to pro-government sources.[34] According to government claims, the rebels lost over 100 fighters, including 31 foreign fighters.[34][better source needed]

On 20 September, a second cease-fire in al-Zabadani/Madaya and al-Fou'aa/Kafriya was implemented, where the rebels allowed humanitarian aid to the besieged civilians of al-Fu'ah and Kafriya.[35] A violation of this cease-fire was reported the next day as the rebels resumed shelling the towns.[36] Rebels again violated the cease-fire by shelling the towns at the end of the month, but the overall cease-fire held.[37] The Iranian Air Force began to airdrop supplies for al-Fu'ah and Kafriya using two Lockheed C-130 Hercules in October.[14]


On 11 January 2016, the International Committee of the Red Cross and the World Food Programme organized an aid convoy to deliver food, medicine and other aid to Kefriya and Fu'ah, along with Madaya in the south.[38]

On 21 July, two ill civilians from Fu'ah and Kafriya were evacuated to Latakia by the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, in return for two ill civilians also being evacuated from Zabadani to Idlib. Medical and food aid arrived to the towns, in addition to Qalaat al-Madiq.[39]

At the end of September, 52 aid trucks went to Zabadani and Madaya and 19 arrived in Fu'ah and Kafriya.[40]

On 21 November, rebel shelling and sniper fire killed at least one civilian in Fu'ah and Kafriya.[41]

From 3-6 December, more than 10 civilians in Fu'ah and Kafriya were killed by rebel shelling, in retaliation to the Syrian Air Force bombings throughout the governorate which killed more than 121 civilians.[20]

On 18 December, a group of busses from Aleppo headed toward Fu'ah and Kafriya in order to evacuate 2,500 civilians there as part of an agreement that would also evacuate the remaining civilians from the former rebel-held districts of Aleppo after the offensive. En route, 6 buses were attacked and burned by fighters from the al-Nusra Front, preventing the evacuation.[42] Two days later, more than 1,000 people from Fu'ah and Kafriya left the towns in the buses and headed to Aleppo.[43]


In January 2017, according to SOHR, rebels shelled al-Fu'ah, which led to several injuries.[44] In mid-March, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) captured Tall Umm A'anoun hill from the NDF in an attempt to cut the road linking Fu'ah and Kafriya.[45]

On 28 March, an agreement was brokered by Qatar and signed by Ahrar al-Sham, HTS, Hezbollah and Iran, for the evacuation of Fu'ah and Kafriya in exchange for the evacuation of residents and rebels in Zabadani and Madaya.[46] The agreement came into effect beginning on 12 April and buses and ambulances arrived in the four towns with the assistance of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent to begin the evacuations.[47] The Free Syrian Army condemned the agreement, considering it to establish a dangerous precedent of ethnic and sectarian cleansing in preparation for redrawing the borders of the Syrian state, as well as a crime against humanity and contrary to article 7, paragraph (d), of the Statute of the International Criminal Court.[3]

On 14 April, 75 buses and 20 ambulances evacuated around 5,000 people from Fu'ah and Kafriya to Aleppo.[48] On 15 April, a convoy of buses carrying evacuees was attacked by a suicide bomber west of Aleppo, killing more than 100 people.[49]

In September, seven trucks carrying medical supplies, food and an electric generator were allowed by the rebels into the besieged towns, while the government in exchange allowed supplies into the insurgent-held Yarmouk Camp.[50]


On 17 March 2018, FSA fighters of "Saraya Darayya", a group formed by rebels from Damascus who had been exiled to Idlib following the end of the siege of Darayya and Muadamiyat, assaulted NDF positions in the two towns. Pro-government sources claimed that the attacks had failed, while Saraya Darayya claimed to have killed many NDF fighters.[13][4][better source needed]

On 17 July, Iranian negotiators reached an agreement with Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, with Turkey as a mediator, to evacuate the former's forces and civilians, totaling between 6,500 and 7,000 people, from Fu'ah and Kafriya.[51] A total of 121 buses accompanied by Syrian Arab Red Crescent ambulances entered the two towns the next day.[10] The buses were attacked by HTS fighters with stones, but departed on the morning of 19 July. In return, the government released 1,500 detainees and rebel fighters from its prisons, of which at least 400 were transported to Idlib on the same day.[52]


During the evacuations, 126 unarmed civilians, the majority of which were children were killed via suicide bombing before they could make it into the safety of government-held territory. Following the evacuation, the surviving civilians from al-Fu'ah and Kafriya were mostly resettled to Hisyah in Homs Governorate and al-Basit in Latakia Governorate. Smaller numbers of refugees also moved to Aleppo, Damascus, Nubl, and al-Zahraa.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Jund al-Aqsa left the Army of Conquest in October 2015, rejoined al-Nusra in October 2016, left again in January 2017.


