Syria regime launches major
assault on Daraa town

Russian jets have reportedly conducted around 40 bombing raids around Sheikh al-Maskeen.

Syrian rebels shell regime forces attacking Sheikh al-Maskeen. (YouTube/Houran Mujahideen)

BEIRUT - The Syrian regime has launched a major offensive backed by heavy Russian airstrikes on a rebel-held town in the southern Daraa province.


The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights on Monday morning reported that fierce clashes were raging around Sheikh al-Maskeen, hours after rebels in the town went on high-alert to prepare for a regime onslaught.


The pro-opposition SMART News outlet said that the regime in past days had been mobilizing troops from the nearby 15th Brigade base in Izraa as well as the 9th Division base in Sanamayn to launch a large offensive into Sheikh al-Maskeen, after a series of smaller clashes around the area in the past two months.


Other anti-regime outlets echoed SMART’s report, while the pro-Damascus Al-Masdar News online website claimed that a “large convoy of reinforcements” from the 5th Armored Division had arrived outside the Daraa town.


Amid the military build-up, a spokesperson for the Free Syrian Army-affiliated Southern Front coalition’s Houran Martyrs Brigade told SMART that his faction had announced a state of complete mobilization starting Sunday.


Harbi Mohammad added that another Southern Front group, the First Corps, will join the Houran Martyrs Brigade in its effort to hold back the attack by regime forces on the town, stressing their “readiness to repulse the military campaign.”


A video purports to show Syrian regime troops in action outside Sheikh al-Maskeen early Monday. (YouTube/Souria al-Hadath)


Heavy fighting erupted at dawn Monday between rebel factions on one side and government forces as well as pro-regime militias, according to the SOHR.


Both pro-opposition news sources as well as the Mulhak outlet that supports Hezbollah claimed that the Lebanese militant party’s troops were taking part in the offensive on Sheikh al-Maskeen.


“Regime forces were able to advance in the town’s northern quarter and… regain control complete control,” the Observatory said,


The monitoring NGO added that the regime’s large offensive had been accompanied by a withering aerial bombardment conducted by Russian jets that pummeled the town with approximately 40 airstrikes.



Smoke rises over Sheikh al-Maskeen Monday following a purported Russian airstrike. (YouTube/Qasioun News)


The Observatory aldo said it had received “confirmed information about human losses in the ranks of the two sides.”


A leading pro-Syrian regime newspaper touted the Sheikh al-Maskeen offensive on Monday morning, saying that troops mobilized in the nearby Izraa would aim to wrest the Daraa town back from the control of rebels.


Al-Watan said the town was “distinguished by its strategic importance, which comes from its proximity to the international Damascus- Amman Highway, as well as its proximity to the town of Izraa and the villages of Al-Saheeliya and Al-Deli.”


The Syrian regime last launched a major battle for Sheikh al-Maskeen in November 2014, however the Southern Front coalition and Nusra Front rebels turned the offensive back and asserted full control over the town.


The Southern Front, however, in recent months has been hit by a number of setbacks, with its offensive to seize Daraa city grinding to a halt while reports emerged that it has lost support from foreign states that previously backed it.


On September 6, Al-Quds al-Arabi said that the US-run Military Operation Center (MOC) based in Jordan had “stopped all financial assistance to the Southern Front for the moment after it failed to take control of Daraa.”


The MOC, which is said to be directed by the CIA and a number of Washington’s allies in the region, had been supporting and supervising the FSA-affiliated Southern Front’s campaign in the Daraa province, according to reports.

The rebel coalition’s latest offensive in early December to take a regime base in the town of Jidyah also ended in failure, while Russia has reportedly increased the tempo of its airstrikes in southern Syria.


NOW's English news desk editor Albin Szakola (@AlbinSzakola) wrote this report. Ullin Hope translated the Arabic-language source material.

Syrian rebels shell regime forces attacking Sheikh al-Maskeen. (YouTube/Houran Mujahideen)

Regime forces were able to advance in the town’s northern quarter and… regain control complete control.