Three Stages Mark Assad’s Forces Incursion into Southern Syria

Assad’s forces troops at al-Nassib border crossing after controlling it – July 6, 2018 (Reuters)

Assad’s forces troops at al-Nassib border crossing after controlling it – July 6, 2018 (Reuters)


Assad’s forces and allied militias have entered Southern Syria, 17 days after the ground attack was launched and the negotiation rounds that accompanied it, in which Russia was a major player that after all managed to impose the Syrian regime’s military vision on the area and won control over its future.

Major changes have been witnessed by Southern Syria in the past days, the rapid tempo of which was not expected, for Assad’s forces progress to the opposition-held areas was different from the scenario that happened in other fronts, as they managed to go deep in vast areas in the eastern countryside of Daraa, which later shifted to reconciliation deals that led to the successive fallout of many areas at the disadvantage of the opposition factions spreading there.

Coinciding with the battles, the negotiation rounds between the factions and Russians have taken over the political landscape in Southern Syria. Numbered five, the last of the negotiation sessions was the most resolute as it ended with a deal providing for Assad’s forces and Russian police entry to the opposition-held areas, after the latter gave up their light, medium and heavy weaponry and the departure of those who do not approve the deal to Northern Syria.

The sealed agreement resembles, to a large extent, that of Eastern Ghouta, the northern countryside of Homs and the neighborhoods of Old Aleppo in 2016, starting from military escalation in each of these areas and ending with an agreement providing for the opposition factions’ “surrender” at the advantage of the Syrian regime and its allies.


Three Stages

A complete cease-fire is the deal’s number one provision. Most of the cities and towns of the eastern countryside of Daraa and the neighborhoods of Daraa al-Balad enjoyed a state of calm after the principal terms of the deal were leaked. The deal is to be implemented in three stages. The first of these stages started on July 6, with Assad’s forces and the Russian police’s entry to al-Nassib Border Crossing, years after the opposition’s control over it.

Thee second stage begins with Assad’s forces and allied militias progress from al-Nassib crossing towards the Khrab al-Shahem area, to be followed by a third stage, through which the latter’s hegemony extends from Khrab al-Shahme to the surrounding of al-Yarmouk Basin and to the borders of the city of Nawa, Daraa’s western rural part.

On July 6, Assad’s forces announced full control over al-Nassib Border Crossing, and the Syrian Regime’s official media have published videos, showing the admission of dozens of the regime’s troops entry to the area, where the regime’s flag was flown.

The spokesperson of “al-Bunyan al-Marsoos” Operation room, known as “Abu Shaimaa”, said that the current deal includes the opposition-held areas from Bosra al-Sham to the Yarmouk Basin, while the rest of the opposition-held areas in the western countryside of Daraa and Quneitra are kept outside the deal.

Portions of the opposition fighters who refused to reconcile, legalize their status, with the Syrian regime headed the list of the deal’s terms that provided for the spread of Russian police in the areas to which Assad’s forces have advanced in Daraa, the first of these areas are al-Jiza, Kiheel, al-Sahwah and al-Musayfirah.

The deal also includes the displaced people’s return to their cities and towns which they fled, on the condition that Nassib border is run mutually, under a Russian supervision, in addition to raising the flag of the Syrian regime alone.

As for the dissidents and prosecuted people, the deal provides for legalizing their status within a time frame that will be defined later and the spread of Assad’s forces in their positions prior to 2011 under the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force agreement in Golan Highest.

The terms also provide for handing over heavy and light weaponry of the factions in a gradual manner while Daraa governorate is to be entirely run by the Syrian regime, with the participation of the personalities who have already legalized their status.

The military fronts were covered by the deal by placing the military road between the eastern and western countryside of Daraa governorate under the ultimate control of Assad’s forces.

The al-Nassib Border Crossing importance for the Syrian regime lies in the advantages of controlling it, for the regime will be able to rebuild its economic relations with Jordan and thus ease the siege suffocating it, which also gives it back its legitimacy for having control of the borders and the border crossings.

