In what may well be a first for the war, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights is accusing the Syrian government of having planted an improvised explosive device in the road in the Daraa Province, in the nation’s far south, to attack a rebel convoy that alter drove by the area.
The blast stopped the convoy, which some reports link to al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front, and civilians were then reported to have arrived on the scene, which led to artillery fire from Syrian forces. 19 people were killed overall, with at least 13 of them fighters, and the identities of three others as yet unconfirmed.
Other media outlets appear to confirm the roadside bomb story, and suggest there may have been two bombs on the road the convoy was traveling. They did not, however, report any civilian deaths, and suggested that 15 were killed, all rebels.
Daraa Province was the birthplace of the rebellion against the Assad government, and it retains a considerable presence there, though the Syrian military has gained ground in recent months. If they really are turning to IEDs to try to soften up rebel convoys, however, it could suggest that they are in a weak position at this point, and not able to advance further through traditional tactics.
Using IEDs is potentially risky, however, because historically such attacks have endangered the civilian population, and if such bombs end up killing convoys of fleeing civilians, it could do major harm to Syria’s already struggling international standing.