Rebel blitz coming in south
Syria, report says

A pro-Assad newspaper said regime forces were digging in ahead of an expected rebel offensive.

Syrian rebels open fire in the Daraa province. (YouTube/FSA First Army)

BEIRUT – A leading Lebanese pro-Hezbollah newspaper has reported that rebels in southern Syria will soon launch a major offensive in a bid to replicate insurgent successes elsewhere in the country.


“Field data in Daraa and Quneitra indicates that the coming days will bring fierce battles to the southern front,” Al-Akhbar reported Tuesday.


The Lebanese daily’s detailed report on the front, which has been relatively static in recent weeks, said regime forces were digging in along several axes in anticipation of the rebel offensive.


“The [Syrian] army has been working to establish defensive lines, especially in the town of Izraa and its environs to fortify Damascus from the south,” the pro-Damascus daily said in an unusual report for its coverage that normally plays up regime victories as opposed to defensive measures.


“The Al-Nusra Front and [rebel factions] are preparing an attack on the strategic base of the [Syrian army’s] 52nd Brigade in the town of Harak, east of the Daraa-Damascus highway,” Al-Akhbar said.


The report added that the armed opposition would also aim to attack the city of Daraa in a bid to completely seize the provincial capital.


Further to the west, Al-Akhbar reported that rebels were expected to attack the base of the 68th Brigade base near the town of Khan al-Shih on the Quneitra-Damascus highway, as well the town of Hadar on the foothills of Mount Hermon.


Al-Akhbar cited a source as saying that various rebel groups are being “injected with militants in order to distribute newly [acquired] skills among all the factions,” in reference to the alleged presence of fighters trained outside Syria.


Another reason this step is being taken, according to the source, is “to ensure the unification of efforts and prevent infighting during preparations to attack [Syrian] army positions.”


“Signs of preparation confirm that the attack will begin at the earliest opportunity.”


Regime defenses


The report went into detail on the regime’s efforts to shore up its defensive measures ahead of the expected rebel campaign.


“Trench digging and fortification work has been going on for three weeks in the villages close to the [Syrian] army positions at the Thaala airbase and the 52nd Brigade [base],” a military source told Al-Akhbar.


According to the daily, the base is one of the “strongest on the southern front in terms of armament and geographic [position] as it connects the outskirts of Daraa and Suweida, and along with the Thaala Airbase, forms the first line of defense for Suweida.”


The report said that a rebel seizure of the regiment’s base would pave the way for an attack on the city of Daraa, as well as the town of Izraa to the north which lies along the key Damascus-Daraa highway. 


“The Syrian army has been working to strengthen its forces in Izraa to form a defensive line [south of] Damascus.”


Earlier in the spring, rebel coalition the Southern Front notched two major successes against regime forces, seizing the town of Bosra al-Sham on March 25 and then the Nasib border crossing the following week.


The rebels then turned back a regime offensive on the town of Busr al-Hariri on April 25, and have since launched a number of limited probing offensives against the Syrian army’s defensive lines south of the capital.


Conspiracy theories


Al-Akhbar, which strongly supports Damascus, mirrored the Syrian regime’s official line that foreign powers were providing direct operational support to armed opposition groups.


The report reiterated the daily’s previous allegations that rebel campaigns in southern Syria were supervised by a Jordanian Military Operation Command (MOC) in coordination with Israeli, Gulf and US assistance.


According to Al-Akhbar, Syrian and Hezbollah intelligence has gathered information that “the MOC intended to direct the terrorists to occupy the city of Daraa in its entirety.”


A political source told the paper that “the decision to [take] Daraa is subject to interplay [between] Jordanian, Israel [and the] Gulf [states].”


“Jordan is reluctant to support the toppling of [government forces in] the city, [which would] open up all of southern [Syria] to the terrorists, along [Jordan’s] northern border.”


Meanwhile, a security source said that “the decision to attack Daraa has been postponed until after the end of Syria’s official secondary school examinations, which began yesterday, because of pressure from villagers.”


The daily also alleged in its report that “in the past two weeks, approximately 1000 armed men from training centers in Saudi Arabia and Jordan have entered southern Syria in two batches, the latest one three days ago, where 500 armed men entered an armed base in eastern Daraa.”


The Syrian government, including President Bashar al-Assad himself, has said repeatedly that Turkey directly assisted the Army of Conquest rebel coalition in its string of victories against regime forces in northwest Syria’s Idlib, which fell into the hands of the opposition last week. 

Syrian rebels open fire in the Daraa province. (YouTube/FSA First Army)

Signs of preparation confirm that the attack will begin at the earliest opportunity.