Syrian and Russian forces relaunch Daraa offensive after talks with rebels collapse

World Today

In Syria, government and Russian forces have relaunched an offensive in the southern province of Daraa.

Reports say they carried out around 600 air strikes in the area after negotiations with rebels collapsed.

CGTN’s Alaa Ebrahim reports.

Follow Alaa Ebrahim on Twitter @Alaa_Ebrahim_tv

In southern Syria, the lengthy civil war continues to rage against government forces and their allies.

A Syrian military operation to recapture all of the southern provinces of the country has triggered controversies as it is taking place in the de-escalation zone that was negotiated by the U.S., Russia, and Jordan last year.

Regardless, the Syrian government – backed by Russian air forces – launched an offensive aiming to clear all the south of any rebel presence.

To retake Daraa province, Syria and Russia are using a combination of brutal force and negotiations to convince rebel factions to turn their attention away from the Syrian army and onto radical groups like Nusra front, whom the rebels fought side-by-side with for many years.

The results of this approach are plain to see, in the command of the Syrian army’s 5th armored division, where the military is stockpiling weapons and ammunition that rebels either surrendered or lost.

The inventory is impressive: guided anti-armored missiles, millions of bullets, and even tanks.

“We are offering militants a safe way out if they surrender their heavy weapons and agree to join our fight against terrorist groups,” said General Samer of the government’s 5th armored division. “We have made large gains over the past few hours to control more than 60 percent of Daraa province, and we will keep pressing until we recapture it completely.”

The army claims its efforts to oust the rebels have been going down well with the local community. Residents in Da’el town have been living in fear for many years, but they believe they are finally seeing signs of change.

Abu Ahmad, a resident, said, “My utmost desire is to see my house again. I haven’t been able to come here for the past seven years. The militants threatened me, and now I have entered the town for the first time in years.”

Over the past two weeks, the Syrian army has retaken 27 towns through negotiations – along with another five by force after rebels failed to meet a deadline. The army distributed footage of its coercive and destructive methods, sending a clear message that there would be no turning back.

If the Syrian army manages to regain full control of Daraa province, it would mean not just a major military victory; it would be a heavy psychological blow for the rebels, as they will have lost control of the birthplace of their insurgency against President Bashar Al-Assad.