Several regime decrees have left their mark on south Syria in recent weeks. A series of personnel shuffles have seen the province’s security committee chief replaced, while a presidential decree released a small number of detainees amid a new, opaque amnesty. Despite the amnesty, the regime continues to crack down on residents of the south—issuing orders to its checkpoints in Daraa to seek out and arrest those who are wanted from military service. In the eastern region of Daraa, security remains unstable as tensions continue to rise between Bedouin IDPs displaced from their home territories in Druze-majority Suwayda.
Attached Map: Recent Developments in South Syria – 12th May 2022
- Daraa crackdown: The regime intensified its security measures at checkpoints and conducted a series of raids in Daraa al-Balad, targeting individuals evading military service. Prominent local leaders in Daraa al-Balad advised defectors and young men who are wanted for military service to avoid passing through checkpoints due to an increased risk of detention by regime forces (26.4). Similar crackdowns took place elsewhere in the province. In late April, local leaders in Daraa al-Balad petitioned the regime to issue a new delay in military service requirements but without result (29.4).
- Bedouin-Druze tensions: Tensions in rural western Suwayda province are high following frequent clashes between armed Bedouin groups and local Druze militia elements. Clashes broke out in early April between the Druze militia coalition known as the Anti-Terrorism Forces and several armed Bedouin fighters near Busra a-Sham, injuring one Druze fighter (8.4). The clashes followed a long series of altercations that have persisted for months, and prompted some 300 Bedouin families to flee rural western Suwayda into neighboring Daraa province. The new arrivals joined thousands of other Bedouin IDPs in Daraa province, further complicating ongoing efforts to organize the returns of displaced Sunni Bedouins to their home territories in Druze-majority Suwayda.
- Tensions with Christians: Longstanding issues exist between some communities and Bedouin IDPs from Suwayda, with the 8th Brigade increasing its presence around the Christian town of Kharaba in rural eastern Daraa Residents of Kharaba contacted regime army commanders and requested the removal of Ahmad al-Awdeh’s 8th Brigade from the area after an outbreak of violence in the town (27.4). Two of the town’s Christian residents were killed the previous week, and local leaders are holding al-Awdeh’s brigade responsible for failing to maintain order and security in the town. The 8th Brigade had previously deployed to Kharaba and the surrounding area as a peacekeeping force after years of intermittent tensions between Christians and Bedouin IDPs who had taken refuge in the area.
- General amnesty: Bashar al-Assad issued a presidential amnesty for those accused of non-violent “terror charges” (30.4). Limited releases have taken place, but Daraa residents expressed frustration at the small number of freed detainees and opaqueness of the process. The amnesty is preceded by numerous other decrees that have done little to reveal the fates of tens of thousands of Daraa residents detained and disappeared since 2011
Instability in South Syria
- Attacks: Regime forces come under repeat attacks in the wake of continued popular anger:
– IED strikes: The regime continues to struggle with IED attacks against its forces in south Syria, announcing that it had dismantled several bombs planted in Daraa city (7.4) and in Mhajjeh in rural northern Daraa province (12.4). Despite these disarmed explosives, numerous successful attacks struck regime targets in El Sahoah, Izraa, and Daraa city. The blasts included a bomb detonated in a public park once used to house detainees in Daraa city (5.5), as well as patrols in Daraa’s Tal Shihab (5.5) and Quneitra’s Al-Rafeed (30.4).
– Police targeted: Gunmen targeted a regime police patrol as it traveled between Musayfrah and El Karak in eastern Daraa (16.4).
– Checkpoints targeted: An armed group attacked a regime checkpoint in Daraa al-Balad with hand grenades (10.4). A day later, attackers once again attacked several regime checkpoints in Daraa al-Balad (11.4), though no casualties were reported in any of the attacks. Unknown gunmen launched at least five separate attacks against regime checkpoints across Daraa province, leaving one regime fighter dead during a deadly strike in Mlaiha al-Garbiah (1.5). Attacks remain consistent and struck positions in several communities, including Daraa al-Balad (30.4), Nawa (2.5), and several positions in eastern Daraa (30.4, 1.5). The regime responded by tightening its security measures in both Daraa city as well as several communities in eastern and western Daraa.
– Regime stronghold compromised: Attackers detonated an explosive device affixed to a motorbike near a regime position in Izraa in rural eastern Daraa province, killing a regime soldier (1.5). The blast was the most recent in a series of strikes attacking regime targets in Izraa, a well-defended regime stronghold. The regime ultimately banned the use of motorbikes and tightened security in the city (2.5).
- Water pollution: A delegation of regime and Russian officials visited Busra a-Sham in order to investigate water pollution, which had purportedly caused the poisoning of dozens of Daraa city residents (14.4).