The serenity that overcome Southern Syria in the past a few days has turned into military threats and movements on the ground, which have all been manifested in the failure of the negotiations between the international actors in the area, Russia, America and Britain in particular.
These threats were issued by the US Department of State which said that it will take action as a response to the Syrian regime’s violations in the “de-escalation” areas, agreed upon internationally, and demanded that Russia have a role in restraining these violations, being a Security Council member, and that it should impose its political and military influence on the area.
The United States, since its intervention in Syria, has been holding the cards in Southern Syria, especially Daraa, and has offered both military and financial support to the area’s active “Free Army” factions. Many times, it has threatened against any offensives on the part of Assad’s forces, Russia and Iran and had a sustained attitude of all military attacks against the area even through it has ceased the provided funding early this year.
Southern Syria’s fate is stuck in a state of suspension, awaiting the outcome of the international negotiations. In addition to the threats, the thrill witnessed by the area is inflated by the attack that Assad’s forces initiated on the first day of Eid al-Fitr, during which rocket-launchers and artillery shelling targeted the city of Al-Harra, northern countryside, causing the death of five civilians. The attack has been viewed as a violation of US’ threats and a provocation, the repercussions of which have not yet unfolded.
Assad’s forces and alley militias, since the beginning of May 2018 to the day, are still bringing in reinforcement to Southern Syria, which they have particularly focused in the death triangle area that will possibly be the first front line in the anticipated battle towards the northern countryside of Quneitra and the city of al-Harra in Daraa, amidst talks about its approach especially after the failure of the international negotiations.
The speculations about the battle being soon are linked to the Syrian regime’s offensive against the northern outskirts of Daraa and its countryside. In a statement on his “Facebook” account, Mohammad Majed al-Khatib, the leader of “Alwiya al-Furqan,” under the “Free Army,” commented saying that the triple meeting that joined Russia, Britain and the US about Southern Syria has resulted in a major dispute and that the Syrian regime will soon be storming the area, considering that combating the first attack “might put an end to the Syrian regime’s dream of regaining control over the Southern area.”
The leader’s statement was preceded by an interview of President Bashar al-Assad, in which he said that “following the liberation of Ghouta, the aim became the Southern area, and there were two choices, either reconciliation or forced liberation.”
Al-Assad added that to the moment there were not actual results due to the Israeli and American intervention, which imposed pressure on those he referred to as “terrorists” to prevent arriving at any peaceful solution or settlement.
Assad’s forces are expected to start their military operation in Southern Syria at three axes. The first is in the direction of the city of al-Harra and its hill; the second is from Daraa’s neighborhoods towards Nasib crossing, and the third might target the town of Busra al-Harir, the control of which will lead to isolating the Lajat area completely from the rest of the areas in the eastern countryside of Daraa according to what military sources have told Enab Baladi.
Russia Pushes Forward the Reconciliation
Another indicator to the failure of the international negotiations in Daraa is Russia’s action to activate the reconciliation file with the leaders of the military factions functioning in the area individually and in a manner separate from the other sides, in a similar scenario to that Russia has followed in Eastern Ghouta and the northern countryside of Homs.
In sync to the state of calm that Daraa has witnessed in the past a few days, opposition leaders have announced receiving calls from the Russian Khmeimim Air Base, requesting a meeting to conduct negotiations about the future of the cities and towns of Daraa.
In a voice note that Enab Baladi managed to get, Fadi al-Asemi, a member of the “Revolution Command Council” in Daraa, said that he received a translated call from the Russian Brigadier General Alexander, who requested an urgent meeting in the town of Mahajjah to negotiate about the area’s destiny, Da’el in particular.
He added that he refused to meet the General, especially that the negotiations were supposed to be held in areas under the control of the Syrian regime.
The negotiations about Southern Syria focus mainly on studying the American presence in the al-Tanf base and the possibility of a withdrawal on the condition that Assad’s forces and Russia’s battle against the area is cancelled and the Iranian militias are completely sent out of the area.
