Clashes escalate on Syria's southern front

Given its strategic importance to the capital, all eyes are on the southern region of Syria, where clashes between the Syrian army and rebels have increased.

al-monitor A member of the Druze community rides a horse as he waves a Syrian flag next to the Israeli side of a border fence with Syria during a rally in the village of Majdal Shams on the Golan Heights, Feb. 14, 2014. Photo by REUTERS/Baz Ratner.

Topics covered

war, syria civil war, opposition, golan heights, damascus

Feb 26, 2014

Amid talks of a possible attack on Damascus in the near future starting from the southern front, the region is witnessing massive escalation in the field, both in the Houran and in the Syrian Golan Heights. The latter has returned to the forefront in the clashes between Syrian troops and armed factions, each seeking to dominate a spot that is considered highly important and sensitive with respect to the capital.

According to data released by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the towns of Busr al-Harir and al-Neaimeh were shelled with artilleries, while oppositionists said that the Syrian forces tried to make progress toward the towns of Inkhil and Nawa in the western countryside [of Damascus]. Meanwhile, the Houran plains witnessed military reinforcements by the Syrian army, which fortified its presence in the region.

Activists published photos online of Syrian families waiting on the Jordanian border. Meanwhile, the Jordanian army issued a statement saying that border guards had foiled an operation aimed at smuggling a large amount of ammunition from Syria to Jordan, and arrested five smugglers.

In Quneitra, the clashes persisted between the Syrian army and militants, who declared through the coordination committees their control of over 80% of the Golan countryside. The militants also announced the launch of a battle to tighten their grip on the military brigades, mainly Brigade 61, in the region’s southern countryside that is connected to the Houran region.

Sources on the ground indicated that there are military reinforcements along the road from Damascus to Quneitra. The militants are taking over many towns in Quneitra, like Bir Ajam, Jubata al-Khashab, Beit Jinn, Nasiriya and Sweesa, while the regime controls the Quneitra city center, the towns of Khan Arnaba and Sasa, and the road to Damascus, where several military units are deployed. The Golan front is considered highly sensitive for the Syrian authorities, because it is situated less than 70 kilometers away from Damascus and is linked to the southern front in Daraa.

Furthermore, all eyes are focused on Moadamiya and Qudsaya in the Damascus countryside. For the first time, the people will get to test the seriousness of the truces achieved recently. The deadline that the army had given to gunmen in Qudsaya to hand over the killers of an army officer ended last night on Feb. 24. However, the town was not targeted or assaulted, only security measures were increased.

The same scene applies to Moadamiya. The opposition Damascus media office said the Syrian forces have closed all roads around [the town] after skirmishes took place with gunmen. According to pro-regime sources, the smuggling of weapons and food subsidies between Moadamiya and Daraya has been disclosed, while the city is still being bombed, after gunmen refused to conclude a settlement. The commander of the Suqour al-Sham Brigade, Ahmed Issa al-Sheikh, conveyed a message to gunmen in the town, urging them “to refuse any truce” and considered that “it will turn their determination into submission.” The Ajnad al-Sham Islamic Union, which is a gathering of the armed factions in the Eastern Ghouta, has also issued a statement calling for “rejecting the settlement,” and calling on “those who have approved it to return to Sharia law.”

The Syrian Red Crescent announced having distributed more than 6,600 food baskets in four days in areas close to Damascus where “reconciliation” has taken place. The distribution [area] included Beit Sahm, Yalda and Babila.

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