Daraa clashes between rebels and government: eight soldiers killed, 15 captured
Local sources report "the most intense wave of violence" since the military victory of the regular army, backed by Russia. The province has long been one of the bastions of the anti-Assad militias. According to pro-government newspapers, a "military operation against terrorist hideouts" is underway.
Damascus (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Eight soldiers have been killed and at least 15 captured in fighting that has flared up in recent hours between armed rebels and Syrian army regulars in the southern province of Daraa. Local sources speak of the "most intense wave of violence" since the area returned under government control in 2018, thanks to the offensive launched by Damascus in collaboration with Russia.
This was a fundamental and symbolic achievement since the conflict began in spring 2011, as Daraa had long been one of the bastions of anti-regime militias. Government offices and institutions have reappeared in the area, but the army loyal to President Bashar al-Assad has not yet managed to take control of the entire province and for some time the area has been the scene of attacks and murders between former opposition members and regime forces.
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an NGO based in the UK with a dense network of informants in the area, tensions flared up yesterday morning and then turned into the "most violent and far-reaching clashes" since Daraa came under government control. Government soldiers exploded artillery shells towards Daraa al-Balad.
Reporting the clashes, the pro-government daily al-Watan spoke of the 'beginning of a military operation against terrorist hideouts' that had violated the 'reconciliation agreement'. Many former rebels remained in Daraa instead of evacuating the area, as provided for in the Moscow-brokered agreement, joining the army or maintaining control of parts of the province. And the southern district of Daraa al-Balad is among the areas controlled by what were once opposition forces to Assad.
In response to the bombardment, gunmen launched a counter-attack in many parts of the province, capturing several positions belonging to the government. "Eight fighters from the Syrian regime and allied militias died during the clashes in recent hours," the Observatory said in a statement. "Gunmen have also captured more than 15 members of the regime's forces in the western and eastern countryside of Daraa".
According to Western intelligence sources, the discontent in the area is exacerbated by the presence of pro-Iranian Shiite militias, which often act with complete impunity, replacing the central government in controlling the area. The tense situation confirms once again the difficulties faced by Syria in a post-conflict phase that, after almost 500,000 victims and millions of displaced people, is even more difficult, "wounded and hopeless".