Daraa emerges as new flashpoint in Syrian war

Article Summary
In this article from As-Safir, Tarek al-Abed provides detailed updates on the field developments in Syria and the status and spreading of armed groups.

Syrian forces mounted an unexpected offensive against armed groups in rural Daraa, which ended with the former imposing control over a number of villages in the northeast of the area. These villages constitute one of the most important supply routes for armed groups from Jordan, and link Daraa to Suwayda province.

The new attack came hours after Syrian Defense Minister Fahed Jassem al-Freij visited air bases in south Syria. The Syrian General Command for the army and armed forces issued a statement that reads, "Army and armed forces units were able to control the villages of east and west Masikah, Khawabi, Washnan, and Dalafa, and cordon off the villages of Malihat Elatash and Bisr Elharir in rural Daraa following a qualitative military operation. The operation resulted in the death of large numbers of takfiri terrorists who used the area as hideouts and wreaked havoc in it."

The statement added, "The importance of our armed forces' achievement emanates from the fact that it reopened and secured a vital route between Daraa and Suwayda, and cut off the supply routes of terrorist armed groups by closing down the Lajat passage, used to smuggle mercenaries, arms, and ammunition from Jordan and into Badiya and East Ghouta in rural Damascus. This success delivers takfiri organizations a blow and constitutes a steppingstone to eliminate terrorist hubs in the region."

The army is said to be preparing for an offensive against the village of Busr al-Harir. Local sources said that the attacks began with artillery and missile shelling. After that, troops advanced to siege the village and clash with armed groups. The latter denied that the Syrian forces imposed control, although they affirmed heavy clashes took place.

What was remarkable about the offensive is that the battlefront was moved for the first time to an area located within northeastern Huran, while the majority of battles took place in the western area and the central location between Daraa, Quneitra, and rural Damascus.

The battle of Busr al-Harir is considered of paramount importance since the village constitutes a stop along the supply route that stretches from Badiya and East Ghouta to reach Jordan, passing by Lajat region where the Omari Brigades — affiliated with the Syria Revolutionaries Front — are located. Busr al-Harir is also located on the Suwayda road, specifically near Thula military airport, and extends to the north to Bir al-Qasab, where Islamic State [IS] fighters are present. Busr al-Harir and Malihat Elatash are also linked to the city of Izra, where military brigades such as Brigade 12, and Regiment 175 are present. Imposing control on Busr al-Harir means further securing of Izra, particularly following talks about potential attacks on larger cities in the south, such as Daraa, Izra, al-Sanamayn, and Baath city in Quneitra.

Groups affiliated with the Free Syrian Army (FSA), Jabhat al-Nusra and Ahrar ash-Sham unified to thwart the offensive of the Syrian army. This was surprising, particularly following the statement issued by FSA-affiliated groups, refusing to fight alongside al-Nusra.

On the level of field developments in the north, it seems that the attack leveled by armed groups in rural Hama did not achieve its aims: advancing or defusing tension on the Idlib battlefront. Last night [April 20] abounded with conflicting rumors about the intention of IS to raid the city of Hama following explosions that were heard near the military airport. Doubts were further ignited due to difficulties in communication. Later on, it turned out that the sounds were those of missiles targeting an explosives-laden car near the airport, and attacks fended off in the north of rural Hama.

In East Ghouta, Ahrar ash-Sham issued a statement, announcing its acceptance of the unified judicial council's ruling after its military commander was arrested and its weapons and headquarters were handed over to al-Rahman Brigade in order to "ward off sedition." Ahrar ash-Sham considered the decision as "respectful to the blood of mujahedeen."

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Found in: syria, quneitra, jabhat al-nusra, hama, ghouta, fsa, daraa, ahrar al-sham
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