The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) has begun an offensive in the south against the opposition forces in the Daraa Governorate. Artillery and aircraft have bombarded the eastern regions of the territory, including regions previously classified as de-escalation zones in agreements between Russia and the US. The SAA’s offensive is the largest since the assault on Ghouta in the spring of 2018.
SAA infantry forces encountered intense resistance from the Syrian opposition regiments, Turkish news agency Anadolu reports. Pro-Iranian armed groups are supporting the Syrian government army.
At least eight people have been killed and another 15 wounded since the start of the operation, the Turkish media reports, citing representatives of the Syrian Civil Defense (the “White Helmets”). Thousands of civilians have been forced to flee the region. According to the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, roughly 12,500 people have left militant-controlled Daraa.
Media reports on the SAA’s attack appeared as early as June 19. Isolated missile strikes were directed against the positions of the Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham group. At the time it was observed that the government army was amassing armored vehicles in the region, including T-90 tanks, in preparation for the offensive.
The Daraa Governorate was one of the first to oppose Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s suppression of the mass protests of winter 2010-2011. Despite the army’s success in suppressing the uprising, the region soon fell under the control of the armed opposition.