Former Syrian rebels and regime forces in tense stand-off in Daraa province

Former Syrian rebels and regime forces in tense stand-off in Daraa province
3 min read
25 January, 2021
Former Syrian rebels are resisting the advance of regime militias in Daraa.
Daraa was badly destroyed in the regime offensive [file photo-Getty]
Former rebels in southern Syria are facing a possible military assault from regime forces, amid a tense stand-off regarding the fate of individuals wanted by authorities.

Tafas, in the northwest of Daraa province, has been covered by a reconciliation agreement since 2018, after a bloody regime offensive on southern Syria.

As part of the deal, former the rebels were incorporated into the regime apparatus and put in charge of maintaining security, keeping feared regime troops and militias out of some villages and towns in Daraa .

The deal could be scuppered after a number of new demands were mady by the regime which includes the surrender of six (or eight according to other reports) former rebel commanders and their families and allowing the Fourth Division to operate in the region.

The former rebels have refused, saying this goes against the terms of the 2018 reconciliation agreement, and a built-up of the regime's Fourth Division forces has ensued, leading to deadly clashes between the two sides.

"Among the demands of the officers of the Fourth Division, Brigadier General 'Ghayath Dallah' and Major General 'Ali Mahmoud' are to allow members of the Fourth Division to enter the villages and towns of the western countryside and to position themselves in a number of locations in the region," Mohamad Rasheed told The New Arab.

"The officers of the Fourth Division have given a deadline to implement the demands [by Thursday]."

Russian military police have held talks with the former rebels who have refused to expel the families, with Moscow reportedly threatening to bomb the region unless the group complies.

Russian planes were spotted over the skies of Daraa for the first time since 2018, according to some repo.

Fourth Divisions troops and armour have amassed on the edges of Tafas and Daraa Al-Balad in preparation for an assault once the Thursday deadline expires.

"After the reinforcements brought in by the Fourth Division to the western region, and its movement and spread, besieging villages and cutting off livelihoods, a negotiation session was held between the leadership of the Fourth Division and the notables of the western region and the Central Committee," Daraa's Central Committee said in its statement, according to the Syrian Observer.

"Several requests were discussed after the session, most of them were agreed upon. Some were impossible to implement though, which is the displacement of the people of Horan to the north, and it was agreed that a session would be held on Sunday morning." 
 
The former rebels have reportedly refused the demands making the likelihood of a confrontation with regime forces on Thursday likely.

Daraa has been rocked by instability since the regime's 2018 takeover, with regular assassinations of militia leaders, regime troops, former rebels, and civilians.

Daraa was previously under the control of the Free Syrian Army and Islamist militias, until a Russian-backed regime offensive saw the region come back under nominal government control in 2018.


Paul McLoughlin is a news editor at The New Arab and author of Syrian Insight.

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