Factions within the “Southern Front” opposition coalition have directed a message to guarantor nations of the “de-escalation” agreement in southern Syria, while reports are circulating of an upcoming Russian-backed operation by Assad’s forces in the region.
On Sunday 3 June activists posted content from the message on social media. This included the coalition’s rejection of any agreement which featured Assad’s forces and allied militias entering into rebel-held areas of southern Syria, making it clear that the Southern Front would fight any attempt in this regard.
The statement included a rejection of the presence of Russian military police and observation checkpoints in rebel-held areas. The coalition has rather demanded the de-escalation agreement’s international guarantors to implement terms previously agreed upon and to oblige the Syrian regime to cease repeated provocations and violations.
The “de-escalation” agreement, which has been signed by Russia, the US, and Jordan, began in Syria in July 2017. However, despite this, many of the mechanisms of how the agreement’s “truce” are to be implemented remain publicly unknown.
Over recent days reinforcements from the Syrian regime’s “4th Division” and “Republican Guard” have arrived in Quneitra – and particularly the Hadar area – to begin a military campaign in the north of the governorate.
Russia’s permanent envoy to the UN, Vasily Nebenzya, has affirmed that an agreement has been reached for the withdrawal of Iranian forces from Syria’s south, which is expected to be implemented over the coming days.
According to a report from the news outlet al-Sharq al-Awsat, which cited a Russian official on Friday 1 June, the agreement has curtailed the role of Iranian military personnel and led to some withdrawing from southern Syria. However, Russia sees the issue of an Iranian exit as requiring time and arrangement, and has proposed only a partial withdrawal from the south.
The “Southern Front” called in its statement for a timetable for an Iranian withdrawal from the south and for this to be binding.
The statement rejected any agreement for opening the Nasib border crossing with Jordan unless complying with “the conditions of the revolution, its sovereignty, and its institutions”. The statement also rejected the displacement of militants and civilians from the south, whatever the pretext, as has occurred in other Syrian regions.
One of the terms suggested by the statement was preparation to establish a locally trained force tasked with monitoring violations.
The coalition demanded that the process of reaching a political settlement be sped up in accordance with the Geneva recommendations and international law. Also demanded was the release of all detainees and the immediate return of people forcefully displaced to their homes without conditions.
In recent days the leadership of the “Free Syrian Army” in Daraa has threatened Assad’s forces with turning the area into a “grave” for their soldiers in the event that they launched a military operation.
Meanwhile, the leader of the “Usoud al-Sunna Division”, Abu Umar al-Zaghloul, warned of the spreading of false media reports, saying that “the reigime’s media machine has tried to trample upon and weaken the spirit and morale of our people in the south”.