Sources, informed of the negotiations, have told Enab Baladi that they were conducted at the Jordanian side and in an undeclared manner and that the military parades which the factions have presented are “a show of force” to present the power they possess, on which they count to change the military map if possible.
The Russian actions are not limited to reconciliations, as they seek to secure the Israeli side as well, through meetings and talks that took place in the past a few days between the Russian President Vladimir Putin and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, stressing the necessity of a coordination in Southern Syria, the border area on a specific term.
Reconciliation Committees’ Members on the Assassination List
Unlike other Syrian areas, the reconciliation committees in Daraa are going through different circumstances being included in the assassination lists that are conducted by anonymous groups, for the area has witnessed, since mid-May 2018, several assassinations that led to the death of prominent reconciliation figures in a number of towns.
On June 14, 2018, doctor Mousa Qanbas, a member of the al-Harra City Reconciliation Committee, north eastern countryside of Daraa, was assassinated with a machine gun during the opening of his clinic. Hamed Riyad Shehadat, a member of the reconciliation committee in the city of Da’el, was also killed with a bullet in the head.
Another reconciliation committee member in Tell Shihab, rural Daraa, Zakarya al-Amian, was assassinated by anonymous persons three days after his kidnap. On June 6, 2018, his body was found on the military road between the tow towns of Nasib and Tell Shihab.
Early in June, anonymous persons had shot three of the Daraa Governorate Reconciliation Committee to death on the al-Musayfirah- Eastern Ghariyah road.
The assassinated people are Tawfiq al-Ghunaim (Abu Muta’e), Mohammad al-Ghunaim (Abu Arshid) and Muafaq al-Barjas.
The assassination incident happened three days after the attempted assassination of Jamal al-Labad, a member of the al-Sanamayn City Reconciliation Committee in the northern countryside of Daraa.
In the past a few weeks, the towns of Daraa have seen an intense activity on the part of the people, now called the “Reconciliations Godfathers.”
These figures make effort to pave the way for the settlement, legalization agreements, process with Assad’s forces, claiming they are trying to protect their areas from forced displacement or the scorched land policy.
A number of local councils and opposition factions have, in March 2018, threatened to combat those who they referred to as the “Reconciliations Godfathers,” in a number of statements, which Enab Baladi has monitored.
The statements covered the areas of Nawa, Jasim, Nimer, Inkhil and al-Harra and said that “al-Baath party’s loyalists who are based in the area are marketing a flood of rumors which aim to drop the morale of the popular incubator, in a step to compel it to surrender under the reconciliation label.”
The statements have also stressed that the councils “will keep protecting the people and offering services,” considering “these people’s conduct a high treason against the land, the blessings of which they enjoy and against the revolution that liberated these areas.”
The statements have also pointed out to “undertaking all the deterrent steps against them without any considerations.”
In the past a few weeks, rumors started spreading about the repeated visits of delegations from rural Daraa, the “liberated” areas, to the areas under the regime’s control seeking to enlist their areas on the “reconciliation” list.
In March 2018, the towns’ representatives in Daraa governorate met with the Russians and regime’s representatives in the Provincial Department building in preparation to include Southern Syria in the “reconciliations” areas.
Back then, Enab Baladi was informed about a meeting held in Daraa in the presence of the Head of the Russian Reconciliation Center in Southern Syria and the member of the “National Reconciliation” Committee Awad al-Suwaidan.
The media office of the Provincial Department, a regime affiliate, has quoted the Russian Admiral’s assertion that “it is necessary to work as to resolve the conflict in a peaceful manner in Southern Syria and to seriously seek convincing the terrorist armed groups to surrender their weapons and return to their home country.”
The Syrian regime intensified dropping leaflets on the opposition-held areas in Daraa governorate calling for reconciliation and avoiding military action.
On May 20, 2018, aircraft have dropped leaflets on the eastern countryside of Daraa, in which the regime asked civilians to join the process which it refers to as “reconciliation” that “will completely guarantee the area and the civilian’s future and that is the gate to safety and salvation,” according to the leaflets.