  1. ^ "Al Qaeda and allies form coalition to battle Syrian regime in Idlib". Long War Journal. 24 March 2015.
  2. ^ a b Joscelyn, Thomas (18 September 2015). "Al Nusrah Front, allies strike 2 Shiite towns in Idlib province". Long War Journal.
  3. ^ a b ""Free Syrian Army" condemns the agreement of (Kafriya and Foua')". El-Dorar Al-Shamia. 3 April 2017. Archived from the original on 10 April 2018. Retrieved 9 April 2018.
  4. ^ a b Tomasz Rolbiecki (20 June 2018). "Saraya Darayya – A Group Motivated By Revenge". Syrian War Daily. Archived from the original on 2 May 2019. Retrieved 19 July 2018.
  5. ^ Leith Fadel (31 August 2015). "Jaysh Al-Fateh Launches Their Largest Assault on Kafraya and Al-Fou'aa". Al-Masdar News. Archived from the original on 24 March 2019. Retrieved 23 September 2015.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi (18 December 2016). "The Situation in al-Fu'a and Kafariya". Syria Comment. Retrieved 19 December 2016.
  7. ^ a b c Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi (10 September 2018). "Exile from Kafariya: Interview". Syria Comment. Retrieved 12 September 2018.
  8. ^ Farahmand Alipour (27 August 2015). "Syrian Shiites take up arms in support of Assad's army". al-Monitor. Retrieved 30 January 2018.
  9. ^ "Kata'ib Hezbollah's Syrian Wing: Interview".
  10. ^ a b c "Syria: Buses arrive to evacuate two rebel-besieged Shia towns". Al Jazeera English. 18 July 2018.
  11. ^ Thomas Joscelyn (19 September 2015). "Jihadists say al Qaeda veteran killed during assault on Shiite towns in Syria". Long War Journal. Retrieved 24 January 2018.
  12. ^ a b c Paraszczuk, Joanna; Anvar, Barno (23 September 2015). "Taliban-Aligned Uzbek Suicide Bomber Attacks Shi'ite Village In Syria". Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty. Retrieved 23 September 2015.
  13. ^ a b Joško Barić (17 March 2017). "Syrian War Daily – 17th of March 2018". Syrian War Daily. Archived from the original on 18 March 2018. Retrieved 9 April 2018.
  14. ^ a b Ripley 2018, p. 33.
  15. ^ a b Fadel, Leith (29 September 2015). "Over 650 Islamist Rebels Killed During the Battle for Kafraya and Al-Fou'aa". Al-Masdar. Archived from the original on 27 September 2016. Retrieved 17 June 2016.
  16. ^ "Syria army, rebels reach deal on Zabadani, Idlib villages: source". Lebanon Daily Star. 24 September 2015.
  17. ^ "Temporary truce begins in four Syrian towns". Al-Jazeera. Retrieved 23 September 2015.
  18. ^ a b "Ceasefire agreed for 3 Syria battlegrounds". Business Insider. 20 September 2015. Retrieved 23 September 2015.
  19. ^ Bulos, Nabih (23 September 2016). "'A massacre is inevitable': Punishing siege drags on for two Shiite villages in Syria". Los Angeles Times.
  20. ^ a b "72 hours of bombardment escalation by warplanes' of the regimes of Putin and Bashar al-Assad on Idlib province kills 121 civilians and wounds tens of others". Syria HR. 7 December 2016.
  21. ^ "Qaeda, allies seize Syria's Idlib city in blow to regime". AFP.
  22. ^ 'A massacre is inevitable': Punishing siege drags on for two Shiite villages in Syria, Los Angeles Times
  23. ^ a b "Rebels pound Shiite villages: Observatory". The Daily Star Newspaper - Lebanon. Archived from the original on 24 March 2019. Retrieved 23 September 2015.
  24. ^ "الصفحة غير موجودة. - المرصد السوري لحقوق الإنسان". Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Retrieved 17 June 2016.
  25. ^ Master (2 August 2015). "Al- Fateh Army announces the continuation of its operations against Kefraya and al- Fu'ah". Syrian Observatory For Human Rights. Retrieved 5 August 2015.
  26. ^ Master (10 August 2015). "Violent attack launched by Jabhat al- Nusra the rebel and Islamist factions on the town of Al-Fu'ah, and the clashes renew in Sahl al- Ghab". Syrian Observatory For Human Rights. Retrieved 10 August 2015.
  27. ^ a b c d Regime blames Turkey for ceasefire failures as protesters blame regime, SyriaDirect, 2 September 2015
