After almost three months of constant fighting and shelling, Assad’s forces and ally militias managed to control Beit Jinn in Damascus’ western countryside, after they conducted a settlement with the opposition factions, one that included the fighters’ departure.
The eventual agreement led to the departure of “Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham’s” fighters to Idlib governorate in northern Syria. The specific number of the fighters supposed to leave is not yet known. However, there are talks that there are 150 fighters, aside from families, while the number of the “Free Army fighters,” who reached Daraa’s eastern countryside in five buses, is about 150 accompanied by 20 families.
The region located at the Syrian-Lebanese borders, adjacent to the occupied Palestinian Territories, is one of the most prominent strategic sites held by the opposition in the western countryside of the capital Damascus. Exiting this site might lead to a series of changes and withdrawals in southern Syria.
Death Triangle is the New Destination
In the past a few years, the area was a stage for various developments on the ground, for it is the opposition’s final stronghold in Damascus’ western countryside. This area will be the location of new series of operations that Assad’s forces seek to conduct after taking control over Beit Jinn. The operations will start with opening the fronts of the death triangle a new to go deeper into the opposition’s areas in Daraa’s western countryside, especially that Assad’s forces and ally militias, have, in the past a few weeks, summoned massive reinforcements to different parts in rural Daraa, which indicate that the south is about to witness a new military phase, that resembles the one in 2015, a year that underwent military interactions, considered as the largest in the region since 2011.
According to a report, published by the Iranian “Fars” News Agency in early December, significant reinforcements have reached northern Daraa and Quneitra, particularly the town of Zimrin to the east of Inkhil, which is the line of contact between the opposition and Assad’s forces. The attack will target al-Hamdania and al-Samadania in Quneitra. The Agency pointed out that the Death Triangle will soon witness battles.
The “Death Triangle” area is the point of contact for Daraa, Quneitra and rural Damascus; in 2015, the area underwent “fierce” battles that ended up with the regime’s domination over large areas.
In a former interview with Enab Baladi, “Abu Huzayfa al-Shami”, a military leader in “Tahrir al-Sham,” said that the factions observed reinforcements affiliated to “Hezbollah” militia at the axes of the “Death Triangle”, in Tulul Fatima and the city of Khan Arnabah. It is expected that Assad’s forces will launch a campaign against the area; however, both the goal and the timing are not yet known.
The area, to the opposition factions, is a “red line,” according to al-Shami, who explained that the restoration of the regime’s control over it, especially Tal al-Harrah, means the collapse of al-Jaidur and going back in time to the first years of the revolution, during which the regime was able to target any area with artillery shelling.
Beit Jinn is located on the eastern side of Mount Hermon and has a strategic positioning, for it is based on the hills of the mountain that overlooks the Lebanese town of Shebaa. Beit Jinn is a geographical point that connects a number of routes, which became the major outlet for the factions of the “Free Army” after they controlled them, as they connect Damascus’ western countryside and Quneitra’s northern countryside. Beit Jinn derives its major importance from the fact that it is the faction’s last closest point to Lebanon.
In the first years of the revolution, the region was made into a passage for getting weapons and supplies from the Lebanese side to the opposition-held areas, particularly Daraa, Quneitra and the cities of western Ghouta, such as Zakiyah, Khan Alsheh and Kanaker.
Israel is Silent
After Assad’s forces managed to control Beit Jinn, located on the border triangle of Syria-Lebanon-Palestine, questions began about how Israel did allow Assad’s forces to take control of the area, which meant crossing the red lines of Tel Aviv.
Israel has drawn red lines indicating that the Iranian militias and the Lebanese “Hezbollah” must not approach its borders and warned of the consequences of approaching the occupied Golan. More than once, it launched air raids that targeted “Hezbollah’s” weapon stores and an Iranian base in the region.
It also called for limiting Iran’s role in southern Syria and sponsored the “de-escalation agreement” which Russia, America and Jordan have signed in the past months, which provided for distancing Iran at a rate of 50 kilometres away from the borders. Nonetheless, Tel Aviv remained silent about Assad’s control of Beit Jinn.
Some parties considered that there is a fundamental dispute between Russia and Israel, for Moscow regards Beit Jinn as a part of the western Ghouta agreements and not of the southern parts’ agreements while Tel Aviv sees the matter in reverse. Other parties believe that unclear settlement might have got the approval of Israel, in which it approves the regime’s progress without Iran or “Hezbollah,” especially that Tel Aviv accepts the regime’s progress since it maintained the tranquillity of its northern borders for the four past decades, a thing which might lead to a dispute between the regime and Iran in the south.
“Sheikh Abdullah” Shrine is a Contention Point in Beit Jinn’s Agreement
Before reaching an agreement, “Sheikh Abdullah” Shrine, which overlooks Beit Jinn from the east, appeared as one of the disputes that disturbed the agreement between the opposition and the regime in the west of Damascus.
According to Enab Baladi’s sources, one of the controversial issues, apart from resolving the way out towards Idlib, was the mechanism of surrendering the Shrine, which is a landmark and a shrine to the Druze denomination in Syria.
Located on a high hill at the opposite end of Beit Jinn, the Shrine is considered as a strategic point that oversees the town. Fearing the ways through which the Shrine might be surrendered, booby-trapped or blown up, the attacking forces of the Druze militias, fighting alongside the regime, sought to neutralize the Shrine.
The Shrine, that is located on the “Awaj” river can be reached via the Damascus-Sa’sa’ route that leads to Beit Jinn or from Khan Arnabah town in Daraa governorate, to al-Fawwar spring arriving at Beit Jinn. The Shrine is about 15 kilometres away from Quneitra and about 55 kilometres from Damascus.
According to Quneitra’s official website, prior to the revolution, Sheikh Jamil al-Halabi supervised the Shrine, and mentioned that the Shrine used to consist of a single room, next to the kitchen where the altar is located and the sacrifices are done on holidays.
The Shrine witnessed an expansion that attracted the denomination’s members from Damascus, the countryside, As-As-Suwayda and Quneitra, as well as many religious delegations from Lebanon, Jordan and Palestine.
Visits to the Shrine were considered a religious annual tradition, during which the members of the denomination donated money to improve and restore it continually, until the “Free Army” factions controlled it in September 2013 to remain under their control to this day.