Military checkpoints in the village of Beit Yashout prevented hundreds of displaced families from the al-Ghab plain from entering Lattakia yesterday, forcing them to return to their regions to fight alongside the regime army or relocate to the city of Hama, activists said.
Activist Tarek Wahoub told al-Souria Net: "Most of the displaced are from the city of al-Suqaylabiyah in the western countryside of Hama, and the villages liberated by Jaish al-Fatah [Army of Conquest] yesterday. They are Murshidi [an Alawite sub-sect], and they were prevented from entering Lattakia on the pretext of a lack of camps to shelter them".
The activist predicted the number of displaced will rise in the coming days as Jaish al-Fatah approaches Jourin and al-Suqaylabiyah, after the liberation of a number of strategic vantage points.
According to Wahoub, the displaced people travelling from the liberated areas to Lattakia are required to show identification papers or should be in official missions for government institutions.
After the opposition forces seized Idleb and a significant number of its residents moved to Lattakia, animosity grew towards the displaced people, who were often prevented from entering some neighborhoods and cities, where regime supporters called on the government to expel them or establish camps outside the city. Locals fear a demographic shift in the area, and accuse the displaced of causing strain on the city of Lattakia. Internally Displaced People (IDPs) in Lattakia have been accused of being "time bombs, ready to explode as soon as the terrorists enter the city". A number of aggressive campaigns were organized against the IDPs over the past months, including a Facebook page bearing the name "Together for the Expulsion of the Displaced from the Syrian Coast". The page’s first post read: "Our young people went to fight the sons of these people, we do not know what their plans are".
"The growing numbers of displaced people in the coastal areas has raised the regime's fears of a demographic change within its strongholds", explained activist Mohammed Jaafar.
Jaafar justified his idea with an example of regime's ill-treatment towards the displaced Alawites from the village of Ishtabraq – where the regime erected makeshift camps in Sports City after accusing them of fleeing the battle. "The regime treats the people of al-Ghab plain in the same way today", he said.
The coastal cities have been a refuge for many Syrians seeking safety after bombing and military campaigns destroyed large areas of Syria. Nearly one million displaced people – most of them are from Aleppo, Damascus, Idleb and Homs – now live in the cities of Lattakia, Tartous, Banias and Jableh.
Translated and edited by The Syrian Observer