  28. ^ Leith Fadel (5 September 2015). "Jaysh Al-Fateh's Attempt to Enter Al-Fou'aa and Kafraya Proves Unsuccessful". Al-Masdar News. Archived from the original on 24 January 2018. Retrieved 23 September 2015.
  29. ^ Master (19 September 2015). "64 people killed in the violent attack on the two towns of al- Fu'ah and Kefrayya". Syrian Observatory For Human Rights. Retrieved 23 September 2015.
  30. ^ edward. "المروحي يقصف ريف إدلب الجنوبي واستمرار المعارك في محيط الفوعة وقصف جوي على جبال اللاذقية". المرصد السورى لحقوق الإنسان. Retrieved 23 September 2015.
  31. ^ Syrian Forces Rebuff Militant Groups' Offensive in Fuaa Region Archived 2018-07-01 at the Wayback Machine, Fars Agency, Sep 19, 2015
  32. ^ "Ibn Nabih". Twitter. Retrieved 23 September 2015.
  33. ^ Edward (19 September 2015). "Continued clashes in the vicinity of Kafriya and al-Fou'aa and airstrikes on the southern countryside of Idlib". Syrian Observatory For Human Rights. Retrieved 23 September 2015.
  34. ^ a b Leith Fadel (20 September 2015). "Islamist Rebels Suffer Heavy Casualties in Al-Fou'aa and Kafraya: Dozens of Foreigners Killed". Al-Masdar. Archived from the original on 2 July 2018. Retrieved 20 September 2015.
  35. ^ "Ceasefires extended in besieged Syrian towns: Hezbollah's TV station". Reuters. 22 September 2015. Retrieved 22 September 2015.
  36. ^ Edward (21 September 2015). "One died in the countryside of Idlib and shelling on Wadi Barada and breach of the cease-fire in Kafrayya, al-Fou'aa and Madaya". Syrian Observatory For Human Rights. Retrieved 23 September 2015.
  37. ^ Ceasefire holds in northwest Syria after violation overnight, monitor says, Reuters
  38. ^ Kareem Shaheen (11 January 2016). "Trucks from aid convoy enter besieged Syrian town of Madaya". The Guardian. Retrieved 11 January 2016.
  39. ^ "Ill people got out of Zabadani, Kafriya and Al-Fu'ah and aid convoy waits to enter Kafriya and al-Fu'aa and threats to target them by field commander". SOHR. 21 July 2016.
  40. ^ "Humanitarian aid reaches four locations in Syria". Observador. 25 September 2016.
  41. ^ "An agreement to bring relief to 4 towns deteriorates as regime, rebels punish civilians in equal measure". Syria:direct. 23 November 2016.
  42. ^ "Aleppo battle: Rebels burn Syria evacuation buses". BBC. 19 December 2016.
  43. ^ "Evacuees From Kefraya and Foua Arrive in Aleppo as Militants Depart". SMART News Agency. 21 December 2016.
  44. ^ "Continuous clashes in the countryside of Al-Raqqah and coalition's airstrikes cause casualties and 8 injuries in shelling at al-Fu'aa". Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. 12 January 2017.
  45. ^ Tomson, Chris (2017-03-13). "Islamist rebels squeeze government enclave in Idlib, key hill captured". AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز. Archived from the original on 2018-06-15. Retrieved 2017-03-13.
  46. ^ "Syria conflict: 'Deal reached' for four besieged areas". BBC. 29 March 2017.
  47. ^ "Four towns, one agreement and the 'same tragedy for all': Buses arrive ahead of mass evacuations". Syria Direct. 13 April 2017. Archived from the original on 20 May 2019. Retrieved 14 April 2017.
  48. ^ Nabih Boulos (14 April 2017). "Syrians leave family, memories behind as tens of thousands are evacuated in previously brokered deal". Los Angeles Times.
  49. ^ "Syria war: Huge bomb kills dozens of evacuees in Syria". BBC News. 15 April 2017. Retrieved 15 April 2017.
  50. ^ "Aid supplies to the besieged Yarmouk camp and to Kufarya and Foua' as well". El-Dorar Al-Shamia. 7 September 2017. Archived from the original on 9 September 2017. Retrieved 11 September 2017.
  51. ^ "'Deal underway' for evacuation of two Shiite-majority Idlib towns: rebel source". Syria Direct. 17 July 2018. Archived from the original on 22 August 2018. Retrieved 19 July 2018.
  52. ^ "Rebel siege of two Shiite-majority Idlib towns ends with total evacuation of residents, militiamen". Syria Direct. 19 July 2018.

Works cited[edit]

  • Ripley, Tim (2018). Operation Aleppo: Russia's War in Syria. Lancaster: Telic-Herrick Publications. ISBN 978-0-9929458-2-4.