Syria’s Southern Front shows signs of disintegration

As signs have emerged about the potential disintegration of the Southern Front, some members of Syrian factions have either shown their readiness to reconcile with the Syrian army, or fled to Europe to avoid getting assassinated.

al-monitor Residents inspect damage from what activists said were barrel bombs dropped by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar Al-Assad in Tafas town in Daraa, Syria, July 2, 2015.  Photo by REUTERS/Alaa Al-Faqir.

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syria crisis, syria, southern front, quneitra, moc, jordan, jabhat al-nusra, fsa

Oct 8, 2015

The military operation in the northern suburb of Quneitra, code-named “Give Good Tidings to the Patient," is the last indication that the Southern Front is still alive and has not breathed its last yet.

All indications and information coming from the Syrian south’s capital show that this front has entered a dark era since the MOC [Military Operations Center in Jordan] washed its hands clean of it and decided to stop supporting it. As a result of the tensions between the armed factions — which suddenly found themselves out of work — the polarization attempts of some extremist factions and reconciliation attempts with the Syrian army, we can say that the Southern Front is witnessing the first signs of disintegration and division. It is likely that radical changes will affect the structure of its factions and the nature of its alliances soon.

This new situation has had a negative effect on security and livelihoods in Daraa governorate, after the MOC stopped its work. Disputes prevailed in the relations between factions and local parties supporting them. This was obvious in the increasing assassinations that claimed the lives of a significant number of military, judicial and Sharia leaders, mainly the Dawn of Freedom Brigades’ leader Yasser al-Khalaf, House of Justice deputy leader Sheikh Bashar Kamel al-Naimi and the assassination attempt of Ansar al-Islam deputy leader Abu Bilal al-Joulani.

The conduct of some factions raised questions about their motives and reasoning. For instance, why did Al-Mothana Islamic Movement — one of the largest factions in the south — refrain from participating in the recent military operations? This caught the attention of some activists and made them wonder about the movement’s inclinations and the possibility that it might have secretly pledged allegiance to the Islamic State. Al-Mothana Islamic Movement had declared in a past statement that the allegiance pledges that IS receives in the areas under its control are Sharia-compliant ones.

A media activist told As-Safir, “After the MOC suspended its work and halted supplies, several leaders and militants withdrew from the battlefield and returned to their civil lives. They felt frustrated, and gave up their weapons.”

He asserted that “most of these leaders are seeking asylum in Europe to escape the deteriorating security situation, and they are afraid of being targets of upcoming assassinations.” He added that “the leader of Usud al-Sunna Battalion, who is called Abu Amr Zaghloul, has reached Germany asking for asylum.”

According to @saleelalmajd, a Twitter account that is widely followed, a number of factions from the Southern Front secretly pledged allegiance to Ahrar al-Sham, but will be announced later on. For their part, the Hawks of Houran Brigade and the Majd al-Islam Brigade announced that they joined Jaish al-Islam headed by Zahran Alloush.

It is no longer a secret that the financial conditions of the factions are dire, as a result of cutting support or pledging allegiance to this leader or that. This is not to mention the foreign influences on these allegiances, especially since some of the factions pledged allegiance after the pilgrimage called upon by Saudi intelligence.

On the other hand, some factions chose a different path, other than being assassinated or joining hard-line Islamic organizations. They chose reconciliation with the Syrian army.

In this context, tens of gunmen laid down their weapons and gave in to the authorities in Daraa on Saturday [Oct. 3].

The Syrian News Agency (SANA) said that 250 wanted men and more than 450 gunmen have put down their light and medium weapons, including LAW rockets, PK machine guns and 332 sniper rifles, pistols and ammunition. Meanwhile, the competent authorities settled the legal situation of about 43 arrested in the framework of national reconciliations.

In the same context, the elders and activists of the movements in the city of Daraa wanted to go to the town of Izra to negotiate with the competent authorities about the reconciliation condition. However, Ansar al-Islam militants intercepted them on their way and arrested the dignitaries.

Many opponent and loyal activists have noticed the change of mood among civilians in Daraa, as many of them have become inclined toward reconciliation with the Syrian army, and even pushing toward it regardless of the conditions, as the situations in their areas have become unbearable.

The city of Ankhel is currently most likely to push toward reconciliation, as many activists confirmed connections between the city’s dignitaries and the competent authorities about the reconciliation’s conditions and mechanism. Although the outcome of such communication is yet to be known, the mere occurrence of negotiations is a positive step itself.

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