|Participant in Syrian civil war|
|Active||2012 - present|
Syrian Armed Forces|
Free Syrian Army|
Al-Jaysh al-Sha'bi (Arabic language: الجيش الشعبي al-Jaysh ash-Sha'bī, "People's Army") is an armed militia in Syria that supports the government of President Bashar al-Assad in the Syrian civil war. According to the United States, it operates under the control of the Syrian government. It is made up mostly of civilian volunteers and was created out of the various government loyalist militias in Syria. The vast majority of its members are Alawis and Shias.
The first part of the Arabic name is romanized as either Jaysh or Jaish and the second part as Sha'bi, Sha'abi, Shaabi or Shabi. Al- is normally put before both words.
The force has also been referred to as the "Popular Army", "People's Army", "National Defense Force" (NDF) and "National Defense Army" (NDA). However, it is unclear whether al-Jaysh al-Sha'bi and the NDF/NDA is the same organization.
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, "the National Defense Army gathers together existing Popular Committees of pro-regime civilian fighters under a new, better-trained and armed hierarchy". The "Popular Committees" or "People's Committees" are groups of armed regime loyalists tasked with defending loyalist neighborhoods. According to the US, al-Jaysh al-Sha'bi was created and is maintained by Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards-Quds Force and the Shia Islamic militant group Hezbollah, who provide it with money, weapons, equipment and training. Revolutionary Guard commander Mohamad Ali Jafari said it was modeled after the Iranian Basij militia and a Hezbollah fighter from Beirut said that Hezbollah was helping it with strategy. A US Government official cited Iranian claims that Iran was backing as many as 50,000 militiamen in Syria. The official said that, although Iran and Hezbollah's main goal is to support the Syrian regime, they plan to use aal-Jaysh al-Sha'bi to "preserve their interests" if the regime falls.
Al-Jaysh al-Sha'bi has conducted operations against the Syrian opposition, both alone and with the Syrian Army and security forces. It is especially active in Damascus, Aleppo, Homs and Hama. A Homs native described militia members as reporting to local leaders who co-ordinate with the Syrian Army and security forces. Much of the militia's equipment is from the Syrian Army, and it includes heavy weaponry such as tanks and artillery. A resident of Latakia said that militia members "get security IDs or assignment papers so they don't get stopped or searched at checkpoints".
On 21 January 2013, a rebel car bomb exploded outside a building used by al-Jaysh al-Sha'bi in Al-Salamiyah. A Syrian opposition group claimed that 30 militiamen and a number of civilians were killed.
The militia has been accused by local Syrians of kidnapping and robberies to fund its activities. A woman in Masyaf said "They do whatever they want and nobody stops them [...] we can’t say anything against the regime". In February 2013, al-Jaysh al-Sha'bi members set up checkpoints near two Shia villages in Idlib District and allegedly kidnapped people coming from nearby Sunni villages. This was claimed by locals to be retaliation for the alleged kidnapping of Shias.
- "Treasury Sanctions Al-Nusrah Front Leaders, Militia Groups in Syria". usembassy.gov. http://iipdigital.usembassy.gov/st/english/article/2012/12/20121211139861.html#axzz2GxiqHxql. Retrieved 4 January 2013.
- "Iran and Hezbollah build militia networks in Syria, officials say". The Guardian, 12 February 2013.
- "Pro-Assad militia now key to Syrian government’s war strategy". Miami Herald, 19 February 2013.
- "Iran helps Syria build paramilitary force". The Australian, 22 January 2013. Retrieved 7 March 2013.
- "U.S. blacklists al-Nusra Front fighters in Syria". CNN. http://www.cnn.com/2012/12/11/world/meast/syria-civil-war/index.html. Retrieved 4 January 2013.
- "US designates Syria''s Al-Nusrah Front, its leadership, militias supporting Assad regime". KUNA. http://www.kuna.net.kw/ArticleDetails.aspx?id=2280082&Language=en. Retrieved 4 January 2013.
- "More than 30 Syrians killed in Hama suicide blast: Activists". The Daily Star (Lebanon), 21 January 2013.
- "Southern Syria in the dark with power outage". CBC News, 16 February 2013.
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