Three Syrian regime soldiers killed as HTS arrests White Helmets chief

Three Syrian regime soldiers killed as HTS arrests White Helmets chief
Three soldiers from the Syrian regime have reportedly been killed in eastern Syria, while the hardline Islamist group HTS detained the head of a White Helmets office in Idlib province.
3 min read
03 May, 2023
Bassam Nihad was arrested as he cleared rubble from the Syria-Turkey earthquake [Getty]

A rebel group said it had killed three Syrian regime soldiers in Deir az-Zour province in eastern Syria on Tuesday amid reports that the hardline Islamist group Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) had detained the head of an office of the Syria Civil Defence, otherwise known as the White Helmets.

The group, which calls itself "The Brigade of Revolutionaries in the Lands of Deir az-Zour", targeted a regime position in the Albukamal area in the southeast of Deir ez-Zour province.

It said it had killed three members of the 17th Brigade of the regime’s army and injured others.

Local sources told The New Arab’s Arabic-language sister site Al-Araby Al-Jadeed that the attack happened around dawn on Tuesday and targeted a vehicle belonging to the 17th Brigade.

Several other attacks on Syrian regime forces and their allies took place in Deir ez-Zour province last month. The area has a heavy presence of militias sponsored by Iran, one of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s main backers.

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White Helmets chief detained

In rebel-held northwestern Syria, the manager of an office of the White Helmets, Bassam Nihad was arrested by HTS’s "General Security Authority" in the town of Aramanaz in the north of rebel-held Idlib province while he carried out his work.

An informed local source who chose to remain anonymous told Al-Araby Al-Jadeed that armed men from the General Security Authority driving a van detained Nihad at around 3pm local time on Monday, seizing his phone.

Nihad, also known as Abu Ali, was clearing up rubble left behind by the devastating earthquake which killed nearly 50,000 people in Turkey and Syria last February when he was detained, according to the source.

He was then taken to an unknown location. The source said that Nihad was arrested for a "personal case" unrelated to his work with the White Helmets.

HTS dominates most of Idlib province, the last remaining area of Syria to be held by anti-Assad rebels. It has formed its own unrecognised "National Salvation Government" and engaged in repressive practices against the population.

Approximately four million Syrians live in Idlib province, more than half of whom have been displaced there from other parts of Syria by the Assad regime.

HTS’s General Security Authority reportedly arrested Nihad’s son-in-law Abdul Samad Abdul Samad in Armanaz last month.

Several protests have broken out in the area recently calling on HTS to release political detainees.