Syria’s Daraa: Why is Its Liberation So Important and What Comes Next?

A Syrian government soldier flashes the victory gesture while riding in the back of a pickup truck with comrades at the Nassib border crossing with Jordan in the southern province of Daraa on July 7, 2018
Sputnik – Middle East

The Syrian army has been conducting an offensive in Daraa province after its capital and several other cities were shelled by local militants despite an ongoing ceasefire. As a result of the offensive, several villages have been liberated from armed groups and the Syrian government has regained control over part of the Syria-Jordan border.

Why is Control of the Border so Important?

The sweeping operations that were conducted following the recent offensive by the Syrian army in the Daraa province have revealed that militants who fled the region left behind significant amounts of military equipment, weapons and ammunition. In the city of Izra alone three tanks, several armored transports, two air defense guns, 40 anti-tank missiles, rocket launchers, a number of small arms and 1,500 ammunition boxes were found.

Syrian General Nizar Ismail believes that these weapons made it into the hands of militants via the Jordanian border with Syria, with Daraa being one of the provinces that borders the kingdom. That’s why the recent operation that returned Syrian government control over the Nasib border crossing with Jordan was so important.

Still, significant areas of Daraa province, as well as the Syrian border with Jordan, remain under the control of armed militants. So far, the Syrian army’s advance has been facilitated by negotiations brokered by the Russian center for Syrian reconciliation — 27 towns and villages have joined the ceasefire agreement and have even switched sides to the Syrian authorities, which have already started restoring governmental bodies there.

But many other settlements remain occupied by militants and are engaged in battles against Syrian forces rather than pursuing a ceasefire. While some militants are fleeing, others are fighting to the death.

People Caught In Inter-Militant Fighting

Cutting off the flow of arms to terrorists and militants is not the only goal of the Daraa offensive. Currently, many local residents live in a dire humanitarian situation, suffering shortages of food, water and medical supplies. Although the center for Syrian reconciliation regularly participates in delivering humanitarian aid to those most in need, the presence of armed militants makes such “humanitarian sorties” rare and risky.

If hardships such as destroyed infrastructure were not enough to leave citizens in Daraa stranded without critical supplies, they are also suffering from regular conflicts between competing militant groups. As supplies dwindle, fighting for them is intensifying between the militant factions, with ordinary citizens often getting caught between the competing sides and left deprived of even the last crumbs of bread.

After Daraa

Even after the province of Daraa is liberated, swathes of the country will still be under the control of various terrorist groups and militants. To the west, the province borders Quneitra, with the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights and to the east — Al-Suwayda, which borders Jordan. It is possible that if these provinces are liberated from armed militants and terrorists, the rest will be cut off from their weapons supply route.