Tensions simmer in Syria’s Daraa amid increased assassinations
Tensions have increased in the southern Syrian Daraa province amid a rise in killings of former rebels and regime soldiers, as well as continuing protests.
Two former Syrian rebels were killed on Monday while several Syrian regime soldiers were killed and injured in an attack on a checkpoint near the city of Jasem in Daraa province.
Local sources said the exact number of casualties was unknown, noting regime forces had set up more checkpoints around the city and threatened to storm it.
The Assad regime took over the area from Free Syrian Army rebels in July 2018.
One of the ex-rebels who was killed was a commander named Khaled Abu Rukba. He was shot dead by unknown assailants as he left his house in Daraa on Monday evening, local sources told The New Arab. Abu Rukba was a leader of the “Free People of Nawa Group” and had reconciled with the regime in 2018.
He was also a member of a committee of former rebels which negotiated with the regime and Russia regarding reconciliation in Nawa.
Several similar incidents took place last May when four former rebel commanders were killed.
Former opposition activists have also been targeted and Human Rights Watch recently accused the Assad regime of arbitrarily detaining former activists in Daraa.
Rebel groups in Daraa Province signed a reconciliation agreement with the regime following a regime offensive in July 2018. The reconciliation agreement included clauses saying that rebel groups had to join the regime army.
Some Daraa ex-rebels joined a new “Fifth Brigade”, overseen by Russia and were sent to Idlib to fight for the regime.
However, the ex-rebels later accused the regime of deliberately placing them at the forefront of the fighting so they could be killed by there erstwhile comrades, the rebels of Idlib province.
While the reason for the increased killings remains unknown, analysts have pointed towards the end of a six-month moratorium on regime drafting of conscription-age men, which was part of the reconciliation agreement.
This means young men from the area could be detained by the regime and forced to fight in Idlib against opposition forces there.
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