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Hezbollah, Iran back south Syria offensive

Reportedly over 4500 regime troops, including hundreds of Hezbollah and Iranian fighters, have been deployed as part of the campaign.

Smoke rises over Syria

BEIRUT – Syrian forces backed by Hezbollah and Iranian fighters have launched a wide-ranging offensive outside Damascus stretching to Quneitra and Daraa in a bid to secure the regime's southern front.

 

Pro- and anti-Syrian regime media outlets all touted the offensive, with pan-Arab daily Al-Quds al-Arabi reporting Monday that “Syrian army troops backed by fighters from Hezbollah and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards [launched] a vast battle in southern Syria.”

 

Lebanese daily As-Safir—which supports Hezbollah and the Syrian regime—dubbed the offensive “statement number two” in reference to Hezbollah’s “statement number one” claiming the January 28 attack on an Israeli patrol along the Lebanese border, which came as a reprisal to an Israeli airstrike in the Syrian Golan that killed 12 Hezbollah and Iranian operatives.

 

“The Syrian army unleashed with Hezbollah and Iranian volunteers a large scale military operation in the southern front, which might be a prelude to a further massive counterattack,” As-Safir said of the southern front offensive.

 

Al-Quds al-Arabi cited rebel groups as saying that the Syrian army deployed “over 4500 fighters, including hundreds of Hezbollah members and Iranian [volunteers].”

 

“Also, military convoys formed of around 50 tanks and troop carriers, in addition to dozens of vehicles equipped with anti-aircraft weapons arrived to the area in preparation for military operations.”

 

A source close to the FSA told Al-Quds al-Arabi that the Syrian army handed over lead supervision of the battle to a joint Hezbollah-Revolutionary Guards operations command.

 

The main goal of the regime offensive is to cut lines of communication between rebel held areas southwest of Damascus and Quneitra and Daraa, where insurgents have made advances in recent months, the London-based daily reported.

 

It added that regime troops also aimed to seize the strategic hill outside Harrah—east of the Golan—which was taken by rebels in October 2014.

 

Hezbollah’s Al-Manar television hosted a military analyst who said the Syrian operation sought to “paralyze Al-Nusra Front in Quneitra and Daraa” and cut off insurgent lines leading to Jordan.

 

The Al-Manar report called the Syrian regime operation “the largest” of recent military bids in the region, but made no mention of Hezbollah or Iranian troops taking part in it.

 

Another analyst told the station that regime artillery units backed by fighter jet strikes hit targets in Mashara, directly east of Quneitra, and Harrah, to cut off rebels in Daraa from the Golan.

 

On Tuesday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that the coalition of pro-Assad fighters had seized a village southwest of Damascus on the front north of Quneitra.

 

“Regime forces backed by Hezbollah and Iranian fighters advanced along the western Rif Damascus [front] and seized control of Danaji village near Deir Maker,” the monitor said

 

Pro-regime militia troops alongside Hezbollah and Iranian fighters also clashed Monday outside the town of Dayr al-Adas, east of the Golan on a road leading to Daraa in the south.

 

The new regime offensive against insurgents in southern Syria comes weeks after Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah stressed in an interview with Al-Mayadeen that the Golan front with Israel was linked to Hezbollah's front with Israel in Lebanon.

 

In his televised speech on January 30, Nasrallah accused Israel of backing Al-Nusra Front in the Syrian Golan, calling the Al-Qaeda-linked group a proxy army for Tel Aviv.

Smoke rises over Syria's Quneitra. (AFP/Jack Guez)

The Syrian army unleashed with Hezbollah and Iranian volunteers a large scale military operation in the southern front.