Heavy Fighting as Syrian Troops, Rebels Clash Around Daraa al-Balad

Rebels attack outposts near Jordan border crossing

Fighting in Daraa al-Balad continued to escalate Thursday, into some of the heaviest fighting in years in southern Syria. The Syrian military is pushing into the city with an eye toward disarming the rebels, and are shelling the area.

The rebels, for their part, are attacking military outposts int he area, firing mortars at them. This has led the Free Syrian Army (FSA) to seize villages near the Jordan border, and contest some key towns.

This fighting broke out Wednesday, after about a month of the city being under siege by the Syrian military, and fresh off reports Tuesday that a deal had been made to end the crisis. The deal was meant to see the FSA hand over light arms, and Syria send its reinforcements back to base, and disarm the pro-government militias in the area.

The deal fell apart when instead of a large number of light arms the government was given about 60 broken guns. Other rebels openly refused to hand over their arms, saying they didn’t believe the deal was sincere.

The rebels now say they’ve killed a number of government fighters, captured at least 70 others, and are overrunning checkpoints. This area was meant to be under government control after a deal years ago. Most of the rebels didn’t evacuate from that district, and seem to have been preparing for an eventual confrontation.

Reports are that civilians have been killed in the fighting, though exact numbers are unclear. Artillery fire has hit residential areas within Daraa al-Balad, however, and is adding to the pressure for locals who have been unable to flee, and have nowhere to really go.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for Antiwar.com. He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.