Hezbollah Occupies Civilian Homes in Southern Syria’s “Triangle of Death”

Some residents of the so-called Triangle of Death, an area along the borders of the Damascus Countryside, Daraa and Quneitra governorates, are still suffering after the Lebanese Hezbollah militia seized their homes.

Before 2011, about 80,000 people lived in the area, most of whom worked in livestock and agriculture. Many of them are from Bedouin clans displaced from the Golan Heights. The Triangle of Death was given its nickname because of the protracted and bloody battles that took place in the area in 2015. The fighting resulted in Iranian and Iranian-backed militias seizing the area and expelling opposition Southern Front factions stationed there. The area is strategically important to the Iranian militias as it is close to the Syrian-Israeli border and has many mountaintops that can be used for surveillance and missile launch platforms.

Pro-Iranian militia personnel, especially from Hezbollah, often take cover from Israeli airstrikes among civilians residing in villages and towns in the Triangle of Death, according to a correspondent for The Syria Report in the area. Hezbollah has seized dozens of homes, especially in Kafr Nasej, Deir Al-Adas and Deir Maker.

The owner of one of the seized homes told The Syria Report that he had visited the reconciliation committee more than once seeking help to recover his house and expel the Hezbollah fighters currently occupying it, to no avail. The reconciliation committee in the Triangle of Death was formed in 2018 of 15 local notables and representatives of some Southern Front factions. The committee had previously pledged to help residents restore their damaged homes and solve certain security challenges. Over time, however, the effectiveness and impact of the committee has waned.

Some residents who have continued to call on Hezbollah fighters to leave their homes through official and legal channels have been subjected to pressure by the security apparatus to drop their demands. The Military Security branch in Sasa, which controls large swathes of southwestern Damascus Countryside and Quneitra governorates summoned some of these homeowners and threatened to detain them if they continued to raise the issue.

A reconciliation committee member told The Syria Report that after the body failed to pressure regime officials to solve the problem, it resorted to the Russian Reconciliation Centre in southern Syria to discuss possible solutions, or at least to help residents obtain financial compensation. However, the Russian Reconciliation Centre requested that residents address the Military Security branch in Sasa through the reconciliation committee.

When the reconciliation committee and representatives of dispossessed residents went once again to Military Security in Sasa, they were told not to raise the issue anymore, as Hezbollah had taken over the civilian homes as “a national duty imposed on all Syrians to resist Israel”.

One man from the town of Kafr Nasej told The Syria Report that he returned home after years working in the Gulf countries when the reconciliation agreement was signed in 2018, only to find that his house was occupied by Hezbollah militants. He visited all relevant government offices to search for any document or official decree issued to seize his house but found none. When he asked the Hezbollah fighters occupying his house to leave, he was threatened, the man added.

A local human rights source told The Syria Report that owners of occupied homes can file a lawsuit called a “usurper eviction”, which can, in the worst cases, obligate the party occupying the home to provide financial compensation and pay monthly rent. However, the obstacle preventing such lawsuits is that the occupying party is not Syrian. In such cases, the Ministry of Defence must be sought after to reach a settlement. Most Hezbollah fighters in the Triangle of Death area are Lebanese, while a minority are Shia Muslim Syrians from Aleppo and Idlib.