Syria regime continues IS offensive following Suweida massacre criticism

Syria regime continues IS offensive following Suweida massacre criticism
Syrian regime forces have continued their assault on IS territories in Daraa and launched strikes on a jihadi enclave neighbouring Suweida.
3 min read
29 July, 2018
Syrian regime troops have launched a huge offensive in southern Syria [Getty]

Syrian regime forces have continued their offensive on Islamic State group fighters in southern Syria, according to state media, after the bloody massacre of civilians in Druze villages earlier this week led to sharp criticism of the government's handling of security.

Syrian troops and allied militias recently launched two assaults on IS forces in the Yarmouk Valley area of Daraa province and a smaller enclave in the Badiya al-Sham region.

The latter was the launch pad for the killing of more than 200 people in Suweida of Wednesday, most of them civilians.

Pro-regime outlet al-Masdar reported an assault by government soldiers and militias in the Safa mountains area, in Badiya al-Sham - the Syrian Desert region.

The offensive was launched by the Syrian army and National Defence Forces militias on Saturday, where a small group of IS fighters are holed up, after the regime evacuated the militants from Damascus to the desert region in May.

Regime air raids were launched on IS positions in the mountains, which lie close to Suweida - a province populated mostly by the Druze religious minority.

This was the area IS forces launched their bloody assault on Druze villages and the provincial capital on Wednesday, massacring more than 220 people, including a large number of children.

Bashar al-Assad's regime has been widely criticised across the political spectrum in Syria for the security lapse.

Read also: The 'neutral' Druze sheikh angering Syria's regime

IS fighters were able to enter Suweida completely unopposed with all regime checkpoints and security forces pulled out of the area following a regime offensive on rebels in Daraa and Quneitra provinces.

Villagers were forced to take up arms and fight off the militants themselves.

Regime troops only entering the area after the last IS fighters had been killed by armed locals and Druze militias.

Suweida residents have questioned how the regime could allow the transfer of the band of hardened IS fighters to an area with no security and that borders the heavily Druze populated Suweida province.

The religious minority have been regularly targeted by extremists throughout the war for their religious beliefs, including IS who view them as infidels.

Some have suggested that the Syrian regime allowed the massacre to take place as revenge for the Druze population's largely neutral stance during the war, or to attract sympathy from the international community.

A huge regime assault on rebel areas of southern Syria also left the IS enclave in the Yarmouk Valley largely untouched, until the government took control of Daraa and Quneitra provinces from the opposition.

Syrian regime troops and militia fighters have stepped up their campaign against the IS territory in recent days, capturing eight villages and towns in the valley, SANA reported on Saturday.

Footage showed government armoured divisions - backed by infantry units that included child soldiers - taking control of villages devastated by recent fighting on the weekend.