February 12, 2014
By Dan Wilkofsky and Ammar Hamou
AMMAN: Rebels launched a counter-offensive in northern Daraa and southwestern Outer Damascus provinces Wednesday night in an attempt to slow a recent regime campaign to push the armed opposition away from Damascus.
The Syrian military announced the operation over the weekend to isolate Damascus from rebel-held areas in the Daraa, Outer Damascus and Quneitra countrysides following a series of opposition gains in the south over the past several months, including the capture of Sheikh Miskeen and Liwa 82.
Despite interviews with nearly a dozen people on the ground, Syria Direct gathered conflicting information on the success of Wednesday night’s rebel counteroffensive.
Compounding uncertainty, various opposition media outlets, including the Deir al-Adas LCC—the site of intense fighting this week—announced Thursday that they would abide by a rebel-imposed blackout.
One reporter with an opposition brigade in Daraa told Syria Direct Thursday that rebels retook the villages of Deir al-Adas, Kafr Nasij, Deir Makir and al-Habarna Wednesday night, all of which fall on the roughly 20km front stretching across the northern Daraa and southern Damascus countrysides.
A high school in Deir al-Adas, destroyed in this week’s fighting. Photo courtesy of SANA.
The head of the pro-opposition Independent Houran Reporters campaign confirmed rebel control over the four villages to Syria Direct Thursday.
Another local media activist and former Al-Jazeera correspondent, Muntasir Abu Nabut, said that Deir al-Adas was currently contested, Deir Makir and al-Habarna in regime hands, and Kafr Nasij with the rebels.
What is known is that the regime is relying heavily on foreign Shiite militias, chiefly Hezbollah and Iranian and Afghan fighters to wage its campaign.
Rebel group Liwa al-Iz killed 40 Hezbollah and Iranian fighters Wednesday in an ambush near Deir Makir, according to an announcement released by the brigade.
Likewise, a local media activist who goes by the name Abu Faisal al-Huda wrote on Facebook Thursday that rebels had killed 140 members of the “Al-Fatimiyun” brigade in Deir al-Adas, made up of Afghan, Iraqi, and Iranian fighters.
Pro-regime media outlets also reported earlier in the week that the famous Iranian general Qasem Suleimani is assisting regime forces in the South.
Official state news agency SANA reported Thursday that the army was making steady progress against the rebels.
“Panic and frustration are prevailing in the ranks of the takfiri terrorist organizations, crumbling under the strikes of the army’s men…locals are racing to provide the army with information about their whereabouts and supply lines.”
For more from Syria Direct, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.