As the U.S. battled devastating wildfires across the nation this week, news agencies in Syria were reporting the deaths of 24 people convicted of setting wildfires.
Two of the wildfires have been categorized as major by the U.S. and destroyed hundreds of homes in California, although ISIS is not reported to have been responsible.
It’s not clear exactly why Syria committed to executing people convicted of lighting wildfires and the nature of the sentences vary, but photos show them being burned alive or shot with guns.
Fox News reporter Jonathan Hunt visited Qamishli, Syria and spoke with residents and witnesses about the inmates.
“There were also six Daesh, ISIS in ISIS’ English-language magazine, Holy Land, that warned it was increasing its efforts in fueling the fires,” Hunt said.
“It’s not a lot of people it’s about man-made fires across the border,” he said. “But these individuals were ex-fighters of ISIL (ISIS) so they were going out and starting fires within Syria because they thought it was a way of ISIS, the firebrand ISIS offshoot that they thought was following the group, was burning these wooded areas down and showing them how they were burning these trees.”
Iraq, once ruled by ISIS, is a partner in the fight against the terror group, but Syria is a separate country. The U.S. does not have an embassy in Syria and has had no armed forces there since 2015.
According to the latest data from the United Nations, Syria has seen a general improvement in the number of civilian deaths since 2013, with 55% of the people killed in that time period civilians. The groups say that the highest civilian casualties are in Damascus, Aleppo and Idlib.
Hunt also visited Idlib, but since it is not part of the U.S.-led coalition effort against ISIS, he had limited access. He said the drone strike operation of anti-ISIS extremists in Idlib has seen many wins, but none if the people trying to subdue the extremists.
While bombs are the preferred tactic of the anti-ISIS fighters, Hunt said they have had no tactical advantage.
“They do have sort of tactical advantages that are fair game at a military level. But they don’t have much of a tactical advantage in warfare,” he said.
He said the problem has been a lack of support, but one of the most telling images of the bombing campaign is a man being dropped from a plane, alive but injured.
Hunt said while there are many brutal aspects of the war, there’s a perspective from the Syrian people and survivors that leaves him excited about the future.
“The level of despair in Syria has to be about 100 percent of what it was in Iraq, what it was in Libya, what it was in Afghanistan, but at least you’ve been able to create and rebuild. There’s a lot of hope that there can be a new Syria if we find a way to approach the opposition groups in a really collaborative way,” he said.
“They are really respectful to what we’re trying to do. They are people fighting very desperate situations and they need us there because what they have done is they’ve not been able to stop ISIS and keep al Qaeda in Syria. They have to do something more so that we can stop these threats.”