At an economic level, the regime is seeking a way to export its products to the Jordanian and gulf markets, in addition to achieving massive financial revenues and supplementing its treasury with foreign currency through custom fees at the borders and transit through the entry of Jordanian and Lebanese trucks to Syria.

Quneitra Left out of the Deal

According to the deal’s terms, the north-western countryside of Daraa and Quneitra governorate are out of the sealed agreement. Sources, informed of the negotiations, have told Enab Baladi that the terms were forwarded to concerned leaders in the mentioned areas.

The sources explained that the north-western countryside of Daraa has approved to be part of the negotiation process, especially the cities of Inkhil, Jasim, and all the area of al-Jaidour. However, the agreement did not correspond to a definite answer, for it was not decided whether they will be repeating the scenario agreed upon in the eastern countryside or they will be conducting another deal in relation to terms or manner of implementation.

Quneitra, nonetheless, did not interact; it did not join the negotiations or approve the eastern countryside’s agreement. According to sources, Quneitra’s future is linked to the Russian-Israeli understandings, unlike Daraa governorate concerning which America has given Russia the green light to enter, after it took its hands off the factions there completely.

A few hours after the shelling, Quneitra witnessed a crossfire between the area’s active factions and Assad’s forces, which in the past days have mobilized troops at the opposite direction, considering these confrontations an indicator to the disapproval of the agreement.

Earlier, Quentira factions formed a unified operation room, titled “al-Nasr al-Mubeen”, saying that it is there to protect the “liberated” areas from the military campaigns that aim to displace the area’s people.

A number of opposition factions are active in Quneitra, including “Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham”, “Division 404”, “Salah al-Deen Brigades”, “First Infantry Division”, “Quneitra Martyrs Brigade”, “Alwiya al-Furqan” and “Harakat Ahrar al-Sham al-Islamiyya”.

What Fate Awaits “Khalid ibn al-Walid Army”?

With the increasing talks about the finalization of Southern Syria’s file in favor of Assad’s forces and Russia, the fate of the areas controlled by “Khalid ibn al-Walid Army”, affiliated to the “Islamic State”, remains unknown, especially that Assad’s forces assert that they will be controlling the areas adjacent to their areas of control under the sealed agreement.

The faction’s areas of control have in the past a few days witnessed several military movements, starting with military parades, in Yarmouk Basin, to the camps its constructed for the newly enrolled young men following the opposition area’s collapse into the hands of Assad’s forces.

In a video, published by “Amaaq” Agency on July 4, the faction appears as preparing its military vehicles and machines, in addition to dozens of troops while on a training camp.

A military leader of “Khalid Army” has through the same video called on the people in Daraa to stick to its troops there, pointing out to an operation that it might launch in the upcoming days.

However, the on-ground conditions show that “Khalid Army” is not willing to start any military operation against Assad’s forces in the few next days after they took over the points at the frontlines; rather, it will fortify its principal fronts to combat any possible offensive, through which it managed to abort all the attacks on the part of the opposition factions and their attempts to break into the area in the past years.

The faction has controlled the majority of the towns in the Yarmouk Basin after it conducted a blitz attack last February, due to which it took over towns and hills, on top of which are Saham al-Jawlan, Tasil, Tall Jumu`. Its fighters are positioned in the areas of Yarmouk Basin, and the two border towns of Jumlah and Abdin, at the borders with the occupied Golan Heights, in addition to al-Qusayr and Koayiahat at the borders with Jordan.

Earlier this year, the faction has opened the Jillen-Masaken Jillen, on June 27, according to a deal with the opposition factions, functioning in the western countryside of Daraa.

“Khalid Army” intends to utilize hosting the displaced people to gain the popular incubator, especially after the opposition factions’ retreat from Daraa in favor of Assad’s forces.

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