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Regime preparing new south Syria offensive

"The regime, Lebanon’s Hezbollah and IRGC groups assisted by Russian air cover are preparing for a gigantic and ferocious battle over the coming days."

Tel al-Hara hilltop. (image via dawdaa.com)

BEIRUT – The Syrian regime backed by Hezbollah has begun to mobilize troops for a major offensive in a triangle of territory stretching from the southern outskirts of Damascus down to Quneitra in the southwest and Daraa in the southeast.

 

Known commonly in Arabic-language media as the “triangle of death,” this stretch of land has been the focus of a number of regime offensives, including a major one in February that was directed by Hezbollah and Iran.

 

The February campaign, however, made little headway amid the heavy winter storms that buffeted the region.

 

Now, weeks after Russia began airstrikes on behalf of the Bashar al-Assad regime, government forces are once again readying an offensive in southern Syria, according to rebel sources.

 

All4Syria cited a source in the Free Syrian Army-affiliated Southern Front as saying Monday that the regime had started to deploy “large detachments of its forces to more than one front in order to target the point of convergence between the three regions that form the triangle of death (Daraa, Quneitra and western rural Damascus).”

 

The source said that the main objective of the offensive was to seize the Tel al-Hara hilltop, which was captured by rebels in October 2014 during a blistering offensive in the Quneitra province bordering Israel.

 

Russia reportedly maintained a facility at the Tel al-Hara observation base which collected intelligence on Syria’s neighbors. In October 2014, rebels released a video showing documents bearing Russian writing as well as symbols of Russian Military Intelligence’s (GRU) 6th Directorate, which is tasked with signals intelligence. 

 

The Southern Front source, who remained anonymous, also told All4Syria that the current regime build-up has focused on Daraa’s Deir al-Adas area, which lies northwest of rebel lines, as well as the town of Sanamayn, which hosts the Syrian army’s 9th Armored Division.

 

“The regime, Lebanon’s Hezbollah and IRGC groups assisted by Russian air cover are preparing for a gigantic and ferocious battle over the coming days in ‘the triangle of death,’ especially in rural areas of northern Daraa province,” the source warned.

 

Meanwhile, the commander of the FSA-linked Saif al-Sham Brigades in Quneitra told All4Syria that “Hezbollah militias and Afghan mercenaries” had been “summoned by the regime… to several locations in the triangle of death and northern Quneitra.”

 

“Leaked information suggests that these fighters intend to open several fronts as the same time, with the goal of advancing on one of them.”

 

“Also, they have set the strategic Tel al-Hara as the main goal.”

His comments come after Russia in late October began to conduct airstrikes in southern Syria, focusing on the rebel frontlines outside of Tel al-Hara.

 

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported October 29 that what were “believed to be Russian jets” had conducted a series of strikes on the villages of Tel al-Hara, Tal al-Antar, Kafar Nasij and Tal Aqraba, all of which are located approximately 15 kilometers east of the Golan demarcation line.

 

The SOHR report comes after a number of pro-rebel outlets had claimed starting from October 27 that Russian strikes had targeted positions in southern Syria, while Iran’s semi-official Fars News said the strikes took place in the Quneitra province, which borders Israel as well as Daraa.

 

In turn, the pro-Damascus daily Al-Akhbar touted the start of Russia’s aerial campaign in southern Syria, which comes two weeks after Syrian regime forces backed by a sizeable Hezbollah-contingent reversed a rebel offensive in northern Quneitra and gained ground near Israel.

Rebels say regime forces aim to seize the Tel al-Hara hilltop. (image via dawdaa.com)

The regime, Lebanon’s Hezbollah and IRGC groups assisted by Russian air cover are preparing for a gigantic and ferocious battle over the coming days.