Opposition fighters in the southern Syrian province of Daraa have launched a renewed offensive against regime forces and loyalist militias, capturing checkpoints, a tank and allegedly a crossing on the Jordanian border as the regime continues to conduct a siege on the area.
Over the past month, the Syrian regime’s Fourth Division has laid siege to the district of Daraa Al-Balad and enforced a blockade, attempting to bring it to heel and fully reinstate its security apparatus in the southern province which it recaptured in 2018.
Last week, a deal was struck between the Daraa Central Committee and regime officers, in an agreement that would have given Damascus limited control over the area with semi-autonomous local rule, and would have lifted the siege in return for the handing-in of arms held by some residents.
That deal and other negotiations broke down, however, resulting in an offensive being launched by regime forces on Wednesday. The ensuing bombardment of the area killed dozens of civilians and forced families to flee from their neighbourhoods, before the regime further tightened its checkpoints and prevented anyone else from leaving.
Many young men in Daraa Al-Balad have consequently taken up arms, with a lightly-armed militia being formed, announcing it was ready to confront regime forces.
"We are the sons of Horan, from its north to its south, from its east to its west, we are all Daraa al-Balad. If the decision is war, we are with her & if the decision is peace then we are with her also, & finally, we are with those that defend our dignity. And God is behind us." pic.twitter.com/i5N8znkhfN
— Oz Katerji (@OzKaterji) July 29, 2021
Following those developments, it has been reported that armed men from the area captured around ten checkpoints from regime forces, killing over seven pro-Assad soldiers and militiamen and capturing around 70 others. They also seized heavy weaponry, a tank, and allegedly the Nasib border crossing on the Jordanian border.
Such moves, particularly the possible capture of the crossing, signify the greatest military developments in the southern province of Daraa since 2018.
The province has long been a thorn in the shoe of the regime, emerging as the birthplace of the Syrian revolution in 2011.
Since the defeat and surrender of opposition forces three years ago, the regime has continuously violated a deal that Al-Assad and his ally Russia struck with the opposition, which offered amnesty to former fighters and implemented a reconciliation process.
At least 98 former opposition fighters in the province have been tortured to death by the regime since then and many more have been disappeared.
Even after it fell to the regime, Daraa remained a bastion of resistance against Al-Assad and its residents have refused to fully cooperate with Damascus’ attempts to rebuild its military presence in the area.
In 2019, for example, residents publicly protested against the erection of a new statue of Bashar al-Assad’s father and predecessor Hafez Al-Assad in Daraa city. In May this year, they also refused to vote in the presidential elections which were labelled as “fraudulent”, protesting in various areas throughout the province.