Syrian army convoys arrive on the outskirts of Daraa to lay siege to the southern city, the cradle of the revolution and a symbol of resistance for opposition forces
The last days of May saw the dispatch of Assad forces military columns to Daraa province, concentrated in the regime-held the areas of Izra and Sherbet Ghazala in the northern countryside. The deployment involved hundreds of fighters from the Fourth Division led by Gen. Maher al-Assad, brother of the regime’s president, amid reports indicating the this step is preceeding a wide military campaign targeting Daraa’s rebel groups.
Enab Baladi learned from sources on the ground that preparations are underway by rebel groups to repel any potential attack in the area, and the battle for the Al-Manshiyah neighborhood was continuing, resulting in full control over the Sajana district.
The regime mobilization extended from May 28–31, accompanied by additional reports confirming that the Fourth Division leader had visited the city of Izra in on Tuesday May 30. Sources said that a number of officers of the Fourth Division accompanied Gen. Assad in the surprise visit, with him departing within hours and the officers remaining in Izra.
On social media, images spread of “Ghaith Forces” convoys in the Fourth Division under the leadership of Gen. Ghaith Della, heading from Damascus to Daraa. A post on the “Ghaith Forces” page said that “after the operation to clear Qaboun and Barzeh and settle the status of the remaining armed men to incorporate them into the ranks of our glorious forces after sterilizing and drying the settlement, the men of God and the men of victory are heading to Daraa, cradle of the outburst – Daraa is nearly in the grip of the nation and the Syrian flag.” (The first demonstrations against the Assad regime in 2011 began in Daraa and quickly spread throughout the country)
The mobilization comes “in the context of a broad assault against the opposition,” according to the page, which quoted sources as saying that the attack will be “a major one to regain positions in the Al-Manshiyah district in preparation for taking full control over Daraa city, the main base of the opposition in the province.”
According to opposition military sources in the province, Assad forces and allied militias may attempt to seize control over the eastern environs of Daraa city and then cut supply routes to the opposition there.
The sources pointed to the air raids which targeted the town of Naameh (neighboring Daraa on the eastern side) without any direct reason, giving the impression that the town will soon be in a battle extending to the strategic Gharaz area which includes grain silos and the Gharaz prison, the main headquarters of the Dar al-Adel (House of Justice) in Houran.
The sources told Enab Baladi that the Dar al-Adel court had been effectively cleared in the Gharaz area at the start of June and turned into a “military zone.”
Assad forces aim to take control over this area to split the districts under opposition control off from the eastern Daraa countryside, by cutting the road connecting the city and the town of Umm al-Methan through the Gharaz area. Once that is done there will no longer be any route connecting Daraa city with the eastern countryside except a singe road along the border up to the town of Naseem.
The targeting of this axis means that Assad forces aim to surround Daraa city as an alternative plan to igniting the battle in its districts which contain the opposition forces represented by the Al-Bunyan al-Marsous Operations Room. If this reading is correct, the eastern front of Daraa will not be the only one, and the attacking forces may intend to open the front from the west, parallel with the town of Al-Yadooda and the village of Khirab al-Shaham, to cut off the military route connecting Daraa town and the western countryside.
Meanwhile, rebels have continued with their operations against the Syrian regime despite knowing of the regime’s intention to retake the city, as happened in the eastern districts of Aleppo at the end of last year. The groups of Al-Banyan al-Marsous have pushed with the “Death Rather Than Humiliation” battle toward taking control over the Sajana district and most of the Al-Manshiyah district in the city.
This article was translated and edited by The Syrian Observer. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.