Syrian rebels vow 'volcanoes of fire' if Assad launches attack in the south
Syrian rebels in the opposition-held southwest on Tuesday warned that the Syrian regime and Iranian-backed allies would face "volcanoes of fire" if they launched a new offensive.
Syrian regime forces have been massing troops ahead of a possible attack on Daraa province and the nearby Quneitra region that border Jordan and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.
Army helicopters on Tuesday dropped leaflets calling on civilians to help the military clear the area of militants.
"Everyone is on guard. We are still committed to the de-escalation agreement but if the regime launches any attack on any sector of the south, it will be faced by volcanoes of fire," Nassim Abu Arra, commander of one of the main Free Syrian Army groups in southern Syria, the Youth of Sunna Forces, said.
The commander said regime reinforcements arriving in the southwest aimed to pressure the rebels into accepting a reconciliation deal or surrendering key strategic positions such as the Nassib crossing with Jordan.
"But we have made up our minds. There will be no retreat from the principles of the revolution or surrender of a single inch of the Syrian south," he said.
The United States warned last month it would take "firm and appropriate measures" to protect a cease-fire in southern Syria if regime forces move against rebels there.
The region has also been a source of regional tensions between Iran and Israel in recent months.
The United States, Russia, and Jordan agreed last year to include Daraa in a "de-escalation zone" and freeze the lines of conflict there.
But the area has been tense following a series of recent Israeli strikes on Syrian and Iranian forces. Iran is a close ally of Assad, and its advisers are embedded with his troops.
Assad said last week that contacts aimed at reaching a settlement in the volatile area were "ongoing" between the Russians, the US, and the Israelis, adding that the relationship between Syria and Iran "will not be part of any settlement" and is "not in the international bazaar."
There has been speculation that Iran might pull its forces back from near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights in some kind of settlement.