As violence proliferates in Syria's south, cracks appear in regime-held areas
Daraa and Suweida provinces in Syria saw casualties on Wednesdays as residents fought pro-regime militias in Suweida, while Assad's regime forces shelled Daraa, leaving over a dozen wounded and at least 18 dead.
In Daraa, regime forces shelled the city of Tafas in northern Daraa, wounding at least four and killing one. Residents demonstrated in the city, chanting, "We will not retreat, we will not retreat."
The shelling came after an escalating standoff between the regime and Daraa's residents.
On 24 July, the regime demanded that a list of people wanted for arrest be handed over. Residents refused, and the regime issued a 48-hour deadline.
After the deadline passed, regime reinforcements were sent to the outskirts of Tafas, cutting off the city from the rest of the province.
On Wednesday, shelling began in Tafas and al-Yadouda, according to the local media monitor, Horan Free League.
On Thursday, a deal was struck between representatives of Tafas and regime officials for a ceasefire.
Individuals wanted by the regime would be expelled from Tafas in exchange for the withdrawal of regime troops from the city.
The violence in Daraa came at the heels of intense clashes in the neighbouring province of Suweida.
Local militias clashed with regime-backed militias on Wednesday after a series of kidnappings at the hands of the latter widespread anger in Suweida.
A local Druze militia, "The Men of Dignity", stormed the headquarters of the regime-affiliated Dawn Forces, killing and arresting the members inside.
"The Dawn Forces" were led by Raji Falhout, a figure reviled by the local population for his alleged role in kidnappings, murder and drug trafficking in the province.
Residents cheered after The Men of Dignity routed Falhout's militia – though it remains unclear whether or not Falhout was captured.
Videos circulated on social media appeared to show drug-making equipment in Falhout's home, as well as a government-issued ID card showing his affiliation with the regime's security forces. The regime has denied any involvement with Falhout and The New Arab could not independently verify any of these claims.
Both Daraa and Suweida share a cycle of violence for years.
Daraa has suffered from a continual spate of assassinations and kidnappings between the regime and Iran-backed militias on one side and former opposition elements on the other. Despite the regime's attempts to reconquer the area in the summer of 2021, security conditions have continually degraded.
Meanwhile, in Suweida, the same process of retaliatory violence has been ongoing since 2018. The province, which largely managed to stay out of the country's civil war, has been plagued by armed gangs, largely suspected to be acting on Damascus' behalf.
In response, local armed groups such as the Men of Dignity and the Anti-Terrorism Force, have sprung up to create some semblance of order. These militias have been limited by their unwillingness to provoke a greater response by Damascus, and have not had a consistent presence in the area.
In both provinces, the worsening economic conditions of Syria have exacerbated conditions as of late. In Daraa, one young man complained about the rising cost of living as he watched the regime's shelling.
"There are people in this country that can't find a bundle of bread. Now it costs 500 lira … The situation is frightening from several directions," Jihad Abou Ghassan, the Daraa resident, said in a video on Wednesday.