A previous post explored the life of Abu Waheed al-Heetawi, a deceased Jaysh Khalid bin al-Waleed (JKBW) fighter from the Deraa locality of Heet, which is currently besieged by JKBW. It is fair to say that the nature of this siege is an understudied subject.
Amid the ongoing military campaign by the Syrian government with Russian support against the rebel-held south, news has come of a ceasefire between the rebels in the south and JKBW through the mediation of a third-party body called Hay'at al-Islah. However, there are low expectations regarding the supposed ceasefire's durability, with suspicions that JKBW will break the ceasefire and engage in treachery. It is also not expected that JKBW will lift the siege of Heet, which is itself controlled by the Sadd al-Bagha operations room of rebel factions opposed to JKBW.
For further exploration of the siege situation in Heet, I interviewed the head of the relief office of the Heet local council. Questions and answers follow below with some editing and reordering for clarity. Any explanations of terms and insertions for clarity are in square brackets. This interview was conducted on 20-21 June 2018.
Q: Can you describe the locality of Heet to me in a general sense?
A: Dear brother, with regards to Heet, it is a small locality surrounded by the Yarmouk Valley. The number of inhabitants is 6000 people and there is also displacement with regards to families outside the locality. And it is currently besieged by Jaysh Khalid bin al-Waleed and the siege has lasted for more than a year and a half consecutively. Inside the locality there are displaced families but a few families only and currently inside the locality settled people are living and they used to be present inside the Yarmouk Basin. Brother, the locality is of course controlled by the Free Army factions under the name of Sadd al-Bagha. But there is great suffering in the living situation for the locality.
Q: So Jaysh Khald has cut the reinforcement paths? So there is no possibility of bringing in aid to the locality currently? Or there is still an open road?
A: Yes, a road has been cut. But there is a single road open before the valley only. Brother, we can go on the valley road, But since the siege, only two sets of emergency baskets have entered the locality. With regards to the bread and water, there is suffering and there is deficiency in the substance of flour and water drawn from the valley. A tank of water [6000 litres] costs 5000 [Syrian] pounds.
Q: So the valley road is still open right?
Part of the Heet valley road, the sole open route to enter and leave Heet on account of the JKBW siege.
A: Yes brother, it is open. But there is difficulty on it. It needs work but there is no capability.
Q: To which locality does the road lead?
A: It leads to Amouriya, brother.
Q: Can you clarify the prices of food and foodstuffs?
A: Brother, the prices of foodstuffs are appropriate prices. As for drinking water and bread, there is greater suffering. Of course these things are considered among the foundations of life.
Q: So what is the price of bread in Heet currently?
A: The loaf is 10 [Syrian] pounds, not at [an appropriate] price. There are families that cannot afford the price of the loaf.
Q: Yes. And the price of water?
A: A barrel of water [220 litres] is 200 [Syrian] pounds and a tank 5000 [Syrian] pounds as the water is drawn from the valley. There is expense because of the distance from the valley to bring to the locality. There is also suffering for families as there is no capability of buying the water. This is the suffering of the locality. There are also things I do not want to speak you about regarding the fear and terror in which the locality lives concerning the gunfire by Jaysh Khalid bin al-Waleed, which is besieging this locality.
Q: What is the situation of electricity in Heet?
A: Brother, there is no [standard] electricity. Deficiency [has been caused] by bombing and breakdown of the electricity transformers. Currently the continuing electricity is through batteries and lasers.
Q: So there is no national grid electricity.
A: No, none at all.
Q: Someone from Heet told me that the generators are not working now.
A: Rather the generators are operating on solar power for the people, brother.
Generating electricity in Heet: solar panels are used to power batteries, which can then be used for functions like charging phones. Photo sent by a contact from Heet.
Q: According to what I believe, there is no diesel for generators in Heet now.
A: No brother, there is diesel. But there is no capability of buying.
Q: The diesel comes from smuggling through al-Suwayda'?
A: Yes brother, through the regime. The price is 350 [Syrian] pounds per litre.
Q: Are people in Heet dying because of starvation?
A: No brother, there is no starvation praise be to God. But there is some suffering in matters I have spoken to you about.
Q: Generally do the people of the locality rely on their agriculture for food?
A: Brother, the [people of] the locality of Heet live on agriculture.
Q: What are the services offered by the relief office?
A: Brother, the relief office currently only offers bread to the locality.
Q: From where does the bread come for the office?
A: Brother, through the Watad aid organization, but at a quantity less than before.
Q: How many times have you distributed bread to the people of the locality?
A: Brother, twice a week. But in the coming days only once because of the paucity of flour substance, brother.
Q: Yes. So the flour still comes through an aid organization.
A: Yes, brother.
Q: Of course there are no [local council] projects of construction and repair in Heet currently?
A: No brother, there is none originally and there is no aid organization entering the locality. This locality is forgotten.
Q: [So there is no] sewage [project] or these things for example.
A: No, none.
Q: What are the fruits and vegetables that the people of the locality of Heet grow?
A: Vegetables: tomatoes, cucumbers and okra but there are no appropriate prices for the farmer because of the valley road. There are no fruits brother because of the paucity of water. The trees are dry.
Update (27 June 2018): Hay'at al-Islah denied to me today that there is a ceasefire between JKBW and the rebels.