Three military moves by “Eighth Brigade” … efforts to increase its strength
Enab Baladi – Ali Darwish
The “settlement” agreement signed in July 2018 led the Syrian regime forces to regain control of Daraa province and increased the Russian influence in the governorate through the joining of the “Shabab al-Sunna” (Sunni Youth) faction of the former “Free Syrian Army (FSA)” led by commander Ahmed al-Awda to the Russian formed “Fifth Corps” under the name of the “Eighth Brigade.”
The reconciliation agreement contained several terms, the most important of which is integrating opposition fighters into the “Fifth Corps,” which has encountered difficulties, particularly in the western Daraa countryside.
The “Eighth Brigade” is viewed negatively due to its affiliation to Russia and its elements’ participation in the regime forces’ military operations against the opposition areas in northwestern Syria, from which al-Awda and his faction left.
Nevertheless, the presence of the “Eighth Brigade” has led to prominent military events in Daraa province in recent days.
A mediator to stop the shelling of eastern al-Karak
The “Eighth Brigade” has taken part in a raid and search campaign in al-Karak town in eastern Daraa countryside looking for wanted figures, which led to ending tension in the area.
The campaign was conducted according to a meeting with a delegation of al-Karak dignitaries, leaders from the “Eighth Brigade,” and the security committee of Daraa city, led by major general Hussam Luka on 11 November.
The assembled parties reached an agreement that allowed the Syrian regime forces to search 17 houses within the town.
On 8 November, former FSA fighters attacked a checkpoint of the regime’s air force intelligence. In the attack, the fighters captured the soldiers in the security barrier and seized their weapons in response to an attempted incursion and sweep of neighborhoods in Daraa al-Balad, during which the regime’s forces bombarded the town of al-Karak with artillery shells.
After that, the regime forces brought military reinforcements, including tanks, vehicles, and troop carriers, to the town’s surroundings, prevented people from entering and leaving its checkpoints, and demanded the release of its soldiers and weapons.
A well-informed source in the “Eighth Brigade” told Enab Baladi that on 10 November, the fighters in al-Karak had handed over the regime’s captives, after the “Eighth Brigade” mediation between the two sides; however, the regime demanded back the checkpoints’ 20 pieces of weapons and ammunition.
On 11 November, the al-Karak fighters repelled the regime’s attempt to break into the town, after clashes between the two sides, before entering negotiations and allowing the regime forces to search.
Eighth Brigade withdrawal of military posts ended tension with As-Suwayda
The “Eighth Brigade” withdrew its military posts in al-Qarya town in the southern As-Suwayda countryside on the administrative border of Daraa province on 9 November.
The withdrawal came as the first point of agreement between dignitaries from Daraa and As-Suwayda governorates in southern Syria. The agreement resulted from negotiations between the two provinces’ prominent citizens on handing over points to the As-Suwayda residents only, not to any other military authorities, in addition to other terms.
Through the withdrawal move, the “Eighth Brigade” managed to end the tension with the residents and the local factions of As-Suwayda, as the land from which the “Eighth Brigade” withdrew was the cause of the clashes that took place last September due to its historical symbolism to the people of As-Suwayda. Besides, the positioning of al-Awda forces in the area was provoking to the people of As-Suwayda, according to what the civil activist Ahed Murad pointed out previously to Enab Baladi.
An attempt to merge with former local opposition factions
On 5 November, representatives of the “central committees” in Daraa met with some dignitaries and leaders of the Fifth Corps in al-’Ash’ari town in western Daraa countryside to consult on forming a unified committee to represent the governorate.
Al-Awda talked about the formation of a “unified army” for the Hauran region in Daraa, during a speech on 23 June, during the condolences of delegations from Hauran for the death of fighters after the bombing of a military transport bus belonging to the “Fifth Corps.”
In his speech, al-Awda said, “soon, Hauran will be unified as one entity, one body, and one army, and this formation will not be for the protection of Hauran only but will serve as the strongest tool to protect Syria.”
A member of the central committee from the western region, who asked Enab Baladi not to be mentioned, said earlier that the meeting was “preparatory and consultative to form a unified body for all Daraa areas,” and that the official statement of the new formation announcement would be soon.
Researcher at the “European University” and the “Middle East” Institute, who specializes in South Syrian dynamics, Abdullah al-Jabasini, said to Enab Baladi that the formation of a unified committee would enhance the strength of the “Eighth Brigade”, its legitimacy, and attraction of several former opposition fighters, along with military service deserters and evaders. Al-Jabasini added, “the new force is expected to reduce Iran’s activity in southern Syria significantly.”
The “Eighth Brigade” competes with the regime’s military and security forces in terms of influence and control. Leaders and elements among the brigade were subjected to assassination attempts, most notably the targeting of a troops transport bus last June and the targeting of the central committee convoy in Daraa’s western countryside, injuring one of the brigade’s leaders last May.
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