BEIRUT — Syria’s al-Qaeda affiliate said Saturday members who participated in the killing of Druze villagers in northern Syria this week acted in violation of orders and would be punished.
As many as 20 members of the Druze minority sect were killed by members of the al-Nusra Front in the northwestern province of Idlib Wednesday.
The Idlib killings were the deadliest since Syria’s civil war started in March 2011 against the minority Druze sect, which has been split between supporters and opponents of President Bashar Assad — but has largely stayed out of the fighting.
In a statement posted on the Internet Saturday, the Nusra Front said the perpetrators would face trial before an Islamic court.
The killings sparked an outcry in Syria and in Lebanon, which also has a large Druze minority.
Lebanon’s political leader of the Druze community tried on Friday to calm members of neighboring Syria’s minority sect after the deadly raid.
Walid Jumblatt said the attack on Qalb Lawzeh village was an “individual” incident.
The Lebanese leader added that the Druze in Syria were not seeking assistance from Israel. “We need neither Assad, nor Israel,” he said during a press conference in Beirut, according to Haaretz. “Both sides are talking in a sectarian tone, which aims to perpetuate sectarianism and divide the country.”
Jumblatt, a harsh critic of Assad, warned that any incitement “will endanger the Druze of Syria,” adding that Assad’s forces kill dozens of people every day in Syria.
“There will be no political solution for Syria with Assad,” Jumblatt said, speaking after a meeting of the Druze religious leadership in Beirut that was attended by dozens of clerics. “He has taken Syria to destruction.”
On Thursday, Wiam Wahhab, a Lebanese Druze politician close to Assad, called on all the Druze in the southern Syrian province of Sweida to carry arms and defend their villages, as opposition fighters reached the region that has been spared Syria’s four-year civil war.