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ISIS affiliate on the march in Daraa

The Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade seized the town of Tasil.

Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade fighters. (image via soutraya.com)

BEIRUT – The Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade has seized a town in southwest Syria in the latest round of fighting between the ISIS affiliate and rebel factions in a stretch of territory near the Golan.

 

“Clashes raged at dawn between the Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade one side and Islamist battalions and other fighting factions in the area around Tasil,” the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported on Monday morning.

 

The monitoring NGO tracking the conflict in war-torn Syria added that the extremist group—which has long fought battles in southern Syria against not only Free Syrian Army-affiliated factions but also the Nusra Front—had seized the town after a battle that left at least two people dead.

 

Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade members broadcast an appeal over loudspeakers for the rebels to choose between “allegiance, surrendering their arms, or staying home.”

 

A number of pro-rebel outlets also covered the fighting, saying that the Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade on Friday morning had also taken the nearby village of Adawan due east of Taseel.

 

Shaam News reported that the ISIS affiliate aims to “advance and control the town of Sahem Golan, followed by [nearby] Hait and the strategic Tel Jomo.”

 

“By achieving this they will be able to establish a defensive line for areas under their control,” the activist outlet explained.

 

According to the report, the Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade have already started targeting Tel Jomo with heavy machine guns and mortars, while erecting earth mounds around Tasil to prevent any rebel fight-backs in the region.

 

Nusra and ISIS have engaged in on-and-off fighting since late 2014 western Daraa’s Sahm Golan and Hait, as well as the areas surrounding the two villages.

 

Nusra's military chief in southern Syria died Monday in the latest round of fighting around Tasil, according to the SOHR. 

 

The Free Syrian Army-affiliated Southern Front is the largest rebel grouping in Syria’s Daraa region, where it maintains uneasy ties with Nusra.

 

On April 13, 2015, the Southern Front officially cut off ties with Nusra and in early August it said that the Al-Qaeda-linked group was not participating alongside it in its Quneitra offensive.

 

Despite these media statements, Nusra had reportedly assisted FSA rebels defend against a failed regime offensive in the Daraa province town of Busr al-Harir in late April.

 

Also, the Southern Front in its failed summer assault on Daraa had coordinated closely with Islamist groups active in southern Syria, despite the FSA-affiliated rebels’ disavowal of the Al-Nusra Front’s recent move to create an “Army of Conquest” in southern Syria.

 

Despite frictions, both the Southern Front and Nusra have been at odds with the Yarmouk Martyrs Brigades, which in turn has apparently been behind a wave of mysterious assassinations that have targeted rebel commanders in Daraa. 

 

NOW’s English news desk editor Albin Szakola (@AlbinSzakola) wrote this report. Amin Nasr translated Arabic-language source material.

Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade fighters. (image via soutraya.com)

Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade members broadcast an appeal over loudspeakers for the rebels to choose between “allegiance, surrendering their arms, or staying home.”