Military showdown simmers in southern Syria in case of failed reconciliation
As the next targets for the Syrian army, the rebel-held provinces of Qunaitera and Daraa in southern Syria could witness either a large-scale war or a peace settlement, activists and local media said Wednesday.
The military campaign against the rebels in Daraa and Qunaitera is apparently drawing near as the Syrian army has recently sent reinforcements there, just after rebels were completely defeated in the capital Damascus earlier this month.
Having anticipated the imminent Syrian military offensive, the rebels have started to consolidate positions and stockpile ammunition in case of a failed settlement.
Some of them in Daraa even unite in the name of “Salvage Army.”
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor group said the rebels in Daraa attacked Syrian military vehicles after midnight Wednesday, while moving from government-controlled areas in the countryside to the province’s capital city that bears the same name.
Meanwhile, the Syrian army is sending reinforcements to the countryside of Daraa and Qunaitera as a prelude to the military offensive against rebel groups, despite the fact that these areas are part of the de-escalation zones in the Russia-backed deal reached in July 2017.
The Syrian helicopters have been dropping leaflets over Daraa recently, urging rebels to accept a reconciliation offer and lay down their weapons.
“You have two choices: to leave your arms or the definite death,” one of the leaflets read.
The Syrian army hopes for the reconciliation because it will enable the government to wrest control over Daraa and Quniatera, as well as the entire borderline with Jordan, since the truce established last July allows the rebels to stay where they are.
A day earlier, Deputy Russian Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov said Russia, Jordan and the U.S. are in contact regarding the southern Syrian region, adding that there will be a tripartite meeting over the issue.
In addition, the 1974 Disengagement of Forces Agreement between Syria and Israel may be reactivated for Qunaitera, according to the pro-government al-Watan newspaper.
For Iranian-backed forces, they won’t be allowed near the southern borders if this solution was to see the light, as Israel has made it clear that it won’t tolerate the presence of Iranian forces near the border with Syria.
Maher Ihsan, a political expert, said reaching a peace solution in Daraa and Qunaitera are more likely as Russia is also makng military preparations in case of any failure.
“The rebels in southern Syria have seen what happened with their comrades who were either defeated or dislodged from the capital Damascus this month. They have no other option,” he said.
The expert noted that a deal similar to the one reached in Damascus or in Homs Province in central Syria could see the evacuation of rebels who don’t want to be reconciled with the government toward rebel-held areas in the northwestern province of Idlib.
Those who want to remain would be offered a reconciliation deal, which would see their criminal records cleared as part of the pardon.
However, it’s still not easy to reach a settlement given the presence of Islamic State-linked militants in the Yarmouk Basin in Daraa countryside, who are fighting with other rebel groups in areas out of the government hand.
Ahmad al-Ashqar, another expert, said both Daraa and Qunaitera are very important for military operations in Syria due to their strategic locations.
Both are considered key areas linking Syria’s southern and central regions, in addition to their proximity to the capital Damascus.