Syrians in the city of Douma are hungry, exhausted and sick of getting caught in crossfire between Syrian regime forces and various Syrian opposition groups. Residents rose up against rebel group Jaish al-Islam last week, in what has been named “The Hunger Demonstrations.”
Douma residents are frequently pummeled by Syrian regime airstrikes, but their city, just east of Damascus, is controlled by an Islamist rebel group. For the last month, President Bashar al-Assad’s soldiers have encroached on the city and are very close to surrounding it. As tensions have risen, civilians have turned against the opposition forces, many angry that traders are “monopolizing” civilian food supplies, according to al-Monitor.
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“During the demonstrations, protesters stormed the warehouses of charities that are affiliated to Jaish al-Islam,” a protester who went by the name Omar told al-Monitor. “The guards fired on us directly, which prompted some protesters to fire back, leading to serious injuries among some residents.”
Douma is besieged by Assad’s forces. Residents have nothing left to eat and one protester told al-Monitor that warehouses are full of food but it's reserved for opposition fighters.
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Fighting between the two factions resulted in the closure of a regime-controlled checkpoint between Damascus and Douma. No humanitarian aid is being allowed in, al-Monitor reported.
Last week, the militants joined forces with the Free Syrian Army and launched two offenses on regime checkpoints leading to western Ghouta, according to the Institute for the Study of War.
Douma is part of the Damascus countryside, the site of some of the worst regime attacks on civilians, including the chemical attack in Ghouta. It is now controlled by Jaish al-Islam, or the Army of Islam, widely considered one of the strongest rebel groups currently fighting the regime.
“Today, the rhetoric of the commander of Jaish al-Islam in Douma has changed,” Mohammed al-Doumami, a fighter from Jaish al-Islam, told al-Monitor. “Jaish al-Islam is indirectly asking civil society groups in Douma to play a role in the negotiations for a cease-fire with the regime.”
The brigade is part of an umbrella group of opposition fighters called the Islamic Front. They are not affiliated with the Free Syrian Army, nor with jihadist groups like al-Qaeda’s Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State group. Commanded by Zahran Alloush, Jaish al-Islam is thought to have at least 100 different groups under its banner.
Alloush has three wives, is a Salafist and believes in the creation of an Islamic State, according to al-Monitor. He was arrested by the Syrian regime’s Palestine Branch -- one of the most brutal wings of the armed forces -- in 2009 and released three months after the Syrian civil war began in 2011.