The Syrian army has achieved a qualitative advance on the southern front yesterday [May 19], continuing the process of cutting off the links between the militants’ sites near Quneitra. The army has stormed the city of Nawa in the Daraa countryside after surrounding it and has extended its full control on the old jail neighborhood there, which connects a number of neighborhoods and is considered the supply line to the battle areas.
Meanwhile, the opposition’s Syrian National Coalition suffered a new setback when the defense minister in the interim government, Asaad Mustafa, announced his resignation after a disagreement with the head of the Coalition Ahmed al-Jarba, who will meet French President Francois Hollande today [May 20] and ask for sophisticated weapons.
An opposition source said that Mustafa, who is close to Saudi Arabia and was made defense minister in November, resigned yesterday “to protest the lack of funds provided by Jarba to his fighters.” But a coalition source told Reuters that he resigned after Jarba refused to appoint him as interim prime minister, a position occupied by Ahmad Tohme. The source added that “Mustafa did not achieve anything. We lost Syria. We lost it to the jihadists and to [Syrian President Bashar] al-Assad.”
For the fourth consecutive day, the Syrian army has continued its operations on the southern front to recover sites that had been taken over by the armed groups and to cut the links between the armed groups’ sites.
According to the Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA), the “army has surrounded Nawa from various fronts. Infantry and armored units are advancing into a number of [Nawa] neighborhoods and have extended their full control over the eastern district. Other army units are continuing their progress toward the national hospital in Nawa on the northwestern side of the city.”
Two days earlier, army units recovered al-Jabiya Hill located between the south and west of Nawa, which is the largest town in Daraa province. Nawa used to be the home of 135,000 people. The army also took control of the village of Umm al-Awsaj in al-Sanamein in the Daraa countryside. Nawa is adjacent to the southwestern countryside of Quneitra and is connected to northern Houran countryside through the two cities of Ankhel and Jassim. Those two cities constitute the first defensive line for the armed factions. They are also connected to the town of Sheikh Maskeen, which is not very far from Azra, the strategic town serving as a bulwark for the Syrian army and is surrounded by a group of hills.
A military source told SANA: “Units from the armed forces working in the direction of Sajna-Daraa al-Balad tightened their control over the old Sajna neighborhood after eliminating dozens of terrorists.” The old Sajna neighborhood connects the neighborhoods of Daraa al-Balad and Daraa’s suburb. It is a supply line to al-Manshia neighborhood, which is considered a confrontation line between Syrian forces and the gunmen.
A field source said that “the battle was set to be launched in the neighborhoods of al-Manshia and Sajna in Daraa in order to ease the pressure on the Nawa front. But the many victims among Jabhat al-Nusra and the heavy gunfire from the army resulted in postponing the confrontation because what’s important today is to hold on to Nawa.”
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said in a statement that in the Damascus countryside, “Warplanes have launched 10 raids on the town of al-Maliha and its surroundings, while helicopters targeted Daraya with explosive barrels. ... Ten mortar shells fell on areas in the al-Qassaa and al-Amara neighborhoods and the al-Zablatani area, without receiving information about casualties.”
SANA said, “Thousands of Duma inhabitants stormed the militants’ headquarters in the city, demanding that they leave the city, which has been under their terrorism and criminality.”
The Observatory said that in Aleppo, there have been “violent clashes between Syrian troops, supported by national defense forces and gunmen holding Arab nationalities and Hezbollah fighters on the one hand and Jabhat al-Nusra fighters and Islamic battalions on the other, in the area al-Bureij near Sheikh Najjar and in the al-Rashidin neighborhood.”