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Signs of Syrian regime’s increasing power in southern province of Daraa

Syrian regime forces' advance in Daraa Governorate - 5 July 2018 (Sputnik)

Syrian regime forces' advance in Daraa Governorate - 5 July 2018 (Sputnik)

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Enab Baladi – Ali Darwish

The military factions of the “ Free Syria Army” in Daraa governorate have maintained a position of power, control, and independence, following the “ settlement” agreement signed with the Syrian regime with a Russian guarantee, in July 2018.

However, there are several signs that reflect the rising influence and control of the Syrian regime in the governorate, benefiting from using the divisive policy among the negotiating committees, which stand for the opposition side.

The Syrian regime did not carry out negotiations with the committees as one entity at the same time but negotiated with each one separately, represented by the central committee in the western countryside in Daraa, and the Daraa al-Balad committee, which is predominantly civilian in nature. Besides, the factions of the eastern Daraa countryside joined the Eight Brigade in the Russian-backed Fifth Corps, which is under the command of Ahmed al-Awda, a former leader in the “ Free Syrian Army (FSA),” the lawyer in the Daraa al-Balad committee, Adnan Masalmeh told Enab Baladi in an earlier interview. 

Calls for a resumption of military service in Syrian regime forces through mosques

The latest indications were that the Syrian regime forces, using mosque loudspeakers in the cities and towns of Daraa on 4 June, called defectors and evaders of the compulsory military service to surrender and re-join the Syrian regime forces, with assurances, that the Syrian regime would not hold them legally accountable, arguing that this will be set up by the amnesty decree by the head of the Syrian regime, Bashar al-Assad, two months ago.

The regime forces demanded from the defectors or their relatives to register their names with the party teams, municipal leaders, or mukhtars, providing that the defectors must rejoin the military unit within a specified time. Then, the military unit will provide them with a letter manifesting that they are no longer wanted or prosecuted by the security services.  

Earlier, “the Fourth Armored Division” has started making contracts with Syrian males wanted by the security forcesdefectors, and draft evaders from the compulsory military service in the Syrian regime forcessince the beginning of this June to re-enlist them among its ranks in the western Daraa countryside, and in return, they will not be pursued by the security services and they have to stay in the area where they are registered. Besides, those defectors and evaders of military service will be recruited under three-month civilian contracts with a salary of 50,000 Syrian pounds (SYP- 20.4 USD). It is worth mentioning that this period of three months is not considered part of the compulsory military service.  

The “Fourth Armored Division” also made promises to its contractors that they will not be prosecuted for security reasons any more in addition to that, it will provide them with security cards to facilitate their movements at the checkpoints.

Change of governors of Daraa 

After 2011, the head of the Syrian regime, Bashar al-Assad, issued a decree appointing Major General Muhammad Khalid al-Hanus as governor of Daraa, in an attempt to calm public anger after a series of demonstrations, as he spent most of his military service in Daraa governorate, and had extensive relations with the people and notables of the city, however, this appointment did not make a major change, due to the regime’s continued security and military dealings with the residents.

Al-Hanus remained governor of Daraa until 30 May 2020. Following rising tensions in Daraa since mid-May, Al- Assad issued a decree on 30 May, stipulating the appointment of Major General Marwan Ibrahim Sharbak, who hails from al-Muzayraa village in Latakia governorate, as governor, succeeding al-Hanus. Sharbak was previously a senior officer of the Republican Guard before he retired after 43-year military service.

Syrian’s regime military reinforcement and direct targeting of the central committee

The Syrian regime began to increase its influence by bringing in military reinforcement and strengthening the checkpoints in the western countryside of Daraa significantly. The regime also brought reinforcements to the checkpoints surrounding Daraa al-Balad in mid-May. Member of the Central Committee, lawyer Adnan Masalmeh, considered, in an interview with Enab Baladi, that these reinforcements are only for pressuring the central committees and not to break into the city.

Reinforcements were also brought from the Syrian capital of Damascus, including launchers, troops, and equipment, part of which was located on Khirbat Ghazala Bridge, east of Dael, and the other in the Daraa suburb, on 14 May. The Syrian regime forces prevented civilians from entering the region, and forced farmers to leave their lands, after spreading within the plains, starting from Tel Othman.

On 25 last May, officers of the Syrian regime forces held a meeting with the central committee, to discuss the situation in the western countryside of Daraa following the military reinforcements. The meeting ended with an agreement to strengthen the checkpoints of the “Fourth Armored Division” in the western Daraa countryside, and to reinforce the checkpoint of “Masaken Jellin” which was controlled by military security, before it was attacked last March. In other words, the Syrian regime is expanding control over the area through the checkpoints.

Three days later, a procession including members of the central committee was ambushed on the road between the towns of al-Ajami and Muzayrib, which resulted in the death of people in the procession, and the injury of Mahmoud al-Bardan, a member of the central committee.

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