Southern Syria: Who is the Syrian Army Operating Against in the Daraa Province?

In recent weeks, the Syrian Army has been transferring reinforcements toward the provincial city of Daraa and its surrounding towns. The reinforcements include hundreds of soldiers, Russian support (with an emphasis on military advice and coaching), and, according to various indications, forces of the Shiite militias operating in Syria under Iranian auspices.

In mid-October 2022, the Syrian Army launched a large-scale operation in Jassem, northwest of Daraa and near Tel Hara. According to regime reports, it succeeded in an operation where “several senior ISIS operatives” were caught or killed, and large quantities of weapons and ammunition displayed in the media were seized.

After what was defined as the successful end of the operation in Jassem, the Syrian forces were directed to the suburbs of the city of Daraa itself, where confirmed battles are currently being waged against the “presence of ISIS in the region.”

Above: American-made weapons that allegedly caught in Daraa.

The area of southern Syria, from Deraa in the south to Jasim and Nawa north of Deraa, has been characterized over the past year by increasing violence against the Syrian Army presence. Syrian soldiers are killed weekly in positions, supply convoys, and checkpoints.

Civilian elements considered loyal to the Assad regime or those who fought against it in the past and signed a reconciliation agreement also suffered many attacks. The position of mayor or member of a local council in the area has become a position with extremely low chances of survival…

The head of the Jasim council himself was assassinated last March. Those behind these actions are not necessarily ISIS elements but local factions and remnants of the Syrian opposition that allegedly disbanded with the recapture of the area in July 2018.

The official SANA news agency presented “a slew of ISIS weapons” seized in Jassem (October 25)

The reality mentioned above leads some opposition figures and journalists affiliated with it to claim that the impression presented by the Assad regime of “fighting ISIS terrorism” is a sham. ISIS is a terrorist organization that has created broad international unity against it in the global struggle, beginning with the US, through Turkey, and concluding with the Syrian regime, Iran and Hezbollah. However, it is doubtful whether the title “ISIS” represents the forces against which the Syrian army has been fighting in the country’s south in recent weeks.

Journalists Mustafa al-Na’imi and Zaki al-Daroubi, Syrian opposition activists, claim that the regime makes cynical use of the title “ISIS organization.” They claim that quite a few of those portrayed by the regime as ISIS operatives in the region have been in Syrian prisons and have recently been released. Some even had working and intelligence relations with elements in Assad’s army. The presence of ISIS in the region is not based on local factors. Many ISIS operatives, now apparently fighting against the Syrian army, arrived in southern Syria with the active assistance of Syrian military and intelligence officials while passing through the army’s checkpoints deployed along all the routes leading from Damascus to Deraa.

The Syrian army may be using the “ISIS headline” as a means and excuse to tighten its unstable military control over southern Syria and as an effective way to terrorize and intimidate the residents of southern Syria so as not to shelter anti-regime elements. The Syrian regime knows that fighting under the banner of “fighting ISIS” will receive greater support from Russia, Iran, and some Arab countries, which have only recently begun to re-legitimize the Assad regime after years of civil war.

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Tal Beeri

Tal Beeri

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