Syria Military Brief: South Syria – 15 April 2021

The imminent threat of escalation in Daraa province has waned after an agreement between the regime and former opposition saw the regime withdraw a large segment of its forces from strategic positions in the province’s west. Although concerns of regime violence have lessened, an unprecedented fuel shortage is gripping south Syria, with long lines accumulating outside under-supplied fuel stations across Daraa province. Private and public transit is largely prohibitively expensive for local residents or unavailable altogether as a result of the critical lack of fuel—causing nearly all civilian and business sectors across the province to grind to a halt as the cost of transit grows higher than the salaries of most public and private employees. As economic issues mount and worsen, a major coronavirus outbreak has inundated the local health system with more than 10,000 new infections recorded since late March. Despite the deadly increase in Daraa’s caseload, the regime continues to ignore the threat of the virus, greatly underreporting new infections and offering little support to the province’s struggling healthcare professionals.

 

Attached Map: South-West Syria – 15th April 2021

Military & Political Developments

  • Regime de-escalation: Regime military commanders and local former opposition leaders and community figures in western Daraa reached an agreement to avoid a military confrontation, with regime forces withdrawing in large numbers from the province’s western countryside (13.4). The agreement came after weeks of aggressive reinforcements and repeat regime threats of a security operation in the area raised fears of an imminent regime escalation.
  • Deferral of military service: The regime began issuing service deferments to those wanted for military service in Daraa and Quneitra provinces following a decree from Bashar Assad (5.4), issuing more than 5,000 deferrals in its first several days (10.4). Top
  • Border killing: A south Syria resident was shot and killed by Jordanian Border Guards as he attempted to cross into Jordan on foot (29.3). His body was returned to his hometown hours later.
  • Russian drones: Russian forces flew reconnaissance drones above numerous cities and towns in Daraa province (1.4).
  • Arrest prompts standoff: Regime 4th Division forces launched three mortar shells into Muzayrib in rural western Daraa in response to demonstrations in the city calling for the release of a local woman arrested by the regime (4.5). Tensions were later cooled after intervention by community figures from western Daraa, and the standoff ended.
  • Family dispute: Two former opposition fighters, Khaled al-Amarein and Nadhir al-Amarein, were killed in armed clashes following a family dispute in Nawa (9.4). Familial and tribal issues are a growing source of concern in the region, with disputes worsening into violent confrontations that can deteriorate over months.
  • Tribal violence: Local figures and representatives from western Daraa’s reconciliation council from rural western Daraa province held a meeting in al-Ajami in order to discuss ongoing tensions between the a-Zoubi and Al-Kiwan families in the area (10.4). For months, intermittent clashes have resulted in the deaths of both tribal fighters and local civilians, culminating with the regime utilizing the dispute to justify a significant escalation into the area earlier this year.

Iranian-Backed Militias

  • Anger against Hezbollah: Residents of Garfa in rural western Daraa began burning down homes owned by two local Hezbollah commanders, weeks after they had been expelled from the town (7.4).

Instability in South Syria

  • Attacks on regime forces: Popular anger continues to fuel anti-regime attacks:
  • — Daraa blast: Three members of the regime’s anti-drug branch were injured in a bomb attack in Daraa city (3.4). Attackers detonated the explosive near the vehicle of the anti-drug branch’s director in Daraa city (3.4).

    — Sanamayn attack: Unknown attackers detonated an explosive device near a checkpoint in Sanamayn in rural northern Daraa province (1.4). No regime personnel were injured or killed in the attack.

    — Security square attacked: Gunmen attacked the militarized security square of Nawa in rural western Daraa (29.3), retreating without injuring or killing any regime elements.

    — Deadly checkpoint attack: An armed group attacked the al-Bakar checkpoint in rural southern Quneitra province, killing three Air Force Intelligence fighters before retreating (9.4).

  • Assassinations: Assassinations underscore the south’s instability, with various regime entities vying for power and influence:
  • — Former opposition killed: Unknown attackers detonated a bomb near a vehicle driven by a former opposition fighter in Jasim in rural northern Daraa province (3.4), killing both the man and his young son. Four other children were also injured in the explosion.

    — Family leaders targeted: Gunmen launched an attack on several prominent members of the a-Zoubi tribe in Tafas in rural western Daraa, attempting to assassinate two of the tribe’s notables (29.3).

    — Intelligence commander killed: An armed group assassinated the commander of Dael’s Air Force Intelligence detachment, along with another intelligence element (7.4). The regime subsequently closed off the town and launched a series of raids in the area, and began firing at random in the town, injuring one civilian (8.4).

    — Provincial official killed: An armed group shot and severely wounded a member of Daraa Provincial Council’s executive office in Al Sheikh Maskin in rural northern Daraa province (8.4). The official succumbed to his injuries a day later (9.4).

    — Mukhtar assassinated: Gunmen shot and killed Hussein al-Falah, the mukhtar of Ain Dhakar in rural western Daraa province, outside his home (8.4).

Arrests & Raids

  • Checkpoint injures woman: Regime elements stationed at a checkpoint in Rakham in rural eastern Daraa opened fire on a civilian vehicle, injuring a local woman (4.3).

  • Syrian killed in prison: Regime forces informed relatives of a resident of Nawa in rural western Daraa that he had died in prison (29.3). The man had been arrested sometime after the 2018 surrender agreement.
  • Child arrested: Regime forces detained a child from Inkhil in rural northern Daraa province as he passed through a checkpoint along the Damascus-Daraa highway (4.4). Also arrested at the same checkpoint was a woman from Muzayrib on the same day.
  • Civilian arrested: Regime police forces arrested a resident of Musaykah in the Lajat region of eastern Daraa during a visit to a municipal building in Izraa in rural eastern Daraa (10.4).

Humanitarian Developments

  • Coronavirus: Daraa province is currently experiencing a major coronavirus spike, with some 10,460 new infections recorded by local health officials in recent weeks as the virus claimed at least 263 lives (28.3-10.4). Local doctors continue to grapple with poor infrastructure and a lack of basic medical equipment, while the regime persists in its negligence and disregard of both actual case numbers and the severity of the crisis.

  • Fuel crisis: South Syria continues to face an unprecedented fuel shortage that has brought life to a near total halt as private and public transportation either ceases or becomes prohibitively expensive. Long waits and lines outside of poorly supplied fuel stations are pervasive across the province. The root of the crisis stems in the regime’s reduction of fuel shipments allocated to Daraa province that come drastically below meeting the local need.).
  • Internet stoppage: Access to internet and landline phones was interrupted in Daraa al-Balad after thieves stole a large amount of copper wiring supporting the network (2.4). The theft of copper by local thieves is a growing phenomenon contributing to regular interruptions in communications in the province.