AMMAN: Syrian regime and allied forces launched a fresh offensive in the country’s remote southern desert on Monday, just east of an internationally brokered ceasefire zone that went into effect one day earlier, rebel military sources on the ground told Syria Direct.
Backed by Russian and regime airstrikes, pro-government forces overran “a number of strategic points and hills” in eastern Suwayda province, said Fares al-Mujannad, spokesman for a Free Syrian Army-affiliated militia that controls territory along the frontline with pro-Assad forces. The area under attack forms the western-most edge of the Syrian Badia, a swathe of mostly empty desert in southern Syria largely held by rebel forces.
“This is the most violent military campaign the regime has launched yet on the Badia,” al-Mujannad said.
Syrian state media outlet SANA reported that forces loyal to the Syrian government “re-established full control over strategic villages, towns, hills, and points” on Monday afternoon.
Pro-regime fighters in eastern Suwayda on Monday. Photo courtesy of Syrian Arab Army News.
The advance comes just one day after a truce brokered by Russia, the US and Jordan went into effect, aimed at easing tensions between opposition and pro-regime factions amassed in southwestern Syria.
Suwayda is one of three provinces—including Quneitra and neighboring Daraa province—covered in the deal, announced at the G20 summit in Hamburg.
Although Monday’s fighting is taking place outside the confines of the internationally brokered ceasefire zone, US-backed rebel forces accuse the Syrian military and its allies of using the agreement as an opportunity to “regroup” troops and continue recent advances in the country’s east.
“We are concerned that the regime will make gains in the Badia,” one rebel commander, who withheld his name told Syria Direct. “The ceasefire will help them do that.”