Battle rages in province where Syrian revolution 'began'

Battle rages in province where Syrian revolution 'began'
Analysis: Daraa has been one of the epicentres of opposition to the Syrian regime. This week fierce fighting erupted as forces battled for control of the province.
3 min read
16 February, 2015
Syrian regime and Hizballah forces took control of areas of Deir al-Adas city [AFP]

Syria's Daraa province was the scene of heavy fighting this week, after regime forces backed by Hizballah fighters and Iranian soldiers, launched an offensive on opposition groups in the area.

Both sides reportedly drew reinforcements into a battle that resulted in a deadlock.

Daraa is considered to be where the Syrian revolution started. It is where huge protests against the government

     Land is not important to us ... with every inch or metre they advance they lose [a lot of men].

- Abu Osama al-Joulani, Southern Front

began in the province's eponymous main town after the torture and death of a 13-year-old school boy, Hamza al-Khatib, by security forces. 

Fierce fighting

Deir al-Adas, a town in northern Daraa, was the epicenter of the battle. Although the regime announced it had taken control of the town, it later emerged that the military had only managed to capture part of it.

Activists say five Syrian regime, Hizballah and Iranian Revolutionary Guard soldiers were killed during the clashes.

An Islamist rebel group, Alwiya al-Furqan, announced that a regime vehicle was destroyed close to the town during the fighting.

There were also reports that journalists from al-Akhbariya, a pro-regime television channel, were injured while embedded with pro-Damascus forces.

Both sides reinforced their positions on the northern Daraa front. The Southern Front, a rebel alliance, announced the start of a guerrilla campaign against the regime.

"We are not a regular army that defends borders and areas. We operate according to guerrilla warfare," says Abu Osama al-Joulani, a field commander with the group.

"Land is not important to us because they are advancing inch-by-inch and with every inch or metre they advance they lose [a lot of men]."

Despite this, he claimed the group had regained control of four hills and three towns. "The battle will draw on and there will be back and forth fighting. This is how we will proceed."

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based opposition-affiliated monitoring group, reported that there are 5,000 regime-affiliated fighters taking part in operations in the Daraa, with 5,000 additional troops expected to reinforce the west of the province.

Fars, an Iranian news agency, announced the deaths of two Iranian commanders, Ali Soltan Moradi and Abbas Abdullahi, in the town of Kafr Nasej.

Iran is reportedly supporting the Syrian regime with financial and material support, along with officers.

An opposition media group, Nabaa, reported that Iranian officers close to al-Sanamayn city executed 13 soldiers suspected of working with the rebels.

There was also signs of strain within the regime-Iranian alliance.

Qassem Soleimani, commander of the Iranian Quds Force, allegedly stated that southern Syria is under his troops' control.

This sparked an angry response from regime supporters on social media who said that Iran's aid does not mean Damascus is dependent on Tehran.

Protecting the border

Hawks of the South, the largest rebel group in Daraa province, issued a statement saying they would set up a camel-mounted border guard to bolster security on the border with Jordan.

According to the Free Syrian Army group, this will be part of a security nucleus in rebel-held areas to present as an alternative governement to the Assad regime.

"The Hawks of the South has spread itself out over a large part of the border, extending from the west of the town of al-Yadudah until Bosra al-Sham to secure the whole border and prevent extremists from infiltrating the country," said a statement from the group.       

The rebel group has already set up its own police and civil defence forces to provide services to citizens in areas under its commands. 

Its fighters also claim to be inching closer to Damascus.

This article is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.          

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of al-Araby al-Jadeed, its editorial board or staff.