SWEIDA, Syria, Nov. 9 (Xinhua) — After over three months of gruelling captivity by the Islamic State (IS), some hostages from southern Syria were finally reunited with their loved ones amid joy mixed with sorrow for others who couldn’t make it.
Sweida, a predominantly Druze area in southern Syria, had experienced over three months of tension and sadness as around 30 women and children were taken away by IS during a surprise attack on July 25.
The hostages were taken to the village of Shbeki in the Tulol al-Safa area in the remote desert in the eastern countryside of Sweida.
An old woman died of her medical condition while being hustled by IS, which also killed a 19-year-old young man and a 25-year-old woman.
The deaths of these three added to the sorrow of the people in Sweida. The families of the abductees kept appealing to the authorities and international organizations to secure the release of the hostages.
Last month, the Syrian army secured the first batch of six hostages from IS, which raised hope that the rest might be released.
On Thursday, the army battled with an IS group in the desert near the city of Palmyra in central Syria and successfully freed 19 women and children.
Unfortunately, two children and a woman were killed during the clashes.
Still, the entire city of Sweida was happy as the freed hostages were on their way home.
Upon arriving, men expressed their joy for seeing their children and wives while holding the children on shoulders amid chants for the Syrian army’s rescue of the hostages.
Nashat Abu Ammar, a man in his late 30s, has lived a very tough time since his wife and three children were kidnapped by IS.
At the time of the kidnap, he was having a night shift at the hospital he works at and couldn’t reach the village in time to defend his family.
Now, he was filled with both sorrow and happiness, as his wife, daughter, and son made it back home, but his other son Rafat, 8, was among the three who died during the clashes.
It’s an unimaginable feeling to meet his wife and two children while the third returned in a casket.
“I have been waiting for this moment for many weeks and today the kidnapped people were freed, but my happiness is missing as Rafat died during the clashes in the desert,” the man told Xinhua.
Most of the civilians kidnapped by IS were children. Mashael Abu Ammar, 14, told Xinhua that they lived in fear and horror every day during the captivity.
“We had lived very tough moments as we were being taken from one place to another in the desert,” she said.
Mashael’s mother, Feryal, who was also kidnapped, told Xinhua that IS used to hide them in rocky areas in the desert to avoid being exposed to warplanes.
“We had no idea where we had been moving. It was a nightmare that lasted for so long. I am now tired and happy that the nightmare is over,” she said.
On the day of the kidnap, all hostages had to walk for 12 hours to reach the destination of captivity, where they had to live in tents inside caves of Tulol al-Safa hills.
IS militants were still holding areas in the desert region which connects Sweida with the countryside of Damascus and the desert of the central province of Homs where Palmyra is located.