Syrian army and allies step up bombing of
rebels in Deraa city
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[June 12, 2017]
By Suleiman Al-Khalidi
AMMAN (Reuters) - The Syrian army and
Iran-backed militia forces have escalated attacks against a rebel-held
part of the southern city of Deraa, a possible prelude to a large-scale
campaign to wrest full control of the city, rebels and residents said on
The intensive raids and bombing strikes mainly pounded the southern part
of Deraa, strategically located on the border with Jordan and where the
uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad erupted six years ago.
The Syrian army has recently intensified dropping barrel bombs, drums or
cylinders packed with shrapnel, and has fired hundreds of so-called
elephant rockets on Deraa's old quarter and a former refugee camp
nearby, rebels and residents said.
The army has not commented on its troop build-up in Deraa or the
escalating aerial bombing. State media has long branded the rebels as
More reinforcements from the army and its allies, the Iranian-backed
Lebanese group Hezbollah and Shi'ite Muslim Iraqi militias, are also
being rushed to the city from several locations near the capital,
Troops were using the Damascus-Deraa highway, a major supply route where
well-fortified trenches on both sides of the road have made it more
difficult for rebels to mount attacks.
"The regime has brought large columns of troops from the elite 4th
Armoured Division, and also Hezbollah forces," said Major Issam al
Rayes, spokesman of the so-called Southern Front grouping of the Free
Syrian Army (FSA) rebels, who are supported by an Arab-Western
The troops being sent as reinforcements are considered to be the Syrian
army's elite division, which has the best training and equipment.
Rebels say the troop build-up and relentless aerial bombing in recent
weeks pointed to a major campaign for what the FSA rebels see as a
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Smoke rises after shelling on a rebel-held area of Deraa, Syria,
June 4, 2017. REUTERS/Alaa Al-Faqir
"Everything indicates the regime is preparing for a large-scale
military campaign in Deraa in which they plan to encircle the city
and reach the Jordanian border," Rayes said.
Adham al-Karad, the commander of the missile brigade in the FSA's
Southern Front, said: "Our surveillance shows troop carriers and
heavy armor ... if it continues at this same level of
reinforcements, this will be very large."
The army had stepped up its campaign to regain the Manshiya
neighborhood, a strategic district that almost completely fell into
rebel hands after four months of street battles.
Rebels stormed Manshiya, the last army foothold in Deraa's
rebel-held old quarter, in February to ward off any army attempt to
capture a strategic crossing with Jordan.
The army's control of the crossing, a once-thriving passenger and
commercial gateway with Jordan, would sever the rebel link between
the eastern and western parts of the province they control, dealing
a major blow to their cause in the south.
The Syrian government's strategic goal is to open a direct route
from Damascus to the Jordanian border.
(Reporting by Suleiman Al-Khalidi; Editing by Paul Tait)
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