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Syria rebels face
Daraa obstacles

An FSA official said armed opposition groups in southern Syria made a number of mistakes in their conduct of the Daraa battle.

Smoke rises over Daraa. (YouTube/Smart News)

BEIRUT – Syrian rebels engaged in heavy back-and-forth fighting with regime forces in Daraa have faced a number of operational challenges in their bid to seize the southern city.

 

On Thursday, the Southern Front—a coalition of Free Syrian Army-affiliated brigades as well as the Islamist Ahrar al-Sham and Al-Nusra Front—launched a wide-scale offensive on the city, with a withering opening bombardment.

 

The battle, entitled Southern Storm, saw the armed opposition—which controls southern parts of Daraa—claim a number of initial victories, however casualties began to quickly mount among their ranks as pro-government forces put up a fierce resistance.

 

A member of the FSA’s Higher Military Council blasted the rebel coalition’s conduct of the battle in an interview with Alaraby Aljadeed.

 

“The factions taking part in the battle thought it would be easy, like the previous battles they entered in rural [Daraa],” Ayman al-Aasimi told the London-based daily on Monday.

 

“They didn't realize fighting in cities is not the same thing as fighting in the countryside.”

 

“Usage of heavy weapons like rocket launchers and heavy artillery is being restricted because regime forces are deployed among civilian housing,” he added.

 

“There are around 100,000 civilians in the city.”

 

“Big military mistake”

 

An Ahrar al-Sham video shows the Islamist group's fighters engaged in clashes in Daraa. (YouTube)

 

Aasimi also told the paper that FSA forces had made a “big military mistake” by failing to predict the tactics used by the regime.

The rebel fighters had thought that closing the Daraa-Damascus international highway would force the regime to use the Izraa-Khirbet Ghazaleh road, the FSA spokesperson said. However, the regime did not act as expected, instead using a farm road, which has proved difficult to observe and close.

 

As a result supply lines between Izraa, where the regime maintains a major base south of Damascus, and Daraa have remained open.

 

Aasimi said he believe the attack should have started with the occupation of Khirbet al-Ghazaleh—a town 15 kilometers northeast of the provincial capital—to ensure the severing of all supply lines into Daraa.

 

He also said that an assault on a checkpoint north of Daraa had failed due to poor usage of heavy weaponry, resulting in the death of an entire attack company.

 

“The leaders of all the factions agreed on Sunday to resume the battle using new [tactics] to make up for the mistakes.”

 

Southern Front commander vows battle to continue

 

A compilation video shows rebels operating around Daraa. (YouTube/SMART News)

 

Despite the challenges faced by the rebels, an operational commander in the Southern Front said the armed opposition would make the necessary adjustments to achieve victory.

 

“The progress of the fighting has not stopped. Southern Storm command is in the phase of re-evaluating the battle and overcoming certain setbacks,” Khaled Nabulsi told the pro-rebel Zaman al-Wasl outlet.

 

“This is a natural matter in war with the emergence of certain variables, and surprises that can take place in the heat of battle,” he added.

 

The commander also said the battle was “ongoing, even if its intensity has subsided for a few hours,” in reference to the deceleration of clashes between Sunday and Monday as the battlefronts in Daraa solidified.

 

“This is so that mistakes can be reexamined and obstacles overcome in order to follow up work and put backup plans in place in light of the new developments.”

 

Southern Front unveil new rocket

 

Syrian rebels showcase the new rocket they purportedly used to target a regime HQ in Daraa on Monday. (YouTube)

 

Amid their battles with regime forces, rebels in Daraa unveiled a new surface-to-surface missile and claimed to have destroyed a government HQ with the weapon in the southern city.

 

“The central operations room of the Southern Storm promised surprises, and now several FSA factions based in the Engineering and Rockets battalion, have revealed a new locally-made weapon,” opposition spokesperson Abu Qusay told the rebel-affiliated Syrian Media Office outlet late Monday.

 

“A surface-to-surface rocket weighing 1,500 kg…they have called it: the storm.”

 

“Today, several hours ago, those factions targeted the Assad army’s operations and control… room in the Manshiya area.”

 

“[Regime forces] were heard over the radio, and we learnt as a result that there was complete destruction of the [operations] room.”

“[We also learnt that] there were deaths and injuries. The size of the plume of smoke shows the destructive force of the rocket.”

 

The rebels published a video showing the rocket being loaded into a launcher and the large blast it caused in the city’s Manshiya area.

 

A field source told the activist Syria Mubasher Network that the strike on the operations room had killed 40 regime forces members.

Smoke rises over Daraa. (YouTube/Smart News)

The leaders of all the factions agreed on Sunday to resume the battle using new [tactics] to make up for the mistakes.